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Russian cuisine


SobaAddict70
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Ok, a quick list of dishes in Russian cuisine that I'm familiar with comes up with the following:

blinis

pierogies

borscht (which may or may not be of Russian origin)

stichi (sp) (this is a cabbage-based soup with beer and black or brown bread)

pelmeni

and that's about it.

Zakuska doesn't really count since its a form of a meal, along the lines of a smorgasboard or a rijistaffel.

So is that all there is? And why hasn't it caught on much in the U.S.? I'm not talking about places like the Russian Tea Room. I know there's much more than this really meager list.

SA

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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Sauerkraut Soup

Stroganoff

Chicken Kiev

Chicken Cutlets in Paprika Sauce

Lots of stuff "Romanoff" like potatoes, strawberries...etc.

Paschka

And... and... and...

Where's Helena??

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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What's paschka?

It's a dessert. Usually served at Russian Orthodox Easter...

Kind of hard to describe - sort of like a cheesecakey thing that you bake in a mold, but with candied fruits and almonds and currants. And you serve it with fresh fruits to garnish.

I once had a neighbor who made it every Spring. She baked it in a clay flowerpot. I think that's a "traditional" thing to do as well.

I believe our own Helena is Russian. So maybe she can elaborate.

:rolleyes:

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Piroshky w/ sour cream

jellied meats, and salmon in aspic

smoked salmon

Easter Kulich sweet bread

pickled wild mushrooms

various pickled herrings

Dolmas (grape leaves stuffed w/lamb or beef and rice)

Kugelis (grated potato pudding) from Lithuania

I believe Tony Bourdain ate reindeer stew in Russia.

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Do you really only mean Russian, or do you mean all the former SSRs? Because THAT is a vast, varied area. Georgia has very different foods from Uzbekhistan from Russia from ... well, you get the idea. Lumping them together is like trying to talk about one "Mexican" cuisine or one "Italian" cuisine.

I happen to like Georgian food -- lots of coriander (cilantro), sour plum sauces, ground walnuts in savory dishes, spiced grilled meats. Chicken tabak (cooked under a brick). But a good Russian Borshsch, with a strong beef stock and chunks of meat, cabbage, beets, and other vegetables is great for this time of year.

But oh! this indignity of calling coulibiac "a fish pie!" :shock: Puff pastry, duxelles, rice pilaf, the gelatinous inside of a sturgeon's backbone, herbs, and more -- that's like calling beef wellington "a beef pie."

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Rice Pilaf

Kasha

Charlotte Russe

Babka

Baba au Rhum

Aleksander Torte

Sorry, not the Baba au Rhum - French baker invented it, Polish king named it.

Actually, nightscotsman, you're right partially. I'm wrong entirely. Baba (babka) was brought to France by Polish dude and Polish chef and taught the French to make it. Then Savarin did the rum thing to the baba years later, and the au rhum came into being.

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Of course, "Russian" , "Georgian" and "Polish" and "Ukranian" and "Belorussian" at least in terms of cuisine are all really relative terms prior to the 20th century... And I'd be hard pressed to make the distinction between Polish, Ukranian and Russian food, for the most part.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Of course, "Russian" , "Georgian" and "Polish" and "Ukranian" and "Belorussian" at least in terms of cuisine are all really relative terms prior to the 20th century... And I'd be hard pressed to make the distinction between Polish, Ukranian and Russian food, for the most part.

Well, try asking for Polish "pierogies" in some of the Russian grocery stores around Allston, MA. They looked at me as though I had two heads! :laugh:

Sure enough, there were none to be found in the three shops I searched. Unfortunately, I can't remember exactly what WAS in those shops otherwise I'd have something more to contribute to this thread.

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Of course, "Russian" , "Georgian" and "Polish" and "Ukranian" and "Belorussian" at least in terms of cuisine are all really relative terms prior to the 20th century... And I'd be hard pressed to make the distinction between Polish, Ukranian and Russian food, for the most part.

