Thursday, May 06, 2010

Russian Cuisine and the Most Popular Courses

Russians serve soup as the first course at a dinner or supper. Soups can be served hot or chilled. Popular hot soups include the nourishing borscht (red beetroot soup) and cabbage soup. The traditional Russian cold soup is “okroshka”...

Russian cuisine is admired throughout the world. It is typically associated with pancakes, caviar, dumplings, and borsch; however, there are other tasty meals that this country can boast. Russia is a large country with diverse climates, and so its cuisine varies by region. Russian cuisine has absorbed numerous courses from its neighbors, as well as the other members of the former USSR. Many Russian meals are easy to cook – they do not require any special skills, ingredients, or equipment. In this article, we will list the most popular meals for you to try. These delicacies may even tempt you to learn Russian (the easiest way is to learn Russian online), and visit the country to taste them.

Soups: Russians serve soup as the first course at a dinner or supper. Soups can be served hot or chilled. Popular hot soups include the nourishing borscht (red beetroot soup) and cabbage soup. The traditional Russian cold soup is “okroshka” (you can master this fun word if you learn Russian); this soup is made of finely cut cucumber, egg, meat, radish, and dill, and served with kvass or kefir. Broths are not too popular here.

Pastry: Pastry takes a special place in Russian cuisine. One of the ancient local traditions was to welcome guests with bread and salt. The traditional pastry includes pies, pancakes, and cakes. Pies can be stuffed with berries, mushrooms, meat or cheese. The variety of breads is astounding.

Meats: The harsh climate made hot meat courses (pork, beef, poultry, and game) very common in this country. The Russian national cuisine can boast of numerous meat courses, including cutlets (minced meat patties), steaks, chops, and goulash; these are served with potatoes or noodles. Meats can be stewed or roasted; eggs can be beaten, boiled, and fried; eggs are used as an ingredient in other meals. In ancient times, beef and horse meat were banned in Russia.

Fish: The popularity of fish here can be explained by lengthy Christian fasts that do not allow eating meat, dairy, and eggs; most fasts permit fish. Religious fasts coincide with the times of the year when peasant food supplies would come to an end, forcing them to start eating wild berries, mushrooms and fish. Popular fish includes sturgeon and trout. Fish is steamed, boiled, fried, stewed, baked, smoked, salted, dried, and jellied. It is often stuffed with fillings, such as oatmeal or mushrooms. Caviar can be salted or boiled in vinegar.

Porridge: Porridge is a traditional Russian meal that is still very common here. Popular grains include: millet, rye, barley, oat, wheat (semolina), and buckwheat. Porridge is usually served with a lot of butter. “Kasha” (porridge) is one of the first words that one will master when they learn Russian online.

Vegetables: In ancient times, the most common vegetable here was the turnip – it served as a garnish before potatoes became popular; one fairy tale of those days features a giant turnip (“repa”). Other popular vegetables include cabbage (often used in sauerkraut), radish, and potatoes. Potatoes are the favorite. Raw vegetables are not used too often. Vegetables can be used in vegetable porridges, cakes, and stews, with or without meat.

Fruits: Fruits are used in fruit juices and drinks made of boiled fruits (kompot and uzvar). Fruits are also used in deserts, such as mousses and jellies. Dried fruits are also popular.

Deserts: Some of the favorite deserts are sweet rolls, cakes, jams, honey, as well as baked apples, fruits and berries. Popular modern deserts are small cheese pancakes with sour cream. Old Russian sweets were different from the modern. Two good examples of ancient Russian sweets are: carrots cooked in honey and crushed berries dried in an oven (shaped as pellets).

Flavorings: Sour cream is a popular seasoning for deserts and all other courses, including soups, dumplings and salads. Another popular seasoning for deserts and main courses is butter, which can be used to butter pancakes, pies, and sandwiches.

Seasonings: Russian courses are often flavored with herbs and spices: fennel, parsley, celery, mustard, onion, and garlic.

Drinks: Popular drinks include kvass, fruit drinks, mead, beer, and vodka.

Pickled foods: These include a number of pickled vegetables and pickled mushrooms.

Borrowed food: Russia has borrowed a number of foods from other countries: tea, dumplings (pelmeni), shashlik, roasted meats, potatoes, beef Stroganov, and Olivier (Russian salad).

Kitchenware: Traditional kitchenware from the past was bowls and wooden spoons. Foods were cooked in clay pots, in ovens. Tea was made in samovars.

If you visit Russia, the hosts are likely to welcome you with a number of traditional Russian meals. You could amaze them by a word or two in Russian, such as “spasibo” (thank you.) Today, it is easy to learn Russian free, as a number of websites offer the opportunity to learn Russian free online.

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