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April 21, 2016 1:39 PM   Subscribe

What should I buy and cook from the Russian supermarket?

My new apartment is down the street from a Russian supermarket I'm excited to explore. I have experience with Ashkenazi cuisine and some with Ukrainian, but not Russian/Eastern European cuisine more widely. What things should I absolutely get, and what recipes make with those things?

I'm a good cook and baker, not a vegetarian or kosher, and eat both meat and fish.
posted by ariadne's threadspinner to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Well, the thing about Russian food is most of it you can make with fairly common ingredients found at any market. The trickier stuff is the knowing how to make it.

You could give Shuba a shot.

I mean, or any other recipe with herring.

Babka is delicious and one of my favorites.

If you see any of these chocolates, you should buy a bunch because they are delicious.

And you can swallow it down with kompot! Cherry kompot is really good.
posted by zizzle at 1:49 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

First thing to keep in mind: you can generally ask to taste anything (or taste it yourself) before buying it.

Red caviar - fresh, not from a can (they should be able to dole it out to you in a small container). Eat it on Russian bread (black or white, your choice) with butter.

Salo: cured fatback. Ask them to slice it for you. Eat it the same way you eat caviar.

There will be a bunch of hard salamis; pick one and ask them to slice it up very thin. Moscow (Moskovskaya) is my favorite.

Yogurt cheese. Russian stores also tend to carry lots of different, interesting cheeses from Central Asia and thereabouts.

Olivier salad.

If there's a pickle bar, get a little bit of everything. Definitely try the pickled watermelon and eat the rind.

Zefir: it's sort of like a marshmallow or a meringue. Get the chocolate coated kind if they have it.

Frozen pelmeniy; they should have lots of varities of sweet (usually cherry) and savory (different meats/potatoes/etc.)

They might have syrniki. If not you can buy some quark/farmer's cheese/tvorog and fry them up yourself. Eat them with smetana, which is like sour cream but kind of different.

"Korean-style" carrots: julienned carrots that are spicy. Not sure if they're actually from Korean cuisine in any way, but that's what they'll be called.

If you're feeling super adventurous, ask for herring in a fur coat.
posted by griphus at 1:52 PM on April 21, 2016 [16 favorites]

Oh, there's also an aspic called kholodets. If you're familiar with aspics or terrines you'll probably know what you're in for. If not, give it a shot.
posted by griphus at 1:55 PM on April 21, 2016


Sorry, umm, I'm OK. It's... yeah. OK.

Once upon a time I was having movie night at my Russian friend's house. She asked if I wanted some ice cream. I dig ice cream, so I said yes. IT WAS DELICIOUS. The platonic ideal of what ice cream should be. I did a double take: clearly this was no mere Hagen Dazs. I asked my friend, "What kind of ice cream is this? Because it's AMAZING." She said it was Russian ice cream, which is apparently called plombir.

Googling didn't help much, especially since it seems like supermarket plombir isn't exactly the same as the classic Russian version, which traditionally has kirsch and preserved fruit. I could have sworn the plombir I ate had chocolate and/or nuts in it, so there must be other varieties?

Sorry I can't be more helpful; I haven't actually made it out to the local Russian supermarket to buy my own plombir yet. But, seriously, head over the frozen dessert area and check it out.

I'm also a fan of Baltika beer, but to be honest it's really one of those ubiquitous international Budweiser clones. There's probably a better Russian beer, and I'm sure the vodka varieties make Baltika look like horse piss.
posted by Sara C. at 1:56 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Baltika is good for exactly two things: getting you fucked up for very little money (put ice in the higher-proof ones to cut the awful taste) and you can cook kielbasa in the dark/stout kind.
posted by griphus at 1:59 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

My brother loves Tarkhun (TAPXYH or Tarhun), a tarragon-flavored soda. It's bright green and has an herbal, anise or licorice flavor.
posted by Small Dollar at 2:01 PM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

Smetana is Russian sour cream and it is wonderful!
posted by k8t at 2:02 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can get frozen chocolate coated mini cheesecake bars. My wife loves those. To me they aren't as good as their description would imply, but they are cheap so you can buy a few and see how you like them.

I once bought something that looked like a huge poppy-seed bagel. In reality it was just a circular loaf of some bread, but it was good bread. It made for a nice visual too.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:04 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, definitely either ask or figure out when they get fresh bread. They'll probably have fresh-ish bread and sliced bagged bread, but if you can be there when they get the delivery of hot bread from the bakery it'll be very worth it.
posted by griphus at 2:06 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

you should buy the largest container of smetana they have, ideally a 50 gallon drum, and a very large spoon, and then just eat it until you die.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:13 PM on April 21, 2016 [10 favorites]

posted by Splunge at 2:41 PM on April 21, 2016

If they sell hot food, you should try plov. It's not really Russian cuisine - it originally comes from Central Asia - but it has become popular enough with Russians that it's often sold at Russian groceries in the hot buffet section. It's a type of rice pilaf typically made with lamb meat, but Russians have adopted it and make versions with different types of meat and even fish.

If they sell quinces (maybe not this time of year, but in the fall), you should buy some, you can make preserves from it, or use it in stews. They're very hard to find in regular American groceries. I bought some the last time I was in Brighton Beach.

Also, jelly/marmelade candies.
posted by pravit at 2:56 PM on April 21, 2016

I would also look for jarred whole fruit preserves, like sour cherry or quince or apricot. They're nice to eat with untoasted bread. Also, if you like spicy, look to pick up adjika, a spicy chili paste from Georgia.
posted by pravit at 3:01 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Mmm, I don't know if it has a specific name, but I love the sweet, oily jarred eggplant (seems to vary in consistency from roughly chopped to a smooth spread) sold in Russian markets.
posted by threeants at 8:47 PM on April 21, 2016

This is less obvious, but when I want better canned dolmas, I go to the Russian market. Because that's where they are sold.
posted by jbenben at 9:04 PM on April 21, 2016

I don't know how universal it is, but my must-buy at the little Russian market here is pickled pattypan squash -- I don't know why we are not commercially pickling our pattypan squash here; it's delicious.
posted by kmennie at 5:06 AM on April 22, 2016

The eggplant spread is called 'eggplant caviar'. Sometimes tomatoey and sometimes less so, definitely oily.
posted by girl Mark at 11:58 PM on April 22, 2016

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