The Russian cuisine does not differ much from other European cuisines, but it has a special zest, partially due to the Caucasian and the Middle Asian influence.
A Russian lunch or dinner usually includes three or four courses.
Starters (zakusky) may play a dual role of appetizers and vodka chasers. The simplest starter is coleslaw commonly known here as vitamin salad. In Russia, Russian salad is better known as Oliver salad or Stolichny salad. Vinaigrette in Russia is a mix of beetroot, potato and other optional ingredients rather than a dressing.
We strongly recommend “boiled cow language with sharp prick as a starter,” which, in fact, is tender boiled veal tongue with hot horseradish sauce.
Fish platters may include sturgeon, salmon, mackerel and some cheaper fish. High-end restaurants also offer salmon roe and black caviar. Other seafood often comes to Moscow frozen and lacks much of its original taste.
Usual vodka chasers are herring, gherkins and pickled mushrooms.
Most traditional Russian soups are thick and nourishing. Well-known borsch is more a Ukrainian than a Russian soup, but most restaurants in Moscow offer it. Its more Russian version is stchi, usually the same brew but without beetroot. Green stchi is filled with sorrel instead of cabbage and served with hard-boiled eggs.
Another traditional Russian soup is rassolnik, which includes gherkins, and pearl barley as necessary ingredients and is usually based on veal-kidney or duck broth.
Do not miss “white-mushroom soup”. It is made of noble boletus edulis known as porcini in the fine Italian cuisine and nicknamed penny buns in England for their brownish caps.
The most popular Russian cold soup is okroshka, which is a mix of finely chopped vegetables and sometimes meat floating in kvass or kefir (the former is a rye malt drink and the latter is a kind of thin yogurt.) Another popular cold soup is svekolnik or cold borsch.
As almost elsewhere, restaurants in Moscow serve main courses with potato, rice, pasta or roasted vegetables. For a Russian touch, order buckwheat as a side dish.
Mind that in most cases cutlets in Russia mean minced products which may be made of anything from beef to cabbage, carrot or beetroot.
While meat-stuffed dumplings known as pelmeni is a popular Russian main course, other similar products like Ukrainian vareniki, Georgian khinkali and Middle Asian manti have taken a vast market share in recent years.
Meat is often served as shashlik (skewered) or as stakes and stews known as beef stroganoff, goulash or azu.
Now, anti-smoking advocates, beware! Here comes “chicken tobacco”. Do not worry, there will be no tobacco for barnyard fowl on your plate. Presumably, there should have been tawaka, a frying pan with a heavy lead used to press well-spiced chicks in the process of cooking.
Some sources present Russian blini as culinary masterpieces. In fact, they are nothing but pancakes and their quality differs depending on used ingredients and cooks‘ skills. In Moscow, they are usually served with meat as main courses, or with cottage cheese or jams and sour cream as desserts. Original recipe prescribes to cook blini of sponge dough, otherwise the product is called blinchiki.
Traditional Russian desserts also include pryaniki (gingerbread) and zefir - a type of airy confectionery made of wiped fruit purée with sugar, egg whites and a gelling agent. Moscow is also full of various oriental sweets like halavah, baklava, nougat, Turkish delight and many other.
Instead of coke, try a traditional Russian soft drink called mors made of fruit and (or) berries with sugar.
MOSCOW FOOD GLOSSARY
Ajika - Hot chili sauce.
Ayran - Salted thin yogurt.
Bliny, blinchiky - Pancakes. The former are made of sponge dough.
Borsch - Thick beetroot soup usually based on veal broth.
Bright beer – Lager beer. Not always magnificent or glorious. See also camp beer.
Bulgarian pepper - Bell pepper. See also sweet pepper.
Business lunch - Set menu lunch.
Camp beer - See bright beer.
Champaign - Any sparkling wine.
Cheburek - Crescent-shaped meat- or cheese-filled pasty.
Chicken Kiev - See Kiev cutlet.
Chicken tabaka - Fried spicy chicken.
Cognac - Any brandy made from wine.
Combs - Scallops.
Dove’s milk - See Pigeon's milk.
Draniki - Potato pancakes.
Green shchi - Sorrel soup.
Guriyskaya cabbage - Spicy pickled cabbage coloured with beetroot.
