A Trip Through Polemic Dishes and Russian Cuisine

 I decided to share a few things about not so Russian cuisine that you might encounter during your travels to the Motherland. This is actually a very polemic topic, since things I once thought were entirely typically Russian are actually not, like Borscht. 

So here we go! A few Russian or maybe not really Russian foods that you are going to see in any restaurant!

1. Borscht

If you are visiting Russia during the winter, you will certainly want some warm soup in between walks on the outside chilly weather, and eating borscht is the best way to get warm. Of course, you can simply drink some tea, but that wouldn’t really be a complete meal, would it?

Smetana: check, black bread: check, dill: check

Borscht is the famous Russian food that Russians keep telling me it’s from Ukraine. I still call it Russian because I have eaten it in Russia, and I haven’t eaten it in Ukraine. I haven’t been to Ukraine, but that is beside the point. 

Borscht is a beetroot soup, sometimes cooked with meat, sometimes without, and normally served with Smetana, a Russian sour cream. While it might sound horrible and taste horrible in the beginning, it’s actually very tasty, even more so during the winter. 

2. Pelmeni

The traditional Russian equivalent of instant pasta. It is not pasta, and not instant, though. You will find a large selection of frozen Pelmeni in most stores, and they come with various fillings, such as potato, cabbage, mushrooms, but mostly beef or pork. 

Asian cultures, such as Korea, Japan, and China, have their own versions of these foods, with variations in the dough used or on how it’s served. Georgia also has Hinkalis, a delicious mega-pelmeni, which you are supposed to eat with your own hands, but I never do. 

A particularly horrendous atrocity personal touch that I like to give to them is my famous “Pelmeni à Parmigiana”, where I basically add tomato sauce to the cooked pelmeni and sprinkle Parmesan over it, like a true Brazilian. 

Needs some tomato sauce and Parmesan, right?

Brazilians do love to ruin perfect other culture’s dishes. You should compare Brazilian and Italian pizzas, by the way. It doesn’t matter how many Italians tell me that something went wrong with our pizzas somewhere along the way. I won’t believe them.

3. Shawarma Shaverma Shaurma Kebab Shavuha 

I already talked about Shaurma before, as you might remember, but of course you don’t, do you? Like any good street food, it didn’t come from Russia. Joking. It’s just that most Russian food, except, perhaps, pancakes, isn’t really comfortable to eat on-the-go, so shaurma is the solution.

The simplicity… The perfection…

Shaurma is the blood that pumps Russian cities. It gives us energy, and sometimes food poisoning. The point is, there is always a shaurma place nearby. No matter where you go, there will always be a shaurma pace near you, offering cheap, tasty food that you can eat anywhere, even standing up or walking home at 6 am after partying all night in Dumskaya.

4. Chicken Kiev (with the Obligatory Side of Mashed Potatoes)

Which might or might not be Russian. Can you believe that? You might be saying “Well, it’s Kiev cutlet and not Moscow cutlet, duh”, but it seems that neither Russians nor Ukrainians can figure out who invented it and who should have the credit for it. 

While they discuss the origins, I suggest you enjoy the taste. And try not to start a fight with some Ukranian by saying the food is Russian. 

“What is Chicken Kiev, though?”, you might be wondering. Do not worry, I will give you a tempting description of this dish’s pure deliciousness. It’s a cutlet made of minced chicken, rolled over an absurd amount of butter, and then coated in breading and deep-fried. Sounds quite healthy, no? Yeah, I know.

You are certain to find this dish in student cafeterias. Likely they’ll serve it with a side of mashed potatoes. I know this, because this dish sums up my 4 years at the Higher School of Economics cafeteria. 10Kg later, I graduated. Yay! 

5. Beefstroganoff (Stroganoff)

You likely know what Stroganoff is, but in case you are not acquainted with this delicious dish, I will give you an idea. Stroganoff is basically a finer sort of beef, ideally filet Mignon, cut in tiny slices and served with a variation of Smetana or white sauce.

All Brazilians that eat Stroganoff have the Russian, or maybe Ukrainian, immigrants to thank for it. Though, I do have to warn viewers that, if you google Brazilian Stroganoff recipes, you might get a stroke. We made an aberration improved it like we did with Italian pizzas.

Another curious thing is that, whereas in Russia Stroganoff is served as a sauce over pasta, such as tagliatelle, or, again, mashed potatoes, most frequently, in Brazil it is commonly served with white rice and french fries. And it’s delicious. I am sure my Russian friends will now stop talking to me.

Thanks for getting all the way down here! I’m happy to see you! Do you have any wishes on other kinds of food you’d like me to make bad jokes about comment on? I think I’ll get into Syrniki and Pancakes next time. I’m so hungry now.