Lunch is the main meal of the day in Russia. In old times workers were evaluated by their appetite – how you eat was supposed to show how you work. That is a legend of course, but Russian lunches require good appetite. Let’s explore.
Russian Lunch At Home
Russians typically eat lunch between 1 and 2 pm. Ideal lunch is a lunch at home. Typical lunch menu will include soup, main course and fruit drink and will end with tea and something sweet. Soup is a must-have for lunch and, depending on the season it could be either a cold soup in Summer or one of the traditional hot soups. Variety of hot soups vs scarcity of cold soups clearly demonstrates how much longer the cold season here is.
The most typical main dish would be a combination of meat and potatoes or grains, but could also be chicken or fish. In the recent years people started to eat more salads and vegetables, but potatoes is still the most typical side dish. Here are some recipes:
Take the minced meat (beef or beef and pork or chicken), add a piece of white bread, soaked in milk, one egg, some minced onion, salt and pepper and mix that well. Roll meat balls in bread crumbs or flour and fry in both sides in a sauce pan until the meat is well done. To make the meatballs more juicy, you can add some sour cream in the process. Mashed potatoes is the ideal side dish for meatballs. Our mashed potatoes does differ from the US version – it never has potato peel in it and is not chunky at all. Fried potatoes is also a typical side dish. Mushrooms also go well with this dish – fry chopped mushrooms and onion, add some sour cream, salt and pepper and add as a sauce. Another typical variation of minced meatballs – “teftelki” are very similar, but you can add garlic and sauté them in tomato sauce after frying over.
This famous restaurant dish is cooked often in the Russian homes. It is very easy to cook – fry some chopped meat (meat is usually cut in stripes) and onion, add sour cream and sauté until the meat is ready. I know, it is funny how much sour cream we use – I even wrote a separate post about Russian’s love for sour cream, mayo and dill. Beef Stroganoff is also typically served with potatoes – either boiled or mashed. Another traditional side dish is buckwheat, it is more healthy than potatoes and goes well with meat. Rice and other grains are less typical. If the main course is accompanied by salad – it will most often be a tomato/cucumber/onion/dill salad (with sour cream of course). Salads made of green leafs are not typical at all – green salad leafs could be added to tomato/cucumber salad, but will not be served alone. Other vegetables could include boiled or roasted cauliflower or green beans in winter or sauté from squash, carrots and tomatoes in Summer.
Pelmeni (Russian ravioli)
It is interesting that although pasta is not part of the traditional Russian cuisine, there is one really Russian dish – pelmeni – ravioli with meat. Now you can buy excellent pelmeni in the store, but best pelmeni are the home-cooked ones. Usually people make dozens if not hundreds of them and freeze them (in former times, when winters were more cold, people kept frozen pelmeny at the balconies.
Golubtsy (stuffed cabbage leafs)
Golubtsy is an oversized dolma, but instead of a grape leaf – we use cabbage leaves. Stuffing is usually just minced beef, but could be beef and rice. I do not need to say, that the best sauce is sour cream, right?
It would be interesting to learn more about the history of golubtsy – I tried to find out, but various articles give contradictory info. It was even more interesting to notice that most meat dishes are made of minced meat. My guess is that the quality of meat is quite average, therefore it is better to mince it. But of course, these are just some of the dishes that people eat for lunch in Russia. And people also eat fried meat, chicken and fish. It is just more interesting for me to write about dishes that are more or less unusual.
Kompot and Kisel – Tradional Russian Alcohol free Beverages
Typical Russian lunch will include either kompot or kisel. Kompot is usually made from the season or frozen berries and fruits. You basically boil berries and/or fruits in water and add sugar to taste and enjoy it hot or cold. The key for making kompot delicious – use a lot of berries/fruit. The more the better. You cannot go wrong with that tip. My grandma is now 101 years old and most of her life she had kompot, made of berries daily. Not sure that kompot is the secret of her longevity, but it may have added to it, since berries are the natural anti-oxidants. In any case, kompot is a healthy drink, unlike the sodas.
Kisel is a version of kompot, but you have to filter out the berries, dissolve some starch in the cold water and slowly add the mix to kompot, stirring the drink all the time. Starch makes kompot thicker – like a melted jelly. I really like kisel, it is a very tasty beverage.
Most recipes of Kisel on YouTube are in Russian, but I have found one recipe in English for you. It is not the most traditional recipe – normally we would not use a blender, instead just boil strawberries. But I liked that recipe even more, so here it is:
Lunch In The Office
Lunch in the office, at least in Moscow is usually a “business lunch” – daily deal in a nearby café. Of course a lot of people bring lunch from home, but going out for lunch with colleagues is most people’s top choice. It is not only about food, it is more about socializing with people you like in the office and having fun.
What you eat for lunch in that case really depends on the location of your office. I am very fortunate – my office is located next to a big shopping mall, so our options for lunch are almost endless. We start discussing lunch plans around noon and figure out how much time we have before the afternoon meetings and conference calls, what we are in the mood for and how hungry we are. Depending on all the parameters – lunch could be as simple as a take-away soup and salad to be eaten together in the office kitchen lounge to a really big and long lunch in a steakhouse. Middle options include Asian, Mediterranean, Middle East cuisines, quality burgers, quiche etc. Traditional Russian food is a rare thing on our lunch menu, maybe because the only Russian restaurant is in 7 min walking distance, thus we do not go there in winter.
I initially planned a separate post about the Russian dinner, but quickly understood that Russian dinner is very similar to the Russian lunch. It is usually the main dish and tea with sweets or cakes instead of kompot or kisel. Now it is difficult to say what is a typical time for a Russian, living in Moscow to eat dinner. I would say that it used to be 7-8 pm, but the traffic jams in the city are terrible, so for many people dinner is when they get home. Most people believe that it is unhealthy to eat after 6 pm (How Russians stay in shape), but eat dinner at 9 pm and then have tea and cakes or snacks in front of the TV.
With this I close the food topic for some time and will move to describing people’s homes as the next topic. Hope that would be interesting for you! But please comment, ask questions, tell me what people eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner where you live! I love to read your letters and comments!!!
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