Food Culture and Tradition

Food, People and Culture Resources

Russian Food Glossary


Beef Stroganoff: thin slivers of beef in a rich sour cream sauce lightly seasoned with hot mustard. Addition of tomato puree and mushrooms are North American adaptations.

Bitky: toothpick appetizer of tiny seasoned meatballs.

Blinchiky: small, thin pancakes usually served with jam for dessert. Diminutive of Blini.

Blini: round pancakes traditionally made with yeast and buckwheat flour. These are an ancient Slav symbol for the sun and are served in great quantities during the springtime pre-Lenten festival called Maslyanitsa. They are eaten with a generous quantity of melted butter plus sour cream, preserves, fish, etc.

Borsch: a classic Slavic soup originating in Ukraine. Usually prepared with a meat broth, beets, and other vegetables and served with a spoonful of sour cream. It can also be a clear sweet and sour beet broth. Sugar adds sweetness and the brine from saurkraut or pickles provides the sour balance.

Chalop: an Uzbek hot-weather soup of diced fresh vegetables and sour milk topped with chopped fresh herbs. Often served chilled and with an ice cube.

Chicken Kiev: Ukrainian dish consisting of butter-filled breast of chicken, crumbed and crisply browned.

Ditch: name used for any game meat.

Forshmak: general name for warm appetizers hut usually referring to a baked casserole of potatoes, onions, apples and herring or ham blended with sour cream.

Galubtzi or Golubtsi: cabbage rolls filled with meat (beef and pork) and baked with a thin sauce of sour cream. There are many variations.

Grusheviikvas: alcoholic beverage made from pears.

Hvorost: traditional cookies for Christmas. They are shaped like branches.

Ikra: Caviar. This name is also used sometimes for chopped, seasoned, and cooked eggplant, “the poor man’s caviar.”

Kaimek: “baked” milk. Milk is heated slowly in a low oven for several hours until a thick skin forms.

Kapusta: cabbage.

Kasha: the name used to refer to cooked grain. It most often means cooked buckwheat groats. Others include: Mannaia Kasha, semolina; Ovsjanaia Kasha, oats; and Risovaia Kasha, rice. Although always referred to simply as Kasha, the full correct name for a buckwheat variety is Grechnevaia Kasha. The Russians have a saying: “One cannot spoil Kasha with too much butter.”

Keshka: a winter dish of thick porridge pureed with meat and served in a soup plate with butter and cumin.

Keufta: meatballs.

Khazan Pirog: a thick Tatar chicken pie served by placing a wedge in a soup plate and pouring hot chicken stock over it.

Kisel or Kissel: pureed cooked fruit that is thickened slightly with cornstarch or potato starch and served chilled.

Kopchenaya Senga: smoked salmon.

Kotletki: Russian meatballs made of finely ground beef, seasonings, and shaped into rounded ovals, crumbed and butter-fried. Diminutive of Kotleti.

Krendel: the traditional pretzel-shaped sweet yeast bread for Christmas, dotted with fruits and lightly iced.

Krupenik: Russian barley and mushroom soup based on broth and served with sour cream.

Kulebiaka: rich flaky pastry filled with a mixture of salmon, cabbage, and crepes then rolled up and baked. It is served hot or cold in thick slices, with the addition of extra butter and the inevitable sour cream.

Kulitch: the towering delicate yeast-leavened fruit cake, blessed by the priest and served with Pascha for Easter.

Kumiss or Koumiss: considered the oldest of Russian beverages and one cloaked in legendary attributes. Still a favored drink in the Kirghiz region. Kumiss is made from fermented mare’s milk prepared in wooden tubs or horse skins.

Kutija: ancient Slavic dish of cooked grain, sugar, honey, raisins, and nuts usually prepared especially for Christmas Eve and also served to mourners at a funeral. In the south, rice replaces the whole grains of wheat used in most other areas of the Russian Federation.

Kvaschenaya Kapusta: sauerkraut.

Kvass: the ‘great drink of the Russian peasants,” a fermented but non-alcoholic drink made from water, black bread, sugar, and yeast; repeated soakings and pouring off of the liquid yield Kvass.

Kyurdyuk: the fat rendered from fat-tailed sheep; used in cooking and as a final hint of flavor.