Well, try asking for Polish "pierogies" in some of the Russian grocery stores around Allston, MA. They looked at me as though I had two heads! :laugh:

Sure enough, there were none to be found in the three shops I searched. Unfortunately, I can't remember exactly what WAS in those shops otherwise I'd have something more to contribute to this thread.

Pierogi exist in Ukranian cuisine though. A Ukranian church used to sell them every weekend when I lived in Cedar Knolls at Rachel's condo.

I am also certain that Pierogi exist in Russian cuisine but maybe they aren't called that.

EDIT: They are, in fact, called PIROGI

http://www.geocities.com/tyshee.geo/pirogi.html

Also see:

http://www.ku.edu/~russcult/culture/handou...an_recipes.html

"Pirog" means Pie.

Although these refer to Pirozhki, and Pirogi has a slightly different meaning.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Jason - I later found out that Russians do have something like pierogies with a different name, but I don't know what that name is. I think it's probably regional as well, being that Ukraine is much closer to Poland and those national identities have a complicated history with Russia. It's because of those complicated histories that I think we shouldn't rush to lump all the countries together.

Can anyone comment on whether there is any French influence in present day Russian cuisine? I would think that with so much French influence on the Russian nobility in the 18th and 19th centuries that it would have found its way into the cuisine as well.

edit: For clarity.

edit: Clarity came with a repeated word which made things less clear. I think it's all cleared up now though. :wacko:

Edited by 201 (log)
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Right. What we and the Polish and Ukranians come to think of as "Pirogi" might be strictly Ukranian, Polish and Belorussian. What the Russians call Pirogi and Pirozshki appear to be more like "Hot Pocket" fast food things.

After doing some Googling I think the word we are looking for is Pelmeni. There appear to be many types of Pelmeni though.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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As I understand it, Pirogi and Piroshki/Pirozhki are both free form pies filled with various fillings like cabbage, sauerkraut, hamburger & onions or salmon. Pirog is the large version which has a filling and is sliced (which I've never had). Piroshky is the small individual size, which I've made before with my Russian neighbor. They are so good. They are also often sold at Russian bazaars along with pelmeni. Pelmeni is totally different than piroshky. Pelmeni is more similar to a potsticker.

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Here is a helpful site.

I can't vouch for Polish or Ukrainian, but here are some Russian definitions:

Pirog: pie.

Pirogi: pies.

Pirozhok: litterally, a small pie. Baked or deep-fried dough stuffed with filling.

Pirozhki: plural of pirozhok.

Pelmeni: Siberian form of gioza or pot-stickers. They are made in a similar fashion -- rolled out pasta is cut in circles, filled with a dollop of savory filling, then pinched into a crescent or tortellini-style shape. Siberian Pelmeni are immediately frozen, usually simply by setting them outside the kitchen door on trays. If you're not in Siberia, put the trays in the freezer. They are kept frozen until it's time to cook, at which time they are boiled. When done, they are removed from the water and served with a lot, a LOT of sour cream. In my family, we would also add vinegar and soy sauce. In the Ukraine, Pelmeni are called varenniki (litterally, boilers), and the filling is often sweet. Apparently, in Poland they are called pirogi. Imagine that.

I hope Helena shines light on this thread. Until then, I'll do my best to confuse matters even more:

It's very difficult to define a Russian cuisine because it has always been a melting pot, even in antiquity. Russia traded with and, in turn, conquered and was conquered by countries from the far east to the middle east to eastern Europe to the Baltic Sea, and in the process assimilated a wide variety of dishes. Where do you draw the line? Siberian pelmeni are called gioza in Japan, shu-mai in China, varenniki in the Ukrain, pirogi in Poland, and tortellini in Italy (yes, I know there are subtle differences, but you get my point). Chicken Tabaka is Georgian. Borshch and golubtsi are Ukrainian (I think many "Russian" dishes are actually Ukrainian in origin). To further confuse matters, the Tsar's court imported their own cuisines: Beef Stroganoff was created by a French chef working for Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganov, a Russian diplomat.