Hen - Chicken.
Herring under fur coat - Cured herring fillet covered with diced boiled potato, beetroot and mayonnaise.
Julienne - Hot-cooked starter made of veal, poultry, mushrooms or seafood and melted cheese.
Kefir - Drinkable yogurt.
Khachapuri - Georgian bread, usually cheese-filled.
Kharcho - Rice soup based on veal or lamb broth.
Khash - Concentrated soup usually made with beef shanks and (or) tripe. Is believed to be good hangover remedy.
Khinklay - Spicy meat dumplings.
Kholodets - Aspic usually made of pork or beef shanks.
Kiev cutlet - Roll of breaded chicken breast with melted butter inside.
Kwas or kvas - Refreshing alcohol-free rye malt drink.
Lagman - Noodle soup.
Lavash - Caucasian bread. Georgian lavash is made of leavened dough while Armenian lavash is made of unfermented dough.
Lobio - Baked kidney bean salad.
Manty - Spicy meat dumplings.
Matsoni - Caucasian yogurt.
Medovukha - Mead.
Mors - Soft drink made of berry and (or) fruit juices.
Nalivka - Berry or fruit liqueur.
Napoleon cake - Puff-paste and scalded cream pastry.
Narsharab - Spiced pomegranate sauce.
Nastoyka - Infused vodka.
Okroshka - Cold soup based on kwas (see) garnished with finely chopped fresh and boiled vegetables and, at times, boiled veal (okroshka myasnaya.)
Olivier salad - Russian salad.
Pastila - Soft confectionery in form of sticks or rectangular blocs made by whipping fruit and berry purée with sugar and egg whites. See also Zefir.
Pelmeny - Dumplings, usually with meat stuffing.
Pigeon's milk - Kind of soufflé.
Pirog - Pie or tart.
Pirozhok - Patty or small pie.
Pita or pitta - Flat leavened bread.
Pkhali - Ball-shaped finely chopped spinach, cabbage, eggplant, beans, or other vegetables with walnuts, vinegar, garlic and herbs.
Plombir - Ice cream that is (or should be) made of fresh cream.
Prick - Not you might have thought about. It is horseradish. Sharp prick is hot horseradish sauce.
Prostokvasha - Kind of yogurt.
Pryanik - Ginger bread
Rassolnik - Soup made with brined cucumbers.
Rasstegai - Open pie filled with minced fish or meat.
Raznosol - Mixed pickles.
Refreshments - Starters, appetizers.
Ryazhenka - Yogurt made of baked milk.
Samsa - Meat pasty, samosa.
Satsivi - Georgian sauce made of walnuts and spices as well as meals (usually poultry) with this sauce.
Sauerkraut - Almost same as you know but crunchy, if listed among starters. Otherwise see solyanka as a main course.
Shashlyk - Skewered meat and (or) vegetables.
Shchi - Russian version of borsch. Basically, the same soup but without beetroot. See also Green shchi
Shurpa - Central Asian lamb soup.
Skoblyanka - Finely sliced meat or fish stew usually cooked with potato and mushrooms.
Snacks - Starters, appetizers.
Solyanka - Most commonly, a thick soup containing finely sliced assorted meat or fish garnished with onion, olives, capers and sour cream. May also stand for a main course, a kind of sauerkraut.
Stolichny salad - Same Olivier or Russian salad with chicken breast.
Stroganina - Frozen fish or meet shavings.
Svekolnik - Cold beetroot soup also known as cold borsch.
Swedish table - Buffet table.
Sweet pepper - Bell pepper.
Tarkhun - Carbonated soft drink flavoured with tarragon.
Tkemali - Sour plum sauce, usually hot and spicy.
Tobacco chicken - See Chicken tabaka.
Ukha - Fish soup.
Vareniky - Dumplings, usually stuffed with curd cheese or sour cherry.
Vatrushka - Quark-filled open pie.
Vinaigrette - Salad made of potato, beetroot and some other vegetables.
White mushroom - Bolete, porcini, or penny bun.
Zakuski - Starters and the food used to chase a shot of vodka.
Zefir - Soft confectionery in form of oblate balls made by whipping fruit and berry purée with sugar and egg whites. See also Pastila.