Food and drink is an important part of Russian culture and can be as varied as the country itself. Historically, Russia has always grown lots of barley, rye and millet and their cuisine reflects this. Traditionally, being a Northern country with long, cold winters, food had to provide energy and warmth so carbohydrates and fat are very common. Popular ingredients include potatoes, bread, meat, butter, cabbages, cereals and of course, vodka. Russians favor home-cooked food; supermarket ready-meals are not very popular and they tend to have three meals a day:
Zavtrak is the first meal of the day, breakfast, and usually consists of kasha, a kind of porridge, or eggs, boiled or fried. Tvorog, is often eaten now too and is very similar to cottage cheese. Obed is the main meal of the day and has three courses, a soup, a meat dish and a drink. Many cafes and restaurants have lunch specials and many office workers make the most of this. Uzjin, or dinner, is the second largest meal and the one where the whole family sits down and eats together.
You will always find bread on a Russian table, mainly rye bread. This black bread is very popular and is a staple of Russian cuisine. It has special meaning as traditionally it was the only food available when times were hard.
There are many different types of soup in Russian cuisine, from light, cold soups to noodle soups; you can even have a fruit soup. Borscht, made with beetroot, is the most commonly known and shchi, which is made with cabbage or sauerkraut.
Meat dishes are the main part of most main meals so it’s little surprise there are so many to choose from. Dishes such as beef stroganoff are famous around the world but there are many more. For example, pirozhki are little pastries filled with meat, although they often have potatoes, cabbage or cheese in them too.
The most common type of dumplings are pelmeni, which are similar to ravioli in appearance. They are available in most restaurants and most families have a special family recipe for them. There are many different varieties but they are traditionally filled with meat, onions and spices.
Vodka is of course a very popular drink in Russia. It is usually drunk very cold and mainly with food or snacks, and is always a part of official holidays. A drink that is maybe not as commonly associated with Russia is tea. Traditionally drunk from a Russian Samovar which is a metal container used for heating water, it is an important part of Russian culture and Russia is now the largest buyer of Indian tea.
Apart from foods like blinis and caviar, Russian cuisine is not world-renowned, but visitors to Russia will often be pleasantly surprised at the variety of flavors of Russian food. Russians are very proud of their traditions and food is no exception. We’ll end with a few fun ‘traditional’ myths about Russian food:
- Vodka can cure the common cold
- Butter is good for your eyesight
- Dill can cure dyspepsia