The Russian food post!

with 20 Comments

One thing I really like about Russia? The meals. Take me to any grocery store and I’m instantly happy. (Well, unless we’re standing in The Aisle of Despairing Fruit & Neglected Vegetables… then I’ll start crying.) Since moving here, my husband and I have reinstated Pelmeni Night twice a week, stocked up on things like гречка and сметана, and started buying black tea grown in Sochi. Did you know there are tea fields in Russia? I had no idea!

Here’s a look back at the last Russian restaurant we visited in the US and the following six months of meals in Russia…

July 2018:

Several weeks before moving to Chelyabinsk, we visited the newest version of Kachka (the mega-popular hipster Russian restaurant in Portland).

The original restaurant opened a few years ago and quickly had lines out the door. This is what our very first visit to Kachka was like in 2014. It’s a fun place for anyone who is interested in Russian cuisine and culture.

What’s the food like? It’s good but it’s pricey; the formula is stolovaya food/traditional recipes + a few local ingredients + serve on fancy plates = $$$. I always have sticker shock when looking at the menu… but still, it’s the only way I’ll probably ever get my family members to try сало or хреновуха and it’s vastly cheaper than visiting an FSU country.

Fast forward to 2018. Kachka’s spot at the top has remained unchallenged.

In fact, the original restaurant has now been renamed Kachinka while a “brand new” Kachka opened its doors just a few blocks away. Here’s a great description of what you can eat these days at Kachka/Kachinka. And instead of the original decor- Soviet proganda + Lenin everywhere- this new place uses lace curtains and an actual Baba Yaga hut (complete with chicken feet!) to make a statement.

We had dinner once at the newest Kachka last July. Our neighbor had just visited Ukraine and we were about to set off for Russia so it seemed like the perfect spot to meet up and share stories.

 

August – December 2018 highlights:

Living in Chelyabinsk = 90% food awesomeness + 10% jealousy over all the internet pictures of strawberries, leafy greens, and other mythical plants and berries that can’t be found during winter in the Urals.

 

Favorite restaurants

This little pelmeni place near work:

 

This tiny Georgian cafe.

But I was terrified of this raw egg, haha.

 

Pretty much anything from the local bakery.

 

Pizza Mia, a chain that serves tasty cheap pizzas. (I’ve finally learned to accept mayonnaise as an ingredient on pizzas.)

 

Favorite meals:

Гречка + anything. We eat so much buckwheat now! It’s not easy to find good sauces but it’s WAY easier than expected to find spicy sauces. There are lots of Острый warning labels on products here.

 

Овощи гриль. I really need to start making this at home.

 

Every Saturday is блины day. 🙂 I usually make them at home but sometimes we’ll go out instead.

 

Homemade pizza!

 

Ice cream. I don’t get how a cold desert can be so appealing when it’s -20C outside… but it really is.

 

The biggest downside is the fruit and veggies issue. 🙁

The GCAP foods are easiest to find:

G: garlic, grapefruit, ginger

C: carrots, cabbage, cucumber, occasionally cauliflower

A: avocado, apples

P: potatoes, persimmons, peppers, sometimes pomegranates

Also: lemons, usually bananas, sometimes mandarin oranges

The health foods that America is crazy about are either not available (sweet potatoes, black beans, kale, turmeric) or crazy expensive (quinoa, almond milk). And speaking of crazy expensive- broccoli and asparagus, whoa!!! One head of broccoli is usually 300+ RUB. Asparagus is around 500 RUB.  I did spot tofu once or twice. Potted lettuce and fresh spinach appear once in a while. Meat substitutes like tofu burgers are starting to show up on shelves but they cost almost as much as the quinoa does. That’s okay though- grechka to the rescue. 😉

Honorable mentions:

What is бифилайф? Beefy life?

 

My favorite sausage branding ever.

 

Пьешь как дышишь? Hmmmm.

 

On the list of places to try next: this Ukrainian restuarant, Журавлина, which has the MOST AMAZING photo menu ever!

 

 

What’s your favorite kind of Russian food? Are you a гречка fan too?

 

20 Responses

  1. J.T.
    | Reply

    What’s your favorite kind of Russian food?

    Pelmeni pelmeni pelmeni
    Again with the pelmenoporn?))

    Are you a гречка fan too?

    Yes. I ate it every day (or every other day) while in Piter. A staple of breakfast, it would keep me energized from ~8am to 1pm.

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      J.T., that sounds like a great breakfast! Plain, with ketchup, with sugar?

