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Our memorable experiences with Russian food

Our memorable experiences with Russian food

Whilst travelling through Russia, we got stuck into lots of Russian food.

As the world’s largest country, Russian food has a wealth of influence from Europe on one side to Asia on the other – to the delight of these two hungry greedy boys.

This is a summary of some our more memorable experiences with Russian food:

Beverages

Vodka

“Vodka vodka vodka and more vodka” comes to mind when you think of Russia.  They love it and they are good at it.  Their supermarkets have an entire aisle devoted to the stuff:

A whole supermarket aisle dedicated to vodka!
A whole supermarket aisle dedicated to vodka!

Kvass

Kvass is a low-alcoholic drink (less than 0.5%) made from fermented bread.  As well as a drink, it is also the base to some of the soups (like Okroshka).  Kvass looks like Guinness but tastes sweet, similar to Pimms:

Stefan trying Russian kvass
Stefan trying Russian kvass

Russian food: soups

Borscht 

This was Stefan’s favourite.  It’s a light, beetroot based hot Ukrainian/Russian soup made with a beef or pork broth.  Whilst in Irkutsk, our friend, Genadi Petrov, showed us his very own Borscht home made recipe.

Svekolnik

This is a cold beetroot based soup, similar to Borscht.  It is particularly refreshing in the hot Russian summers and therefore very popular with us during our time in Russia in June:

Stefan tucking into shashlik and tasty svekolnik soup
Stefan tucking into shashlik and tasty svekolnik soup

Solyanka

This is a thick spicy and sour soup.  The base is usually smoked meat (or can be fish or mushrooms).  It is also cooked with picked cucumbers, cabbage, salted mushrooms and served with smetana (sour cream) and dill.

The soup is prepared by cooking the cucumbers with brine before adding the other ingredients to the broth.  This soup is also popular in East Germany, as well as Ukraine.

Stefan eating solyanka soup and Sebastien with ukha soup
Stefan eating solyanka soup and Sebastien with ukha soup

Ukha

Ukha is a clear fish based soup, sometimes with potatoes and vegetables.  It is usually made with fresh water fish (like Omul, Catfish and Bream) so therefore very popular around Lake Baikal.

Omul fish is generally big business around Lake Baikal.  It is usually caught, smoked and then sold to hungry travellers like these two greedy boys on the train:

Seb about to go face down in our smoked omul fish purchased on the Trans Siberian train
Seb about to go face down in our smoked omul fish purchased on the Trans Siberian train

Okroshka

This is another cold soup, which is a mix of raw vegetables like cucumbers, with boiled potatoes, eggs and a cooked meat base (usually sausage, or beef) and served in kvass, giving it a sweet flavour.  In Soviet times, Okroshka was made with beer instead of kvass.

Okroshka soup
Okroshka soup

We were not a fan of Okroshka as the sweetness from the kvass gave it an odd flavour, which overpowered it.

Russian dumplings

Dumplings appear everywhere in Asia in different forms.  In Russian food, they are either meat based “pelmeni” or non meat / sweet versions called “vareniki”.

Pelmeni 

Pelmeni are Russian meat based dumplings which are boiled.

Seb about to go face down in a plate of pilmeni
Seb about to go face down in a plate of pilmeni

Vareniki

Vareniki are the Ukrainian non meat equivalent (like with potatoes or mushroom).  They can also be sweet based (like cottage cheese).

Whilst visiting Olkhon island on Lake Baikal, we stayed at the popular Nikita’s homestead where we took a cooking class for making vareniki.

Stefan contemplating a few plates of vareniki
Stefan contemplating a few plates of vareniki

And our final input with Russian food:

Russian sausage – another memorable culinary experience (ooh er!):

Stefan trying Russian sausage
Stefan trying Russian sausage

For more inspiration, read our article – is Russia safe for gay travellers.

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Borscht recipe
Home made recipe for Russian Borscht soup
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Stefan with a freshly made vareniki
Recipe for Russian vareniki dumplings (cabbage and egg filling)
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Sebastien is the co-founder, editor and author of nomadicboys.com. He is a tech geek, a total travel nerd and a food enthusiast. He spends the majority of his time planning Nomadic Boys' travels meticulously right down to the minute details. Sebastien has travelled to over 80 countries with his partner in crime and the love of his life, Stefan. He regularly shares his expertise of what it’s like travelling as a gay couple both on Nomadic Boys and on prominent publications ranging from Pink News, Matador, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and many more. Originally from France, Sebastien moved to London in the early 2000s where he pursued a career as a computer programmer for Thompson Reuters and Bloomberg. He subsequently left it all to explore his passion for travelling around the world with Stefan to hand, and thus Nomadic Boys was born.

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