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If you’re planning a trip to Russia and want to expand your culinary horizons beyond the standard stroganoff, then look no further than our expert guide. Famous Russian restauranteur Arkady Novikov reveals his top picks of food and drink to try, showcasing the diverse heritage of this vast country.
1. Kamchatka crab
Red king crab is a species that’s native to the Bering Sea and can be found around the Kamchatka Peninsula in eastern Russia. It grows to an enormous size – the long legs are quite meaty so you will often see them served whole. It’s classed as a delicacy, and prices are expensive.
Technically this soup is based on meat stock, with added vegetables, and it has a sweet-sour-ish flavour. The vegetable most commonly associated with borscht is beetroot, but there are also versions based on white cabbage and greens such as sorrel. It’s served with a soured cream called smetana.
Try our smart vegetarian version of this delicious beetroot soup.
A dish of traditional dumplings, made by encasing minced meat, onion and garlic in a very thin dough and boiling them until they’re cooked through.
Round and thin, these well-known little pancakes can be made with a variety of flours, but usually wheat. They’re most famously served with black or red caviar, or in Russia you can try them with soured cream (smetana), jam or condensed milk.
Check out our recipe for cocktail blini.
5. Black Sea barabulka
The Russian name “barabulka” is similar to both Turkish barbunya and the Italian word barbone, meaning “big beard”. In English these members of the goatfish family are known as red mullet. Try them oven-baked or fried.
This traditional Slavic and Baltic beverage is commonly made from rye bread or black bread, and the colour is transferred to the drink. It’s fermented and mildly alcoholic, but in Russia it’s classified as a non-alcoholic drink. You may also find it in fruit flavours.
Varenie or varenye is used like a jam, or for pie fillings and in dessert, but is made in a different way and has a different consistency. For softer fruits like berries and stone fruits, sugar is added and the fruit allowed to macerate until the sugar has dissolved and a syrup has formed – this is then briefly heated. Harder fruit and nuts are cooked for longer in the sugar syrup, but there is no ‘gelling’ as with jam. You may come across versions where the fruit remains uncooked, or has been tossed in sugar after being cooked in syrup.
In Russia, these are also known as syrnyky or tvorozhniki – they’re fried pancakes made from a base of tvorog (quark), mixed with flour, eggs, and sugar and flavoured with vanilla extract. They usually have a soft, creamy centre and a slightly crisp exterior. They are traditionally served with varenie, jam, honey, apple sauce or soured cream.
Russian vinegret is a salad based around diced cooked beetroots, potatoes, carrots and onions. It’s flavoured with a sharp, vinegary element through the addition of sauerkraut and/or brined pickles, and typically has a vinaigrette dressing. The salad is usually a pink colour from the beetroot and may also have green veg such as peas and beans added.
This cold soup is made from chopped raw cucumbers, radishes and spring onions, boiled potatoes, boiled eggs, and cooked meat. These ingredients are mixed with kvass and served with smetana which is often mixed through it so it appears creamy. It sometimes comes with ice cubes in to make sure it’s chilled.
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Arkady Novikov is Russia’s most famous restaurateur, with more than 50 restaurants in Moscow as well as Novikov Restaurant and Bar in Mayfair, London.