10 Russian traditional dishes you absolutely must try and are guaranteed to enjoy
Food is a big deal. It’s hard to get kicked out of your comfort zone when it comes to food, but it’s a side effect of travel. Some of us are more adventurous than others and will pop just about anything edible in their mouth without a hint of doubt, while others struggle to navigate new cuisines.
We’re here to help!
Our very own Food Guide will come in several parts, because while you are in Russia geographically, the food map is much broader, including at the very least the national cuisines of Russian ethnic minorities and former USSR countries. A culinary journey stretching from the Far North all the way down to Central Asia is a lot to cover at once, so we’ll split it by region for you.
In Food Guide — Part 1 we’ve put together the 10 Russian traditional dishes you absolutely must try and are guaranteed to enjoy.
Believed to have originated in Siberia, pelmeni is the Russian version of dumplings stuffed with minced meat and onion. While there are different versions like chicken and turkey, the most common filling recipe is a mix of pork and beef. Pelmeni are usually boiled and very rarely fried. Best with sour cream or mustard or both.
A Ukrainian version of dumplings, vareniki differ from pelmeni in shape and come with all sorts of stuffings: cottage cheese, potato, cabbage and even cherries.
These would be pies, and they are truly a Russian signature specialty, make sure to try as many as you can while you’re visiting.
There is a bite-size version called “pirozhok”
And a family-size version called “pirog”
Look out for words “kulebyaka” and “rasstegai” on the menu, they are just different names for traditional Russian pies. The variety of stuffings is endless, but we suggest you pay special attention to the fish options, after all, where else can you try a salmon and cod pie?
A number of Eastern European countries claim to be the birthplace of borscht. We don’t care where it comes from, as long as we can have some while in Russia. We believe borscht is such a hit because it manages to perfectly marry the rich beef stock with a load of vegetables. It’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s tasty and it’s even pretty thanks to the deep purple color that comes from beets — sounds too good to be true, but it’s the one dish that seems to tick all the boxes.
Thanks to the healthy lifestyle trend, the world recently discovered buckwheat: it’s gluten free, high in soluble fiber and rich in vitamins and minerals. While this superfood is a newcomer to the international food scene, it has been a staple food in the Russian cuisine for centuries. Buckwheat dishes are very common in local restaurants and it’s definitely a good idea to take advantage of this opportunity. Try it as a side dish or a vegetarian option — with fried mushrooms and onions.
Let’s put it this way — in Russia any food is viewed as a potential pickle. To find out why, check-out our long read. How to drink vodka in Russia
You can have a taste of red caviar for just ($10) and black caviar for ($30) at any decent Moscow restaurant, and even cheaper in other cities. It’s a steal and would be a crime not to try it and get hooked.
Also known as the giant crab, this species is the most sought-after in the world because of its delicate flesh. Coming from the Bering sea, it’s a local product, which makes it (reasonably) affordable. But, most importantly, chefs just won’t stop experimenting with the recipes, so don’t be surprised to come across Kamchatka crab in a shawarma or a gazpacho.
Sourdough rye bread, slightly sweetened with molasses and flavored with coriander and caraway seeds. Pairs perfectly with something plain (butter) or punchy (herring). Sliced into strips and fried in butter with some garlic and salt, it makes the perfect beer snack.
Layered sponge cake with a filling of cream and honey. Legend has it that the first medovik was created in the 1820s by a personal chef for the wife of Russian czar Alexander I. Today it can be found in almost any restaurant, cafe or grocery store, and the only way to miss it is to intentionally ignore it.