Caviar/Roe | Икра (“ikra”)
Basically fish eggs. Most people just think of black caviar (typically from sturgeon), but lots of fish produce edible eggs. This photo is of salmon roe. A popular way to serve it is spread on bread with some butter as a snack or appetizer.
Blinchiki | Блинчики
Pretty much like crepes, they’re thin pancakes. Can be served with sweet or savory toppings, but it’s not uncommon to see them served with ikra and some sour cream.
Russians LOVE smoked fish. Smoked fish can be anything from salmon to mackerel and lots of others. You’ll see things like smoked salmon served on blini/blinchiki with, you guessed it, sour cream. The salty, cured flavor of smoked fish like mackerel cuts the afterburn of a vodka shot well.
Pelmeni | Пельмени
Russian dumplings. Thin dough wrapping a savory filling, usually meat (although it can be made with mushrooms or fish). The meat is usually ground beef or pork with onions and spices. Boiled or fried, they can be topped with sour cream (we fucking love our sour cream), or with butter and some vinegar.
Salo | Cало
Cured pork fat. Used in lots of ways, but as an appetizer it’s served cold sliced on rye bread. The bread usually has garlic rubbed into it, with some garlic on top to cut the fattiness. You can also serve with a drop of hot mustard or pickle. Commonly eaten as a vodka chaser (we chase shots with food – because why not)
Salat Olivier | Салат Оливье
Russian potato salad. Specifics may vary depending on how your grandma made it, but mainly consists of potatoes, cooked carrots, peas, ham or chopped meat (my grandma used a type of Russian deli meat call doktarskaya kolbasa), onions, pickles, eggs, and mayo.
Piroshki | Пирожки
Not to be confused with Perogies. Baked or fried buns with one of lots of kinds of fillings: savory like meat, potatoes, mushrooms, or sweet with fruit or sweet cheese.
Holodets | Xолодец
A Russian meat aspic. What the hell is an aspic? Glad you asked. It’s a dish set in gelatin made from a meat stock or consommé. Includes minced meat (pork or beef usually), although some people include other stuff like egg and vegetables. Sometimes served with hot mustard or horseradish. Fun fact: the word holodets is based on the word “holod” which means cold.
Borscht | Борщ
You guys know this one. Soup made from beets, shredded cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and onions. Commonly also cooked with a meat like short rib, which comes out super tender. And yes, eaten with a spoon-full of sour cream mixed in. It can be served hot or cold. There are also other types, including green borscht made without beets and served with hardboiled egg.
Vareniki | Bареники
Another kind of dumpling. These actually originate in Ukraine. They can be made savory with stuff like meat or potatoes, but are really popular in sweet form. For example, you can make them with sour cherries and sugar, cooking the cherry juice into a sauce.