Russian food and cuisine includes an amazing array of traditional dishes. The dishes and their taste actually differ depending on the district of the country. As Russia is the largest country in the world and includes over 150 nationalities, the choice is great and appetizing.
The main feature of traditional Russian food is determined by the lifestyle of the Russian people. Russia throughout the centuries has been an agricultural country with the majority of the population being peasants. The center of the Russian house has always been the stove as the source of heat and also the place for cooking.
That is why in traditional Russian food you rare find recipes that include frying. Most of the dishes were cooked or stewed hence the most well-known Russian dish in the world is Borscht (beetroot soup) or shchi (cabbage soup) which you can easily find on the menu in most Russian restaurants. Soups have always played a vital part in the life of Russian people for it was the main dish and it was very hearty and, what was more important in the Russian northern climate, it was hot. Even nowadays Russians still eat soup on a regular basis.
Traditionally as the country was agricultural the main food was always different types of grain. Rye was more for everyday while wheat flour was used to cook different dainty things like pirogi (pies with different fillings – berries, apples, meat and fish). And of course the world-famous Russian pancakes are also made from flour.
One of the most important sauces is sour cream which can be added to soups, vegetables – in fact to everything. So if you want a Russian-style party, you can just buy sour cream and add it to all the dishes! It will make them almost Russian.
Russians also eat a lot of vegetables. Pickled vegetables are especially popular including cabbage, cucumbers – and even garlic, which is absolutely delicious! As the season for growing vegetables is usually rather short – less than six months in some districts – people pickle vegetables to make them last through the winter. Vegetables are also cooked or stewed in the stove together with meat or fish. Before potatoes became popular (middle of 19th century) people ate a lot of turnip.
Traditional Russian drinks include kvass (a type of fermented beverage made from bread), honey-beer, mors (a fruit drink usually made of wild berries such as cranberry).
Speaking about vodka, the drink we know today was actually invented around 1894 by Dmitri Mendeleev. Before him there was no standard and vodka could be any strength (nowadays it must be strictly 40% spirit and 60% water).
So when you are in Russia don’t miss an opportunity to try traditional Russian food such as borscht, vodka, and beef stroganoff! Bon appetite!