Serving Food – Russian Way

I love receiving your questions about Russia! It is fascinating to see what interests you and which questions you ask. I would’ve never invented some of those questions (because I am an insider and do not notice a lot of things), but I am always happy to answer them. This post is for Emma from Devon, UK, who reached out to me with her letter and a list of great questions!

Background About Serving Food

I had a few posts about food in my blog. Both about the manufactured food, such as Kolbasa and about home-made food – Russian salad, blinis, Festive meals etc. I also covered, what Russians eat for breakfast, lunch & dinner, what are the favorite soft-drinks and what our hospitality is like. And dozens other posts around food and guests at home.

In each post I thought that I was writing a detailed story about everything. But it looks like there are still many questions unanswered, so let’s cover them!

Questions about Serving Food

Emma decided to learn more about different cultures through their dining, which is a great way to understand cultures. Each month this year (2017) she plans to dedicate her spare time to learning about different cultures through their food – learning about their traditional dishes and recipes, manners and etiquette, table settings, hospitality, protocol etc. At the end of the month, Emma plans to prepare a meal for 4-6 people featuring traditional dishes of that country. Do you wish you were Emma’s friend already?))

Emma included Russia as one of her epic dinner events, but was a bit confused about how everything is served. Let’s answer Emma’s questions:

  • In the UK, people would have separate courses – appetizer, main course, dessert – with the main course being a protein and side dishes. But I can’t work out how a meal like that would be served in Russia. Can you help? I was thinking of the Olivier Salad as the appetizer.

Emma, we do not have such a thing as one single appetizer in Russia. Appetizers (zakuski) are always plural)) And cover the entire table)) If that is too much for your guests – think of ways to created abundance (i.e. big plates and small portions on them). It would not be very authentic, but will help your guests to save the space for main dishes

  • I would like to do piroshki and/or pelmeni but I can’t work out if they are served as separate courses or as part of a course. Or what side dishes would be served with them. If at all!

Pelmeni is a separate dish, a main course, so you do not need to serve any garnish with them. You just need to serve sour cream and/or butter and lemon or vinegar.

  • I would like to avoid stroganoff as being too obvious.

Beef stroganoff is never among the festive dishes, it is considered to be a day-to-day dish, something I would cook myself as a quick dinner at my Moscow kitchen. Best with mashed potatoes, sometimes I also add mushrooms

  • How is piroshki eaten – with hands or fork and knife? Do you have any flavourings with them? A dip or something or just melted butter over them?

Piroshki basically replace bread, so they are eaten with hands. No dips. Classic piroshki will have cabbage or meat or spring onion & eggs in them. Piroshki are small, and there are also pirogi – big pies. Melted butter is optional, although I do sometimes put melted butter on or in my signature cabbage pie.

  • Could you give some guidance? And place settings? And general etiquette? I got the point about the shoes, not refusing food and the mild alcoholism though!!!

Modern serving is not different to how you would serve food at your home dinners. But if you would like to create the atmosphere of the Soviet Union – serve salads in the crystal bowls.

Chrystal plates

Choice of dishes is completely off in this pic, but you get the message))

What If You Follow Lent

  • But  Are there are any traditional dishes that would be considered vegetarian? I am aware that the Lenten period would suggest a vegetarian diet but what sort of dishes would be served? Is it observed? Are there any customs?

I am not the best commentary for the subject since I do not observe lent. If you do though – there are plenty of choices – meals that are centered around mushrooms and vegetables, rather than meat.  A lot of people now follow that and many do follow Lent in both food and non-food restrictions. I am not part of that, but respect that choice of course.

Best Video on The Topic

My friend – a CrazyRussianDad has made a summary of how food is served in Russia. I think that his words speak better than any of my text, so I am happy to post his video here:

Please let me know if there are any questions unanswered! My Russian friends – what have I missed?! UnderstandRussia will be happy to follow-up on both!

Priyatnogo appetita! (Bon appeti in Russian)


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  • Emma - 5 years ago

    You lovely lovely lovely person!!! March is my Russian month so I will take photos and send them to you for marks out of ten. ?