When in Russia, eat like the Russians do. That means you should get ready for hearty portions of calorie-ridden dishes, topped off by delicious desserts and washed down with various berry juices or maybe something a little stronger. Indulge whilst travelling to St Petersburg, and try some of the best dishes that Russian cuisine has to offer.
Beef Stroganoff is a dish that takes its name from one of the wealthiest noble families in Russia. It originated in the 19th century, but the story of its creation remains unknown. What is certain is that the dish gained popularity around the world and now comes in many variations. The dish primarily consists of small beef pieces in a sour cream sauce, with different vegetables often added into it. It’s usually accompanied by various side dishes.
Pancakes may seem like an international dish now, but in Russia, they have their specific variations. It is especially popular to eat savoury pancakes, made with fillings such as meat, cabbage or cottage cheese. These pancakes are cooked, stuffed and then fried again to seal them into a roll. While it’s not the most diet-friendly dish, it’s delicious. Simpler pancakes are also an option, with sour cream and caviar as a spread.
Although borscht soup is of Ukrainian origin, it has found a second home in Russia, alongside other Eastern European countries. The main ingredient of the soup is beetroot, which gives the dish its recognisable red colour. The recipe, of course, has a number of variations. People can eat borscht hot or cold, depending on the time of year. Traditional borscht is served with a tablespoon, or more, of sour cream and small savoury buns known as pampushki.
Shchi is a traditional Russian soup that dates back to the 9th century when the Russian people first acquired cabbage. The base of shchi is, indeed, cabbage, which is in a meat broth. This simple mixture was later enhanced with other vegetables and condiments. It is traditionally served with a spoonful of sour cream and rye bread.
Pirozhki are small-sized buns stuffed with a variety of fillings. The idea for these compact treats came as an alternative to a full-sized pie. The fillings can be both sweet and savoury. Some of the most popular ones are potato, cabbage, mushroom or meat. For a sweeter taste, there are pirozhki with apple, cherries, cottage cheese or lemon. The outside of the bun is glazed with egg, giving them a delicious golden colour. Pirozhki are good as a snack or a great side dish to some soup.
The Olivier salad is a dish that most families make for New Year’s Eve, but exceptions can be made for the sake of trying this delicious salad. Like many other Russian salads, it is dressed with mayonnaise, making the salad a slightly fatty affair. The other ingredients in the salad are potatoes, carrots, pickles, peas, eggs and sometimes chicken or ham, topped off with a sprinkling of dill. It can be an appetiser or a main dish, depending on the amount.
Pelmeni and Vareniki
Best translated as Russian dumplings, pelmeni are very different from their Asian counterpart. Some sources, however, suggest that pelmeni are a variation of wontons that travelled from China into Siberia and then spread all over Russia. The dough for pelmeni is very simple – flour, water and a bit of egg. The filling is traditionally made with different meats, although modern versions include vegetarian stuffings. When served with a sweet filling, such as berries or cottage cheese, the dish is called vareniki and is slightly different in shape and size, but it’s equally delicious.
Potatoes and Mushrooms
It is questionable whether this can be referred to as a dish, given the simplicity of the recipe. Some refer to it as the man’s dish in Russian cuisine because it is something husbands would make on their own when their wives are not home to cook. The best time to try this in a restaurant is during late summer and early autumn when mushrooms are in season. Potatoes with chanterelle mushrooms, which gives the dish an autumn-orange colour, is a particular favourite.
Another dish with relatively unknown origins that has become an absolute favourite not only in Russia but also beyond is chicken Kiev, a stuffed chicken breast rolled in eggs and bread crumbs and then either fried or baked. A good chicken Kiev will have lots of butter with herbs seeping out, giving the chicken a very piquant taste.
Some say this soup has delighted people in Russia since the 16th century, although this fact is challenging to prove. Despite that, it was certainly served in Russian households during the 19th century and only grew in popularity. Solyanka features a mixture of ingredients – and the more, the better. Traditionally, it can include different cuts of meat and pickles, which give it a salty flavour. Most solyankas are heavily spiced and served with a number of herbs.