Or what about this: Chicken Kiev is actually an old French dish renamed by New York restaurants to please Russian immigrants. Now it's proudly claimed by Russian and Ukrainian Restaurants back in the motherland, making Chicken Kiev the Dean Reed of chicken dishes.

Please, Helena, help us out here.

--

ID

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Thank you Ivan from saving me from weighing in on basic definitions here.

Two of the areas where Russians excel are, in my view: smoked and dried fish (e.g. moiva, kharius, vobla - I'll leave you to explain these Ivan/Helena) and homemade jams (i.e. varenie) which are utterly different from anything we know in the 'west' - wild fruit suspended in sugar syrup, barely cooked, full of the flavour of the berry.

v

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I can only recall eating coulibiac with salmon, not sturgeon, although I'm sure the latter is more authentic. One of the great pastry dishes of the world.

Edit: Mmm, I see they offer the sturgeon version at The Firebird in New York. I looked this up, as it's the only Russian restaurant I've been inside in years; a tour around the menus will suggest a lot more dishes to add to the list - I don't have the expertize to pronounce on their authenticity:

Firebird menus

Edited by Wilfrid (log)
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Here's something from a very old "foreign foods" cookbook I have in my collection:

"The Foods of Russia"

"The origins of Russian cookery are shrouded in mystery and veils of secrecy. It is thought that the Russians developed their unique style of cooking by copying French, Italian and Spanish methods. These efforts began in earnest when Peter the Great instituted his reforms to modernize Russia and open it to the 'new world.' The Russians later turned their continental style into what they now call Russian. The result is often like a discordant note to a gourmet. However, there are many individual dishes that remain unexcelled.

"The class structure of the Russian people has made it necessary for the people to eat differently. For breakfast, Russian workers, who are often very poor, eat kasha, a cereal made from grits; heavy rye or black bread; and milk. Lunch usually consists of one common dish such as a soup, like borscht.

"For professional and executive groups, breakfast may have more variety: meatballs with rice, coffee and almond cookies. Dinner may be a tomato salad, pike or perch, chicken soup with noodles, roast beef with potatoes, melon and water. Supper is usually light and consists of a salad, meat dish with potatoes, tea and maybe a light dessert.

"The Russians are great meat eaters and the country abounds with wildlife. Their most favorite way of preparing meat is to roast it. They usually select beef, mutton, pork, poultry, game or veal.

"Russia has never really developed a very good selection of desserts because the emphasis was on the heartier part of the meal. By the time the after-the-meal sweet was reached, most Russians were too full to really enjoy it. However, at holidays they make special sweet breads and cookies. On Easter, especially, one particular dish stands our as a universal favorite: Pashka. It is made of cream cheese, egg yolks, butter, cream, sugar, almonds, candied fruit and vanilla.

"Anyone looking at Russian recipes will quickly realize that there is one ingredient that is rarely left out of any food dish: sour cream. It is said that every Russian housewife keeps an ample supply of sour cream in her larder for all occasions.

"Russians are also great soup eaters. Their soups are noted for their heavy consistency. In fact, many a meal is made from soup alone, for it is so hearty. The favorite is Borscht, a vegetable base soup made from beet root and typically garnished with a spoonful of sour cream.

"Russia is a land of various contrasts: the very active city life and the desolate life in the country. To the residents of Russia, it is a land of mountain ranges, river rapids, and wealth in the form of precious resources: iron ore, gold, coal, oil, asbestos, graphite. It is also arctic wastes, subtropical forests, deserts where nothing will grow, and fertile regions of rich, deep, black soil where crops flourish."

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Wilfrid, I spent a wonderful evening at the Firebird a few years ago. I had various fruits, vegetables and herbs -- all consumed in the form of infused vodka. What a splendid way to absorb nutrients.

