A healthy and tasty Russian meal starts with a snack, heats up with a soup, amazes with the main course, and finishes off with dessert.
Russia occupies the area of 17, 075, 400 km2. It is the largest world’s country by size. It is divided in two parts, of which one is situated in Western Europe (approx. 3.5 million km²) and one in East Asia (13.5 million km²). The natural boundary between these two parts is the Ural Mountain. The climate varies from the steppes in the south of the country, the humid continental section of the "European" Russia, the subarctic Siberia, to the tundras and the polar climate in the north. According to the census of July 2006, Russia has a population of 142, 893, 540.
The turbulent Russian history cannot be summed up in a few lines, but we will nevertheless try to do so. The Varangians were the first to unite the territories on which Eastern Slavic peoples used to live in a single state. The Moscow Princedom was established in the 12th century. It soon managed to free itself of the 200-year-old Mongolian domination and conquer the neighboring princedoms. The Russian expansion throughout the territory of Europe and Asia lasted until the 19th century. In February of 1917 Typical Russian desserts include the blini, Russian pancakes, and the cream known as gogol mogol.Russia became a republic, and already in 1922, under the leadership of Lenin, it became part of the Soviet Union. The Age of Stalin (until 1953) was marked by industrialization and collectivization of agriculture. Besides by these events, Russia and Russian cuisine were shaped by the two world wars, as well as by the Cold War with the USA. In 1991 the communist system collapsed and the Soviet Union broke down in 15 states, the largest and most significant of which is Russia. The crisis in the post-Soviet Union Russia reached the climax or the bottom in 1998, when the state finally started its economic rehabilitation and fast growth thanks to high prices of oil.
Features of Russian cuisine
Russian cuisine can be characterized as healthy and tasty, and quite easily prepared as well. Its basic ingredients are grains, vegetables, fruit, spices, sea and freshwater fish, meat and dairy products. The Orthodox Church also had a great influence on the Russian culinary tradition. As the Church recommended that eating meat, dairy products and eggs should be avoided during religious holidays, this tradition started to be followed on other days of the year as well.
A Russian meal starts with a starter or snack, followed by soup, main course and dessert.
The most famous Russian soup is sci or a soup made from cabbage, closely followed by borsc, a red beet soup. The masters of Russian cuisine say that a good borsc is the one in which a spoon can stay in the upright position. No less tasty are the solianke made from fish, meat or with mushrooms.
The Russians like to prepare meat in large chunks (in the oven, for example), because in that way meat juices are better preserved. Mostly eaten are red meat (beef), lamb, sheep meat, pork, poultry and game. The most famous Russian meat specialty is Beef Stroganoff, a dish containing noodle-like pieces of meat. The second in line is Chicken Pojarski, a famous patty made from finely chopped chicken fillet, bread and sweet cream, breaded and fried in butter. We should also mention the pejmen, made from finely chopped meat, rolled into thin dough made of flour and eggs, and possibly milk or water. Pork, lamb, beef etc. are used as fillings. According to the traditional Uralian recipe, the filling is made of 45% beef, 35% lamb and 20% pork. Pepper, garlic and onions are added to the meat.
Bread is the integral part of the rich Russian table, and mixed bread is the most favorable among the Russians. A more recent specialty is rye bread. If you find yourselves in Russia, you can’t go wrong by asking for the borodinski, rizhski, kishinevski, darnitski, arnautski, orlovski or slavjanski bread, which, besides in the type of flour, also differ in additional ingredients such as seeds, coriander, molasses, vanilla... The most famous Russian pastry are the pirozi and piroške, made from sour dough with various fillings.
Rye, barley, proso millet, oats and wheat are very often found on Russian tables. The Russians like mashes, especially the ones made from buckwheat, semolina and rice, and are served as a side dish or as a sole dish for breakfast.
