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7 traditional Russian food dishes you simply must try

Discover some of Russia’s finest culinary dishes from Pelmeni to Pirozhki

Here at Real Russia, we are always looking to entice our visitors with a taste of Russian culture, and what better way to do that than by introducing you to some of the best Russian food enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Ask any Russian, the way to get a true sense of what it means to be Russian is through food. While tastes may change over time, sometimes nothing can beat old traditional favourites.

In this post, we will discover some of Russia’s much-loved traditional food dishes from Pelmeni to Pirozhki.

1) Pelmeni

Russian Pelmeni with Dill

The heart of Russian cuisine, Pelmeni are dumplings consisting of minced meat, fish or vegetables wrapped in a thin dough.

Pelmeni are not bound by a set recipe and their filling will typically vary depending on region and preference. For example, central Russian regions may include cabbage and horseradish in combination with minced meat, while others vary the meat used and so could include anything from pork and beef to fish and venison. Dough consistency and thickness is key to making a good Pelmeni, the dough needs to be stable enough to hold the structure after being filled and then boiled.

These delicious dumplings have a rich history that is still hotly debated today, with both the Ural and Siberian regions laying claim to its origins. It is also suggested that Pelmeni may derive from the Chinese jiaozi or, because of its ability to preserve meat in cold weather, carried over by the Mongols when they settled in Siberia and the Urals.

How should you eat Pelmeni?

Sour cream is often preferred, although they can also be eaten simply with butter or with ketchup on the side.

How to make Pelmeni

To learn more about how to make Pelmeni, see our step-by-step guide to making authentic Russian Pelmeni

2) Posikunchiki

Similar to a small Cornish pasty, Posikunchiki are small fried pastries stuffed with spiced minced meat and onions.

Just like Pelmeni, the filling of Posikunchiki is not standardised and can include a variety of meat which will depend on the region of preference. Although, it is commonly expected that the filling will consist of some form of spiced meat and onions. This old Ural dish is said to originate around Perm Krai and makes for a perfect snack – we would recommend these to anyone with a heavy travel schedule, such as Trans-Siberian travellers since they can be easily packed and eaten on the go.

How should you eat Posikunchiki?

The best way to eat Posikunchiki is to bite a small amount off one end of the pastry and then tip either meat juice or sauce into the remaining pastry which will marinate the filling inside.

3) Borsht

Russian Borscht with Dill Sour Cream

Although Ukrainian in origin, Borscht has become a firm favourite in Russian cuisine due to its versatility.

Traditional Borscht is essentially a soup that has a distinctive red colouring which is taken from its primary ingredient beetroot. There are variations on this that do not include beetroot including white or cabbage borscht, as well as consistency variations that include meat or fish or are strictly vegetarian. Traditional Borscht combines meat stock with vegetables including cabbage, onions, carrots and potatoes.

How should you eat Borscht?

Borscht can be served hot or cold, although we would recommend combining this dish with a generous dollop of sour cream.

4) Shashlik

Grilled Shashlik

A well-known western favourite, Shashlik has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the last few decades as travel to the Caucasus and Central Asia have grown.

Shashlik has many variants and a long history, becoming a popular dish adopted in Russia from the 19th century. By the early 20th century, Shashlik had become the undisputed champion of urban Russian street food. The dish is made up of diced cubes of meat, traditionally lamb (although beef, pork and venison have become alternatives) which is then marinated in vegetable juices, skewered and then grilled. Similar to the UK, Shashlik is often cooked over a barbecue outdoors at social gatherings in Russia, although this can also be found at street vendors who roast the skewers on a mangal.

How should you eat Shashlik?

Shashlik is highly versatile and can be combined with a wide range of sauces and marinades. Ultimately, the best way to eat Shashlik is outdoors with a large group of friends or family.

5) Plov

Plov Rice Dish
Courtesy of Mizu Basyo [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

A staple food of many countries in Siberia, Asia and the Middle East, Plov (also known as pilaf) is a rice-based dish that is cooked in a broth and comprises of meat, vegetables and spices.

Plov, like so many other rice-based dishes, has a long history and is believed to derive back to the Abbasid Caliphate established around the 6th century. This dish is highly adaptable and does not have any set rules about the type of rice or grain used; therefore it is common to find variations of this dish in long-grain or basmati rice, or bulgur wheat. In Russia, plov has been adopted as a staple of Russian cuisine due to its versatility in combining seasonal vegetables, fruits and meat into a dish that could then be easily shared.

How should you eat plov?

A truly great Plov should always contain a mixture of sweet and savoury ingredients, so we recommend combining vegetables, nuts and dried fruits such as apricot or cranberries to produce a variety of textures and flavours.

6) pirozhki

A baked or fried bun stuffed with savoury or sweet fillings, Pirozhki are enjoyed in Russia at almost any time of day. The buns are made from yeast dough that is glazed with egg to produce a golden brown colour when baked. These small pies (a literal translation of the word ‘pirozhki’) are stuffed with vegetables or fruit. Savoury pirozhki often include mashed potato, onions or cabbage, while sweet pirozhki contain a mixture of apples, dried fruits or cherries. These pies can vary in size and so perfect for a snack or a full meal.

How should you eat pirozhki?

Pirozhki are best enjoyed when accompanied by soup in Russia, although they are often eaten on the go.

7) Blini

Blini with Salmon Roe
Courtesy of tOrange.biz [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]

One of the most popular Russian foods, Blinis are pancakes made from wheat flour (occasionally buckwheat flour) and served with a wide range of garnishes and toppings including butter, smetana and caviar.

Blinis have become an integral part of Russian culture and were considered by East Slavic people as symbolic of the sun. These pancakes were traditionally made for Maslenitsa (Pancake week), a tradition now adopted by the Orthodox church and still prevalent today.

In the West, blinis are often presented as canapés and formed from yeasted batter, eggs and milk (kefir is also be used in some regions) which is then pan-fried. In Russia, blinis were baked in a Russian oven, although are no often pan-fried in the same way as traditional pancakes.

How should you eat blini?

Blinis can be eaten with a combination of flavours and toppings from caviar to jams and honey, although Smetana (a form of sour cream) is a popular choice.

How to make blini

See our step-by-step guide to making the ultimate Russian blini for more information.

Russian Blini

Experience the best of Russian cuisine – book your trip to Russia today!

In Russia, mealtimes remain much-loved and shared experiences that succeed in bringing families together. As a tourist in Russia, you will find that Russian hospitality is one feature that truly sets the Russian people apart from anywhere else in the world. This strong culinary heritage is prominent across Russian, particularly in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where top-class restaurants dazzle visitors with a modern take on many of these Russian and Siberian classics.

As a specialist Russian travel company with over 15 years’ experience, we pride ourselves on being able to deliver top-class excursions tailored to your needs. We work with local guides in Russia who bring with them a wealth of firsthand experience, and they are always happy to recommend places to stay, eat or explore. Start your culinary journey today and browse our selection of St. Petersburg and Moscow excursions.

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