Vanessa, you're right about Russian varenie. I'll only add that Russians use it to sweeten tea instead of sugar. Well, ok: often in addition to sugar. The syrup part of the jam dissolves in the tea, and the berries sink to the bottom and have to be eaten with a spoon after the tea is drunk. Cherry varenie was my favorite. Very addictive.

I'm not familiar with moiva or kharius (or maybe I've forgotten), but vobla is iconic. Vobla is a fish of the carp family caught in great quantities in the Caspian sea and shipped all over Russia in salted form. For many Russians, it signified hunger and poverty, because often that's all a family would have to eat. In better times, it is the standard accompaniement to vodka and beer, especially beer. It was a common sight to see a Russian belly up to a table in a beer hall, pull a Vobla out of his pocket, and rapidly whack it against the table to soften it up and remove the scales. Then the dry, stringy, salty flesh is peeled off in strips using the fingers. Ironically, there was a time in Moscow a few years ago when Vobla couldn't be bought for love or money. It was catapulted from the lowly status of a beggar's dinner to a sought-after delicacy.

I suppose I should mention that I barely tolerated Vobla when I was young. Nonetheless, I couldn't help getting excited along with my friends when one of us would whip the fish out of his pocket and start whacking it. Of course, the value we place on food is only in part based on what it tastes like. A popular Soviet film, "White Sun of the Desert", about a Russian soldier caught in limbo at a lonely southern outpost at the time of the revolution, has a marvelous anecdote involving caviar. Supply lines had been cut off, so the hapless soldier had to become self-sufficient in his little oasis, which contained a pool stocked with sturgeon. As the weeks drag on, we see him choking down large bowlfulls of caviar in order to survive, his disgust for the taste of it growing with every day.

On a similar note, I have a friend who cannot eat caviar at all. When he was a child living in near-poverty in Khruschev's Moscow, his mother worked at a theater restaurant, and she would bring home dozens of little open-faced caviar sandwiches. He says he overdosed on the stuff, and he associates the smell of caviar with hunger, poverty and hardship.

--

ID

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My husband's in Moscow now. He's opening a new place and he says the restaurant scene is wild. His last meal out was at a Ukrainian place, decorasted with a live 3 storey oak tree, growing in the middle of the seating area. It also featured a glassed-in barn-yard, with live animals (imagine that in regulation-ridden California!). Ukrainian farmhouse cooking is very popular, I guess as all the real peasants were slaughtered or starved.

The food was great--esp. the pork products and the game. He's been to a number of farmers' markets and says the quality of some things, such as honey and lamb, is remarkable. There's no shortages or line or any Soviet style nonsense. Big city Russians spend 80 % of their income on consumer goods, and eating out is a hobby.

The NYTimes Sophisticated Traveler had a great story on Moscow last Sept. http://query.nytimes.com/search/article-pa...atures%2fTravel

London used to be a culinary wasteland, so it's quite likely that Moscow will blossom in a big way, as well.

Here in Southern California, there's a sizeable Russian emigre population but not really any good restaurnts, yet. But our local chuch serves great stuff at fund-raisers. And Trader Joes has frozen peirogi that aren't half bad.

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Kharius and moiva are smoked, rather than dried fish and utterly delicious. Kharius is grayling. I've only had it brought over from Siberia. I had no idea what moiva was - it is small - maybe 4 inches long but quite fleshy. I've just located it on the net as capelin , whatever that is - but the picture looks roughly right - it's a while since I had it. The couple who own Potemkin in Clerkenwell used to run a glorious Russian food shop in a swanky office just off Oxford Circus - the first shop of its kind in London and a world away from those decrepit, Soviet-looking dives that are springing up all round London. She had a great selection of smoked fish which, sadly, she did not transfer to her menu at Potemkin.

One of the advantages of produce in Russia, though it is while since I've been there, is that it is still relatively 'unspoilt' - foods still taste of themselves, they haven't been modified to death to suit the demands of mass distribution.

I agree with Ivan about vobla - at first it seems horrendous - like getting nutrients out of a stone - but then it becomes strangely addictive as an accompaniment to beer.

v

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