The Russians eat a lot of freshwater and sea fish: perch, cod, salmon, herring, kipper, pilchard and sturgeon. Caviar as the most popular and most delicious Russian dish deserves a special mention. Besides truffles, oysters, goose pate and the always-present Champaign, caviar is the privilege of the highest social classes, because of its astronomic prices, of course (sturgeon caviar). However, lovers of caviar say that prices are proportional to pleasure.
The Olivier and Orlov salads are also world-recognized.
The best caviar is the one made from sturgeon eggs and has a pearly silver color. Caviar made from salmon is reddish, and there are also less recognized types made from eggs of other fishes. Caviar must be cooled before serving. A spoonful of cooled caviar is placed on a small plate with toast, butter, a quarter of lemon, and served with a shot of vodka. We first drink the vodka, then top the toast with butter and caviar, sprinkle it with lemon juice, and then enjoy it with all the senses.
Because of the cold climate that Russia enjoys there are mostly rooty vegetables and cabbage. Rooty vegetables are eaten fresh or winter food is prepared from them. Besides cabbage, the Russians also eat carrots, turnip, black radish, cucumbers, mushrooms and potatoes. The consumption of other vegetables is mostly seasonal in nature.
The most famous and best-known Russian dairy product is kefir, a drink made from soured whole or skimmed cow milk, in the making of which kefir fungus plays an important role. Kefir is mainly consumed in the Caucus region where people are long-lived, and they ascribe their longevity to this very drink. The excellent Russian sour milk is also known.
Typical spices used in Russian cuisine are dill, parsley, celery, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.
Tea is the most popular drink in Russia. Yes, you read it right. The Russians drink tea more than vodka. The Russian tea party is a social event on the occasion of which tea and biscuits are served. This tradition started back in 1638. The country’s national symbol, the Russian samovar (tee pot), is today unfortunately only a nostalgic keepsake of the Russian past. Kvas is, besides vodka and tea, also one of the Russian national drinks, i.e. a fermented, simple drink with a low level of alcohol. It is made of bread, apples, pears etc. The most popular among the western people is the Russian vodka (in translation "small water") and almost everything is known about it. It is maybe less known that excellent liquors are made from vodka in Russia, such as: nalivka, a liquor with berry fruit and nastojka, a liquor with aromatic herbs. Krimskoje is one of the more favorite sparkling wines.
Sweet breads, cakes, pies and pancakes predominate the selection of Russian delicacies today, but we will nevertheless mention some of the beautiful old Russian sweet specialties as well. Kisel is the oldest Russian dessert, i.e. a kind of jelly made from dried and berry fruit, molasses and milk. The typical Russian desserts include also the blini, Russian pancakes made from yeast dough with wheat and buckwheat flour, and the gogol mogol, a cream made from egg yolk, cognac, sugar, orange liquor and lemon juice. Paška is a traditional Easter dessert made from cottage cheese, cream, eggs, butter, lemon and orange peel, and finely chopped almonds, whereas šarlotka is a cake with biscotti and milky and fruity cream.
The most famous salad is the vinaigrette salad, followed by the Georgian salad made from beans and walnuts, both believed to have aphrodisiac properties. The Olivier and Orlov salads are famous worldwide.
Do not miss out on the opportunity
- to: visit the Hermitage Museum, virtual information
- set out on a six-day journey along the 9 446 km-long Trans-Siberian railroad
- visit St Petersburg and Moscow
- enjoy in the ritual of vodka and caviar.
We have reserved a special place for the world-famous Russians:
- the best Russian and world’s "writers": Aleksandar Sergejevic Puskin, Fjodor Dostojevski, Lav Tolstoj, Jesenjin, Majakovski, Nabokov...
- Petar Iljic Cajkovski, Sergej Rahmanjinov, Igor Stravinski, Sergej Prokofjev wrote music in the spirit of Russia
- Kandinski and Maljevic painted in Russian colors,
- and Jurij Gagarin, known to us all as the first man who flew into space.