Whether or not people want to admit it, the cuisine they often associate with Russia is quite bland and laced with stereotypes: potatoes, beets, bread, and a shot of vodka.
This couldn’t be further from the truth! The Russian “kitchen” is quite rich and draws influence from many of its neighboring countries from Soviet Union times, from Central Asia to the Caucasus.
5 ‘must-eats’ during your Russia experience:
BEAUTY OF BORSCH
Borsch is the quintessential Russian beet soup. Though the name may not excite your appetite, it’s actually quite delicious. Russians say that there are as many different kinds of borsch as there are cooks in the world. Don’t let the bright fuchsia color scare you from trying this classic dish! Of course, you can taste the beets, but it’s not at all overwhelming. The savory bullion from the meat and other vegetables balance it out really well. If you want to be truly Russian, try it with a spoonful of sour cream mixed in. Borsch is one of many tasty Russian soups, so let it be the first of several you try while here!
These little dumplings are filled with either savory meat or potatoes and are usually a foreigner favorite. They are typically served with sour cream and possibly a red tomato sauce. The Caucasus has many variations of pelmini, from the thicker Dagestani manti which are steamed to the smaller Siberian style which are boiled. Regardless of which kind you try, you can be assured you’ll walk away from the table with a full stomach.
SHASHLIK— AKA SHISH-KABOBS
A classic Russian tradition is going out into the woods and grilling lamb, pork, beef or chicken on skewers over a fire. Doesn’t get more delicious than this! For vegetarians/vegans, they also grill delicious veggies and potatoes over the fire as well. The grilled mushrooms are fantastic! Shashlik can be up to a 1/2 day experience with your friends, so make sure to say “Yes” to an invitation by locals, as you will be treated like kings/queens. Especially as you travel through the Caucasus Mountains, prepare to see groups of friends grilling shashlik throughout your journey. Click here to hear one of our Russia representatives describe in the depth the full shashlik “experience.”
Though technically from Uzbekistan, Russia has adopted this flavorful rice dish as its own. Traditionally plov is made for weddings and other large gatherings, where it’s produced in huge quantities in large outdoor cast-iron pots. These pots are so big they use shovels to stir! Plov is a mixture of rice, meat, and dried fruit with a combination of spices. It’s really delicious and is sure to fill your stomach. This is a dish that has potential to become a part of your regular dinner rotation back home.
Hachapuri is a rich, salty, cheesy-bread that melts in your mouth. There are multiple variations, from layered dough to those shaped like a boat with a fried egg on top. No matter what kind you try, you will enjoy it! The best place to get real hachapuri is in the Caucasus, from where it originates. Russia has many different kinds of bread dishes, but do your best to try hachapuri before you leave!
COMPLETE WITH CHAI
And of course, whichever of these 5 tasty Russian dishes you try, you’re obliged to wash them down with a cup of hot Russian tea (chai) afterwards. No meal in Russia is complete without it!