Lapsha: noodles. May also refer to a soup of milk and noodles.

Lox: uncooked fresh salmon that is cured by salting and/or smoking. It is served in very thin cross-grain slices as part of the zakusky. Adapted from Scandinavian influence.

Malinovoi: alcoholic drink made from raspberries.

Mazurka: a rich cake of fruit and nuts baked especially for Christmas. Of Polish origin.

Med: a beverage of honey and diluted wine similar to mead.

Okroshka: A cold soup of chopped fresh vegetables laced with either sour milk, buttermilk, or sour cream. Similar to Chalop and the Spanish Gazpacho.

Oladky: fluffy pancakes made with separated eggs, sieved cottage cheese and flour and fried in butter. Served with sugar and sour cream.

Ouha, Oukha, or Ooha: the classic clear Russian fish broth served with minced chives and lemon. The poached fish is served separately.

Pascha: creamed line cottage cheese, eggs, and minced fruits combined and pressed into a special cheesecloth-lined mold. Unmolded, this delicious cream is served for Easter accompanied with slices of Kulitch.

Pashtet or Paschtet: a rich paste (pate) of chicken livers, browned onions, and butter smoothly ground or pureed together. Eaten as part of the Zakusky.

Paramach: Tatar-originated pastry of a five-inch dough circle spread with filling, pinched up, and deep-fried. Salad completes the meal.

Pelmeni: Siberian half-moon-shaped dumplings of noodle dough usually filled with meat. Customarily these are prepared in huge batches and frozen by hanging outdoors on strings. Dropped into a boiling soup or water, they are often taken by travelers as “instant food.

Pirog or Pirogi: a flaky envelope of dough that can he filled with almost anything. This turnover is usually made large enough to feed six. The largest version is called Kulebiaka, while the smallest is called by the diminutive Piroshki. Pirojok is the singular, but is never used because who eats just one? After baking in the oven they are served piping hot, and a Slav will betray his origins by lifting the crust and adding just a little more butter.

Piroznaya Plate: a special small plate that accompanies almost all soup plates, especially to place soup accompaniments on.

Pivo: beer.

Pleeta: the common name for the built-in all-purpose Russian kitchen stove. Pleeta is really the name for the hot cooking plate.

Riba: fish.

Russkaya Piechka: proper name for the Russian built-in kitchen stove, maid’s bed, baking oven, Shashlyk broiler, and extension for samovar all in one!

Salat: salad.

Schav: a spinach or sorrel soup, tart in taste, served with sour cream and Vatrushky.

Schi: a classic cabbage soup served with Kasha and traditionally accompanied by Vatrushky (cheese tarts). Variations include: sour Schi, made with sauerkraut; green Schi, also called Schav, made with spinach, sorrel or both: and spring Schi, prepared from the first spring cabbage sprouts. That this soup is a classic is evidenced by this old saying: “Cabbage soup and kasha is our daily food.”

Selodka: herring, the most important and sometimes the only accompaniment to vodka during the zakusky.

Shashlyk: skewered broiled meats.

Smetana: sour cream.

Solianka: a sweet and sour soup made by poaching any white-fleshed fish in court bouillon. The vegetables are strained, pureed, then returned to the soup with the fish pieces.

Soupi: soup.

T’Chai or Chai: Russian name for tea, probably derived from the Chinese name for tea, ch’a.

Tvorog: dry white cottage cheese or pot cheese.

Vatrushky: small open-face pastry tarts filled with cottage cheese and sour cream, traditional accompaniments to all varieties of Schi. (Vatrushka refers to a large cheesecake.)

Vodka: clear potent alcoholic drink distilled from grains or potatoes. Varieties include basic vodka flavored with anise, caraway, buffalo grass (zubrovka), lemon peel, cherries (vishniowka) and cherry pits. All varieties are drunk icy cold from one-ounce glasses in one gulp after an appropriate toast. Not to join in when toasts are proposed is considered close to an insult.

Zakusky: the elastic aperitif hour preceding the Russian dinner. It can be as simple as herring and vodka, or it can he an array of sliced smoked and salted fish, pates and salads and one or two hot dishes in casserole form.

Zrazi: similar to Kotleti, only the “hamburgers” are filled with mushrooms and Kasha then crumbed and butter-browned.

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