      • J.T.
        |

        With butter or salt/pepper, depending on what was left in the flat’s kitchen that day. (I shared a flat with three other students.)

      • Katherine
        |

        Never tried it with butter… I will copy you next time. 🙂

    • Lyttenburgh
      | Reply

      “Pelmeni pelmeni pelmeni
      Again with the pelmenoporn?))”

      https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dy8uYDlW0AIZjm6.jpg

      Fried pelmeni with ketchup. You are welcome.

      P.S. Как тебе такое, #ElonMusk?!

      • J.T.
        |

        I really don’t need more pictures of pelmeni right now…

      • Katherine
        |

        They offer fried pelmeni as a side at the pizza restaurant… pizza with french fries or pizza with fried pelmeni. 😂

  2. Valentina
    | Reply

    В русском магазине обычно покупаю пельмени, творог, гречку, сметану и чёрный хлеб, иногда русские конфеты.

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Очень вкусные продукты, Валентина! 🙂 🙂 🙂 А дома семья часто готовит русские блюда как борщ и блины?

      • Valentina
        |

        Дома не очень часто готовлю русские блюда, мы уже привыкли к кипрской кухне. Из блюд русской кухни я обычно готовлю борщ, блины, салат оливье (обычно на новогодний стол), гречневую кашу, манную кашу, иногда геркулесовую (овсяную), творожную запеканку.

      • Katherine
        |

        Звучит очень вкусно! А там людей любят острую еду?

  3. Donna
    | Reply

    I saw that Kachka has a cookbook, but missed my chance to get it cheap on Kindle daily deals.. The food looks really good.
    I love the dairy products in Russia – especially the locally produced sour cream, kefir, etc. A Russian friend once chastised me for treating sour cream as a condiment, saying that it is a “main food”. When it’s so tasty, why not?

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Donna, did you hear that Kachka has an upcoming food trip to Georgia? 🙂

      Yes, the dairy is great! Your friend is correct, haha. A lot of times we’ll have творог со сметаной for breakfast. Haven’t worked up the courage to try stuff like ряженка or айран yet but did try снежок. I noticed though that milk goes bad in about 3 days so we only buy the small containers. My husband drinks a lot of kefir.

      By the way, what is the fruit and vegetable scene like in Yakutsk right now? Is anything flown in / driven in or is it 100% local?

      • Donna
        |

        Wow, that would be an amazing trip! Yakutsk now has two big Georgian restaurants which are pretty good, but the little hole-in-the-wall one I liked shut down.
        I’d say most of the fruits and veggies we get now are imported. Mostly from China, some from Central Asia and other places. In summer and fall there’s a bigger variety of local produce, but in winter just some potatoes, carrots, and frozen berries are local. Leafy greens are rare here as well, all year.

  4. David Emerling
    | Reply

    I have to say I’m not a particularly big fan of classical Russian cuisine. The food just LOOKS depressing. I put Russian food on the same level of “tastiness” as English food – and whoever says, “You know what sounds good tonight? We need to find a good English restaurant.” In many countries, what they often consider deliquesces, others consider “food of the impoverished.” They eat that food not out of desire, but out of necessity … then they acquire a taste for it … because what choice do they have? … and then it becomes embedded as part of their culture. But, from the beginning, it was never that good. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the education and I always enjoy these blogs. Keep it up!

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Thanks, David! Yes, when I tell people how much I love grechka, they look at me like I’m crazy, haha. About the depressing look, agreed. A little color (fresh herbs, sauce, etc) could go a long way on foods like pelmeni, vareniki, blini, tvorog, mashed potatoes, etc.

  5. Luda
    | Reply

    Haha, that sausage packaging looks amazing! 🙂
    And I feel your struggle, it’s hard to find my favorite fruits in the middle of winter in our small Ukrainian town 😥

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Luda, privet! Skolko let, skolko zim 🙂 I’ve just discovered your IG and followed you. Can’t wait to see your photos from Ukraine!

  6. Teango
    | Reply

    Пельмени nights, блины days, селёдка под шубой (какой вкускый салад!), and what must be the happiest darn sausages farthermost north of the Mississippi. Классный пост, K! 🙂

    By the way, my better half says that “бифилайф” probably derives from the word “бифидобактерии” (bifidobacterium), which is a popular ingredient in a lot of bio-yoghurts (my daily kefir included).

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Thanks, Teango! 🙂 And thank you for looking into the бифилайф issue- that explanation makes sense. I think you’ve solved one of the greatest mysteries of Russian dairy products. 😀

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