Most often, Russian cuisine is associated with pelmeni, pancakes, and vodka. Over the generations, however, Russians have loved and cooked a much wider array of national dishes. Home-cooking is a cherished Russian tradition, many families (especially when grandparents are present) sit down around the dinner table and eat together. This article describes some dishes that non-Russians will likely find less familiar. For each meal, you'll find a video showing how to prepare the dish.
Let's begin with appetizer. Vinegret is a salad made of beetroots, potatoes, pickled cucumbers, and other ingredients. In its present form, it is popular in Russia and Ukraine, though it came to Russian cuisine from Scandinavia in 19th century, and on this way it lost some ingredients and acquired others. (Fun fact: vinaigrette has almost nothing in common with Russian vinegret.)
Okroshka is something between a salad and a soup, and is called “cold soup.” One needs to add diced meat (or fish), vegetables (like potatoes or carrots), herbs, and finally kvass (a drink that is usually used in Slavic countries). Okroshka is cooked in the summer heat, when nobody wants to eat anything hot. Blogger ira_plyushkina asks, “What is the summer without okroshka?,” and shares her memories about it from her childhood.
Now to the main course: a soup. Shchi is a soup made from cabbage, meat, carrots, and other flavorings. These are only the main ingredients, however, and lots of variations are possible. Some people add mushrooms; some use sorrel instead of cabbage; and others add apples. But all this is the one kind of soup—however strange it may seem.
Unlike the previous dishes, which are ordinary meals, kulich is a ritual bread prepared for Easter. It is just one of the varieties of Easter meals that were common in Central and North Russia. In the past, each family baked a kulich and carried it to church to be consecrated by a priest. In modern times, however, most people buy this in stores, where the bread is sold industrially before the holiday. Kulich is popular to buy or bake even outside the Russian Orthodox faith.
5. Pickled apples
Among urban Russians, this meal is largely forgotten. In the past, peasants soaked apples in oak barrels to store them for the winter. (Alas, they had no refrigerators!) LiveJournal user arfagrafia, for instance, writes about her childhood, before Russia imported vegetables and fruits. In shops, “the floor was made of stone, the shelves were wooden, and very big tubs stood there.” But now, she complains that “there are no pickled apples anywhere!” Despite modern appliances and fruit imports, many in Russia still pickle apples at home. It can produce a very tasty meal!
Thumbnail image is by Loyna, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-2.5.