Top 10 foods to try in Russia

Russia's most famous restaurateur, Arkady Novikov, shares his top 10 things to eat and drink on your visit – from borscht and blinis to vinegret and varenie.

Kremlin palace and city square

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

Crab on ice with other seafood

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. 


2. Borscht

Beetroot soup in a glass with a yogurt ice cube

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. 


3. Pelmeni

Silver platter with two bowls of dough balls stuffed with meat

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.


4. Blini

Cocktail blinis on and around a blue plate

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

Four red mullet on a rectangular plate with a bowl of relish

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. 


6. Kvass

Glass of Kvass with a rye bread loaf and bowl of radishes

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.


7. Varenie

Two glass jars of raspberry and blueberry preserve in syrup

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.


8. Sirniki

Pile of Sirniki pancakes topped with grated carrot

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.


9. Vinegret

Vinegret salad in a jar with vinegar being poured into it

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.


10. Okroshka

Bowl of soup with shopped cucumbed, radishes, onions and sausage, on a wooden board

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.
 

Enjoyed these tips? Check out our travel hub and more destination guides...

Top 10 foods to try in Tokyo
Top 10 foods to try in Lisbon
Top 10 foods to try in Sicily
Top 10 foods to try in Paris

 

 

 

Have you visited Russia? Let us know if you have any other foodie suggestions below...


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.

Comments, questions and tips

Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.
Be the first to comment...We'd love to hear how you got on with this recipe. Did you like it? Would you recommend others give it a try?
Be the first to ask a question about this recipe...Unsure about the cooking time or want to swap an ingredient? Ask us your questions and we’ll try and help you as soon as possible. Or if you want to offer a solution to another user’s question, feel free to get involved...
Be the first to suggest a tip for this recipe...Got your own twist on this recipe? Or do you have suggestions for possible swaps and additions? We’d love to hear your ideas.