Traditional Food from Russia

Like the country’s connection to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, Russian cuisine has also been infused with a great variety of flavours from different cultures that make the local dishes so unique and flavourful.

From crispy rolls to hearty porridge, there is a Russian dish that is suitable for anyone and any occasion. Here are 15 Russian dishes that will have you coming back for more.  

Pelmeni

Pelmeni are dumplings that are made of thinly rolled wraps filled with savoury minced meat (often pork, lamb or beef).  Traditionally, Pelmeni fillings are a blend of different kinds of meat mixed with ingredients such as black pepper, diced onions, and garlic. 

The dumplings are then topped with sour cream, mayonnaise, dill, onions or vinegar to create a dish of multi-dimensional taste that is so rich and delicious. 

When making Pelmeni, careful attention is given to the making of the wraps because the unleavened dough which they are made from, is very sensitive to temperature and humidity.  The right conditions will ensure that the dough will have a consistent texture that is suitable for wrapping the Pelmeni.

Pelmeni
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Kasha

Kasha is a dish made of grains boiled in water or milk to create a porridge—the key ingredient for making Kasha are buckwheat, wheat, barley, oats, millet, or rye.

When buckwheat groats are used, they will first be roasted to bring out the nutty flavors before being set to simmer with the liquid.  Kasha is regarded as a Russian national dish and there are both sweet and savoury variations to suit different tastes. 

In the Russian Kasha recipe, butter is often added to the mix to create a smoother texture and richer taste. 

Kasha
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Zakuski

Zakuski are cold hors d’oeuvres or snacks that are representative of the Russian food culture.  Zakuski means “something to bite after” and the name is apt because the snacks are meant to be eaten after drinking a shot of vodka or any alcoholic drink. 

Today, these snacks are often served as appetizers at banquets or dinner parties. Note that Zakuski is not one single dish but a broad selection of items comprising of cold cuts, cured fish, salads, meat jelly, pickled vegetables such as cheeses, caviar, canapés, sandwiches, and bread.

Zakuski
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Borscht

Borscht is a sweet and sour soup that originated in Ukraine.  Traditionally, the ingredients used for making Borscht are beetroot, fermented beetroot juice, meat or bone stock, and sautéed vegetables. 

What gives the soup such a unique reddish color and flavor are the beetroot ingredients. Due to the long history of this dish, the popular Russian soup also has a strong fan base in multiple countries across Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. 

This iconic soup is also noted for its healthy content; the recipe has a high level of antioxidants, vitamins B and C.

Borscht
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Solyanka

Solyanka, also known as ” The Settlers’ Soup”, is a thick, spicy, and sour Russian soup dish that is widely available in the country.  The main ingredients for making Solyanka are pickled cucumber with brine, cabbage, sautéed mushrooms, potatoes, sour cream, and dill.

The different versions of this soup are depicted by the choice of meat, fish, or mushrooms used.  For meat Solyanka, ingredients such as beef, sausages, and chicken are finely chopped before the broth is added and heated for a short time without boiling the content.

For the fish version, sturgeon, salmon, and crayfish are combined to the original soup before a dash of lemon juice is added.  Finally, the mushroom recipe calls for butter, vinegar, and tomatoes to be added to the soup.

Sauteed mushrooms and onions are then added in with breadcrumbs before the soup is briefly baked before serving.

Solyanka
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Golubtsy

Golubtsy is a cabbage roll that is popular in many ethnic cuisines across the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Iran, and Northern China regions.  The traditional meat Golubtsy is filled with beef, lamb, or pork; marinated with garlic, onion, and spices.

Grains such as rice and barley are often part of the fillings too.  The rolls are then baked or steamed before being served with sour cream or tomato sauce.

While the dish has nothing to do with pigeons, Golubtsy is translated to “little pigeons” and the history goes back to the 18th century when it was an aristocratic practice to grill doves.  However, the peasants at that time could not afford the dish, hence Golubtsy was created to replace the doves.

Golubtsy
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Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev is a dish of chicken cutlet pounded and wrapped around cold garlic cold butter, then coated with eggs and breadcrumbs before frying or baking. 

Created in the early 1800s, Chicken Kiev originated from the Russian Empire, and until today, it is popular in Russia and the Eastern European region. 

