As Russian officials, builders, and engineers are busy with preparations to host the 2018 World Cup, professionals of a different kind are getting ready for one of the world’s largest sporting events.
Chefs, cooks and culinary masters throughout Russia are creating a Gastronomic Map that will showcase the best restaurants and where visitors can taste national dishes that convey the peculiarities of each region of the country, including Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.
Five of the regions featured on the map will be hosting matches for the World Cup, which will run from June 15 – July 15, 2018.
As the world’s largest country that stretches over vast lands in Europe and Asia, Russian cuisine incorporates a variety of ingredients and cooking methods.
Caspian News has put together its list of “must try” dishes for anyone visiting Russia next year during the World Cup:
Considered Russia’s version of fast food, pirozhki are fluffy pastries stuffed with fillings such as potato, meat, cabbage, peas, cheese and other goodies. One variety of pirozhki is stuffed, baked buns, made from dough that is glazed with egg to produce a golden brown color. Preparing pirozhki has been a family affairs since the Soviet days, as members chat around the kitchen table while stuffing pieces of dough with different sweet, savory, or even sour fillings. Pirozhki can be fried or baked, and eaten as dinner or dessert.
These are best described as dumplings made from thin pieces of unleavened dough that are filled with minced meat, such as beef, pork, chicken or lamb, along with onions. Try not to confuse pelmeni with Kazakhstani manti or Azerbaijani dushbara, which are altogether different. Although these dishes may look similar, their tastes are not. Pelmeni is a popular Russian dish among students because it is flavorful and easy to prepare. Pelmeni is also thought of as being the dish of bachelors, thanks to its availability in supermarkets as a frozen, semi-finished product.
The name may be hard for non-Russian speakers to pronounce, but this versatile cabbage soup is simply delicious. Made mostly from sauerkraut, shchi is considered the perfect remedy to a hangover. The soup is easy to prepare, some varieties have meat in them, such as pork, and can include potato, tomato, carrot, onion and spices. According to a Russian saying, “shchi and kasha are our food” (See number 2, below).
7. Olivier salad
This is a “must have” traditional salad dish for every occasion and is considered the pearl of a Russian festive table. Finely chopped cubes of boiled potatoes, carrots, brined dill pickles, green peas, eggs, celery, onions, and diced boiled chicken (or sometimes ham or bologna sausage), get mixed together with salt, pepper and mayonnaise.
Bliny are the pride of the Slavic kitchen. A bit like a French crêpe, they are made from unleavened dough and usually served with sour cream, jams, honey or caviar. These traditional Russian pancakes are usually eaten for breakfast.
Kholodets, or studen, is a meat jelly often served during the winter holidays, as the perfect appetizer and companion to vodka. The dish is prepared with chopped meat like beef, pork or chicken, covered by its fatty broth, and refrigerated for about 24 hours until it gels. This dish is served cold, hence its name: kholod means “cold” in Russian.
4. Dressed herring
Dressed herring, also referred to as herring under a fur coat, both impresses and shocks foreigners with its bright pink color. This salad’s unforgettable taste and soft consistency is due to diced pickled herring that gets covered with layers of grated, boiled vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beets (which gives the dish its pink color) and chopped onions. All the ingredients are laid out in even layers and covered with mayonnaise.
Golubtsy, also known as stuffed cabbage, is made with rice, beef, and pork encased in cabbage and drizzled with a sweet tomato sauce. The dish is similar to Azerbaijani kelem dolmasi, but Russian’s add smetana, or sour cream, on top, which really brings out the flavors of the meat stuffing.
Kasha is Russian soul food, made from various types of grain, and is considered a symbol of wealth and well-being. Usually cooked for breakfast, kasha can be made from rice, semolina, cereal, buckwheat, millet or oatmeal. It’s hard to find Russian, who doesn’t like kasha, probably because there are so many ways to prepare it. Some like it made simply with milk, while others prefer butter, fruits, or cheese mixed in. Russians have lots of proverbs, songs and fairy tales that involve kasha. For example, “You will never make kasha with him,” means that a person is too stubborn to make a deal.
This ruby-colored soup is arguably the icon of Russian cuisine, and can warm anyone during a cold and snowy Moscow winter. It gets its unique color due to its main ingredient, namely beets. It can be served with or without boiled meet. Borscht is very popular in Russia, as it is an everyday dish with dozens of variations.