10 foods from your local Russian store you've GOT to try

Legion Media
Just one taste of Plombir ice cream and you’ll fall in love with Russian cuisine. Guaranteed! And once you do, there’s no turning back.

Want to learn about Russian food? The Russian supermarket in your city is a great starting point. We bet you’ll find lots of delicious things there!

1. Sunflower seeds

The Arbat store, Budapest.

For many Russians, fried sunflower seeds taste even better than popcorn or other snacks. So much so that Russia is a world leader not only in producing but also importing, sunflower seeds. They’re mostly used for making oil, of course, but have you ever tried chewing on them? And although it’s probably not great to do so it in public places — the discarded husks make a mess, after all — it is impossible to stop! It’s also relaxing and even a kind of meditation for some people.

2. Vareniki

The Gourmanoff store, New York.

This is one type of dumpling. But what is the difference betweenvareniki andpelmeni? Well, pelmeni use raw fillings (usually meat or fish), while vareniki are stuffed with ingredients that are already cooked.  The most popular fillings are cherries, tvorog, potatoes, mushrooms, and minced meat. One way to tell them apart is that vareniki are traditionally made in the shape of a semicircle. Like pelmeni, vareniki go great with sour cream. Sweet dumplings can also be served with jam, while savory ones go well with fried onions.

3. Plombir ice cream

If you like ice cream, then you definitely need to try the legendary Russian Plombir. The technology for manufacturing it was actually brought over from France, but somehow Plombir became most popular in Russia and the former Soviet Union. Made from rich cream and butter, Plombir is an extremely rich and fatty ice cream. And so, as you can guess, it’s also delicious. Oftentimes, it is packed into waffle cones or briquettes, sometimes with berry filling or covered in chocolate.

4. Kvas in briquettes

The Arbat store, Budapest.

You may know that in Russia there is a drink called kvas, which is made from rye bread. It tastes like a very low-alcohol beer and is perfect for quenching your thirst on a hot day. Homemade kvas takes lots of time because you have to filter breadcrumbs, but a dry starter makes the process much easier.

5. Chocolate

It’s not an exaggeration to say that chocolate is one of the pillars of Russian cuisine. The mass production of chocolate began here in the 19th century, and kids have been eating it ever since. Many pre-revolutionary factories are still in operation, keeping the traditions alive while making chocolate under new brand names. What kind of candy is best to try? There’s no easy answer. Everything, really. Maybe start with Clumsy Bear, but don’t forget about Kara-Kum and Little Red Riding Hood!

6. Tvorog

The Food Mart store, Pattaya.

To understand what Russian tvorog is, you really just need to taste it. Russians generally make a more granular version (although soft tvorog is also sold here). It is neither salty nor sweet, consists mostly of fat (9% fat is most popular) and is wildly delicious! Russians use tvorog to prepare cheesecakes,syrniki, casseroles and use it as filling for pancakes, but it’s also great on its own or with jam or sour cream.

7. Caviar

The Gourmanoff store, New York.

One of the main delicacies of Russian cuisine can be easily found in any Russian store abroad. Red and black caviar is the very essence of a New Year's feast in Russia. To eat it like a Russian, make a sandwich with wheat bread and butter, try filling pancakes with it or simply eat it on its own with a spoon.

8. Pickles

Fermented products are in vogue now as health foods, but Russians have a long tradition of preserving food this way. Of course, you can pickle cucumbers or tomatoes yourself. It’s not that difficult! But who wants to wait until they’re ready when you can just pick up a jar and dig right in?

9. Halva

The Russian store in Zagreb.

This Middle Eastern dessert came to the Russian Empire in the early 20th century and quickly became a part of Russian cuisine. Russian halva is a bit different though. It is traditionally made from sesame seeds, but in Russia (no surprise!) it is most often made from sunflower seeds. Halva is sold by weight, in briquettes or covered with chocolate.

10. Russian soda

The Arbat store, Budapest.

It wasn’t so long ago that Western brands of "capitalist" soda appeared on the shelves of Russian supermarkets. In the Soviet period, people drank completely different sodas, many of which are still popular today. We recommend trying Duchess with pear syrup, Baikal with herbs or the vanilla-tasting Cream Soda.

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