Some folks have been requesting some more information on Russian food (I’m looking at you, Jim!) but I’ve been doing a poor job of dishing out the details. This is the first of several posts I have planned (including Tartar and Georgian cuisine), but lets begin where my meals usually do- the Grocery Store.
There’s a large amount of groceries in Kazan, but they generally contain the same things, which gives some insight into the typical Russian diet. When you think of Russian food (besides borscht… which is actually Ukrainian) you probably think of the staples- bread, sausage, and cheese. After living in Korea where all of those are in short supply, I was happy to see this at first. Of course, now I miss Korean food.
There is a ridiculous variety of sausage of every type here. In the larger stores, entire aisles-worth of every variety imaginable, an amount I’ll never sample even a fraction of. Cheese unfortunately is less varied, and almost exclusively white cheese on the Swiss to Farmer scale. Other dairy products like yogurt, sour cream, and kefir (almost like a mix between the two) are also popular. Things like rye and wholegrain bread do exist here, although unforunately every single brand product is dry and crumbly for reasons escaping me.
The pickle aisle (yes, I said pickle aisle) is also ridiculously stacked. Practically everything that can be pickled has been pickled, particularly vegetables, in a large variety of styles. There are even carbonated pickles, which I have been assured are as horrible as they sound.
Every grocery store, even here, thousands of miles from any sea, will have a hearty seafood section, 50% of which is smoked salmon. Everybody loves the stuff, especially on bread with a dab of mayo. It’s salty and almost melt-in-your-mouth soft, with a strong smoky flavor. For the more adventurous, there are plenty more smoked, pickled, and preserved fish to choose from.
The last thing every store will have plenty of is frozen pelmeni (small dumplings) filled with all kinds of meat and spices. These are great fried with red onions and served with a dollop of sour cream and a thick slice of white cheese (provided they aren’t the fish ones).
We can’t leave the store, though, without visiting the beer and snack aisles. There’s a huge variety of beer, but unless you go imported, it’s exclusively lagers and pilsners. The majority are good if not great, but its tough to pick a favorite when they all grade out the same.
Snacks-wise, there’s more dried fish and squid (far inferior to the Korean stuff) and they have various flavors of extremely crunchy rye bits with various flavors that my brother would dig. As far as chips go, sour cream and onion (or just onion) is king, although also popular is bacon, dill pickle, crab, and some specialty flavors like sausage, horseradish mustard, and some foods I can’t even identify from the package. Most are tasty, although Jeonghee goes for the crab way more than I do.
Well, that’s it for this week. Later in the week we head to St. Petersburg for four days so I’ll tackle that experience for the next couple of blogs.