Find out all you need to know about the best Russian food and drinks before your trip.
Russia is surprisingly diverse and plentiful when it comes to food. The climate is one of the main influences on Russian food, and there are traces from the Middle East, Europe, and Asia that color up the scene even more. The food in Russia is hearty and heavy, a quality resulting from the cold weather. Custom and food go hand in hand and there is a story behind almost every Russian dish. Learn about the must-try Russian food and its cultural elements as you plan your trip to Russia. Before you arrive, also keep in mind these Russian food tips:
Must-Try Russian Foods
Here are the top dishes of the Russian food scene that will help you eat like a local:
Beef stroganoff may seem unusually western at first sight. However, it is as Russian as it gets, dating back to the glorious days of the empire. It consists of beef slices soaked in a creamy sauce together with mushrooms and tomatoes, served with rice, pasta, or potatoes. Now part of the international scene, Stroganoff is one of the heartiest dishes in Russian cuisine.
There are two things that will cure you in the cold, crisp weather in Russia: vodka and the myriad traditional soups. Borscht is the most famous one, made of beetroot and other sautéed vegetables like potato, cabbage, and carrot. Its bright reddish color makes it all the more appealing. Locals usually serve it with some sour cream, which helps break the strong flavor of the beetroot.
The most traditional snack in Russia is an irreplaceable dish in every home. Pirozhki is a puff pastry that comes with a variety of fillings. It is the most popular street food in Russia, offered in almost every small bakery and street food vendor. They can be salty or sweet—we recommed trying the ones with a cottage cheese and jam filling.
Pelmeni is the unofficial national dish of Russia, often called ‘the heart of Russian cuisine’. It originated in Siberia, and today consitutes a signature Russian food served in most restaurants. The traditional recipe consists of pasta-like doughs wrapped around minced meat. Spreading the dough for pelmeni is almost a craft due to its thinnes, and it is what makes the dish so special. They can be served with broth in a soup-like form or dry, but sour cream always accompanies them.
Another cozy Russian food to warm you up in the cold winter days, Solyanka soup is rich in nutrition and flavor alike. Alongside cured meat (pork, beef, or chicken), a variety of vegetables like capers, olives, parsley, and onions give the soup a unique taste. It is rich and thick enough to be a main course itself, but locals usually consume solyanka as a starter. Keep in mind: some say that solyanka is perfect for curing hangovers after a night of Russian vodka.
These sweet cheese pancakes will be the perfect finish to your dinners in Russia. They are also breakfast staples very similar to pancakes in the western world. The cheese in the dough makes the pancakes denser than usual. Sugar and vanilla makes them sweet, and for dessert you can try them with some jam or fresh berries.
Must-Try Russian Drinks
Russian vodka is almost a calling card for the country, and we vouch for the incredible reputation it has worldwide. The first Russian vodka dates back to the 15th century, and since then it has been the signature drink for all cultural events. The Russians drink vodka when they are sad or happy, to keep warm or celebrate any event. Stolichnaya and Beluga are some of the best brands.
Russia’s alcohol scene has always been ambitious, and even the favorite non-alcoholic beverage contains a small amount of alcohol. Made from rye bread or dough, this fermented drink is consumed and used as a base for traditional dishes all across Russia. It has a rooted history in old Russia and is associated with beneficial properties for health. If you are traveling to Russia in summer, Kvass is a perfect substitute for beer.
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