Food in Russia: what's hot in a cold country
I watched a funny video today – Americans Try Bizzare Russian Foods For The First Time (by Buzzfeed). Instead of joining hollywar in the comments, I decided to put my thoughts here in a short blog post.
Here’s the video:
Actually from the very beginning I wondered whether there would be a studen’ (holodetz) or not – and it appeared!
Before I start, I would like to add that unlike other people in the comments I don’t find it rude or offensive that people from other culture find some Russian food “bizzare”. I mean, every cuisine likely have a dish that can be considered weird from someone with a very different background. That being said, poehali!
1. Herring under fur coat (Seledka pod shuboy)
I can imagine that peope who are not accustomed to beet may find this dish weird and not very tasty (despite its bright appearance). I’m pretty sure that people form Northern Europe and Scandinavia (Germans, Dutches, Swedes and other) who eat beet regularly mostly wouldn’t be appalled by it. There may be even similar dishes in these countries pairing herring and beet or beet and mayo. In any case, if you don’t like herring or find mayo potato salads disgusting, that’s not your kind of salad.
2. Russian bologna
Why do they put it here? How bizzare can a regular bologna be?
Funny fact: this bologna is called “doktorskaya kolbasa” (doctor sausage/kielbasa), because it has lower fat content and was first prepared in 1930-s for “people whose health deteriorated because of Civil war and Tzar’s despotism”. But we do have jokes like “if liver kielbasa is made with liver, what is doctor kielbasa made with?”. But no, the name implies that it is recommended by doctors.
3. Pickled tomatoes
I was kinda surprised at people’s generally positive reaction and the fact that they didn’t choose pickled cucumber instead (may be because there are a lot of them in US as well?). I’d also say that generally it’s regular tomatoes that are pickled, not cherry tomatoes. Art of pickling is very old in Russia because there were many food that should be kept for a winter without a fridge (and also in Soviet time where food wasn’t always available in the shops). A jar of canned veggies is an artform of its own.
Many people have their own recipes, technologies or secret ingerdients. Pickled veggies is used as a side dish and of course as zakuska (snack served with alcoholic beverages).
4. Kholodetz (Studen’)
Here goes – it was a funny moment. Although it’s not obligatory that it’s cooked with pork and chicken – it can be pork and beef, just pork or all three. Also, in a good kholodetz no gelatin is needed. Instead, a cook chooses pieces of meat that have a lot of it (like pig legs). Meat and bones are cooked in water for many hours, then meat is separated from bones and shreeded. Finally you put mean in a bowl and pour broth which will set in a jelly-like consistency after some time. I never cooked it myself – I don’t mind eating it, but cooking is just not worth it for me. But kholodetz is actually good for people with joint pain because of so much gelatin. It MUST be eaten with horseradish (some prefer mustard, but don’t buy it).
Also, if you don’t like meat jelly, imagine how bad fish one is? And we do have it in our cuisine.
Where I am from it is considered more of an Ukrainian dish, although many Russians eat it too (I’m personally not a big fan at all!). But in any case, salo is not raw – it’s actually cured (pickling technique where a lot of salt is used). It’s not smoked and, unlike bacon, has little to no meat. Some spices may be used like black pepper, paprika, bay leaf and garlic. Lile in the video, it’s often eaten on a slice of dark rye bread, sometimes as zakuska (yes, again) or in borsch. It’s more of a winter food that supposedly helps you stay warm.
If I could choose a food for video “People trying weird Russian food for the first time”, I would suggest:
– tvorog or dishes made with it (zapekanka or syrniki)
– liver pancakes
– pickled mushrooms
– korushka fish (Saint-Petersburg style)
– buckwheat with corned beef (grechka s tushenkoi)
– okroshka (cold soup with kvas)