This crispy fried chicken dish, also known as “Supremes ”, in the professional culinary world, is sometimes called “Suprême de volaille à la Kiev”.  Chicken Kiev is traditionally served with rice, potatoes, fresh string beans, peas, or broccoli.

Chicken Kiev
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Veal Orlov

This is a Russian dish good enough for a prince! Veal Orlov, also known as Veal Prince Orloff, is a Franco-Russian collaboration that was first served in the Russian Embassy in Paris. 

This dish was created by the French chef, Urbain Dubois, under the employment of Prince Orloff in the 19th century. The dish comprises thinly sliced veal that is stuffed with onions and mushrooms, topped with béchamel sauce, then baked until golden brown. 

It is usually served with plain vegetables such as boiled rice or potatoes and or even noodles.  Veal Orlov is so delicious that it eventually became a popular dish in Russia. 

Veal Orlov
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Makarony po-flotski

Makarony po-flotski, commonly known as navy-styled macaroni, is a Russian dish made of pasta and stewed ground meat, fried onions and common seasonings such as salt and black pepper. 

It was originally served in the navy but eventually became a regular dish in Russia because it is cheap and easy to prepare. Besides macaroni, penne and fusilli are commonly used for this dish as well. 

Makarony po-flotski
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Baranki

Baranki is a traditional ring-shaped pastry that is not just served with tea but also used as a home décor during the 17th century.  The hard-baked rings sprinkled with poppy or sesame seeds are about 4 to 12 cm in diameter.

They taste slightly sweet, but depending on the ingredients used, they may come in vanilla or nutty flavor as well.  In the old days, Russians will decorate the walls of their homes with Baranki to attract prosperity.

Baranki is usually prepared by trained bakers because of the unique technique required to bake this traditional pastry. 

Blini

Blini is a traditional Russian pancake prepared with wheat or buckwheat flour, eggs, milk, yeast, and salt.  Blini is usually served with sour cream, butter, sour cream, smoked salmon, and caviar. 

For those who prefer the sweet version, Blini can also be served with sweet jams and condensed milk.  To prepare Blini, the batter is poured over a hot pan and pan-fried for a couple of minutes on both sides before serving. 

In ancient times, this traditional pancake is a ceremonial dish that was served during Maslenitsa, a pagan holiday that celebrates the coming of spring.

Blini
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Oladyi

Oladyi are small and thick pancakes that are packed with flavor.  The batter for Oladyi is made from wheat flour, eggs, milk, salt, sugar, yeast, and most importantly, kefir, a fermented milk product with a slightly sour taste. 

There are different variations to Oladyi too.  The small pancakes can be served with sour cream and sweet toppings such as jam and honey for a sweeter taste. 

Like Blini, savory Oladyi may also be served with caviar. Oladyi is a typical breakfast dish in Russia.  When served hot off the griddle, the texture is fluffy and soft inside and crunchy around the edges.

Oladyi
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Karavai

The Karavai is a traditional bread that is commonly seen in a traditional wedding.  Instead of a wedding cake, Karavai, a large round braided bread is baked for the occasion. 

Typically, the round bread is decorated bread with symbolic figurines such as the sun, moon, birds, and animals. Herbs, nuts, flowers, and fruits are also used to embellish the dough. 

As part of the wedding tradition, seven women will be invited to bake the Karavai and it will be cut and served to the wedding guests after the wedding ceremony.

Karavai
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Coulibiac

Coulibiac is a traditional savory pie that was created in the 17th century and later became a popular dish in France.  Coulibiac is usually filled with a mix of tasty salmon or sturgeon, rice, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, and dill. 

This pie is made into an oblong shape and stuffed with so much filling to ensure that the taste of the pastry will never overwhelm the main ingredients inside. There is also a vegetarian version of Coulibiac which is made with fillings such as cabbage or potatoes.

Coulibiac
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Guriev Porridge

Guryev Porridge is a type of Kasha that is served as a dessert dish. The history of this dessert goes as far back as 1881 and it was even served during the coronation of Tsar Alexander III.

The porridge is made of semolina, milk, nuts, creamy foams, and dried fruits.  Traditionally, layers of nuts, fruits, or jams are piled between the milk and semolina filling.  It is then sprinkled with sugar and baked until crispy skin is formed on top.  

Guriev Porridge
Photo: fanfo/Shutterstock

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