Athletes from around the globe gathered in Sochi, Russia, host of the XXII Winter Olympic Games. Competing in events ranging from ice skating to curling to skiing in front of thousands of live spectators and millions more watching on TV can really work up an appetite. There’s going to be a lot of hungry mouths to feed over the 17 days of Olympic events.
Russia offers a variety of local flavors, should athletes choose to indulge. And even if they don’t, you can. Get yourself in the Olympic spirit this year and familiarize yourself with these classic Russian foods. Maybe try making one before settling in for an evening of Olympic competition.
It is estimated that 70,000 gallons of borscht will be served to spectators during the two weeks of Olympic competition in Sochi. In case you’re unfamiliar with borscht, it’s a beetroot-based soup that originally comes from Ukraine but is very popular in Russian cuisine. Recipes for this deep red delicacy vary, often including meat, cabbage and potatoes. But it is nonetheless a staple of the Winter Olympics’ host nation. A steaming hot bowl of this treat will definitely warm you up during the cold winter months.
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Beyond the Winter Olympic games, Russia is no stranger to competition. In April 2012, Alexander Valov consumed nearly one pound, or around $5,000 worth, of caviar in under 90 seconds at an eating competition held in Moscow. Traditionally, the term caviar refers to the roe (eggs) of wild sturgeon from the Black and Caspian Seas, both with coasts along Russia. Interestingly enough, caviar in Russian is called ikra. Additionally, Russia accounts for the highest percentage of caviar consumption in the world. This fishy snack is an expensive delicacy coveted by the rich and famous around the world.
Also known as shish kabob, this meaty treat made from either beef, lamb or pork is cut up in cubes and grilled with vegetables such as onions or bell peppers on skewers. Many families keep their shashlyk marinade secret but it is usually made with a base of pomegranate juice or kefir. Sounds like an excellent and easy way to get in some essential protein before a competing or, more likely, sitting down to watch others compete.
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A banquet of these Russian dumplings, which look similar to tortellini, was served up to the 260 Sochi Olympic torchbearers that raced through Perm, Russia on January 3. Around 20,000 pelmeni, stuffed with ground beef, lamb and pork, were prepared for the celebratory banquet. Pelmeni variations include mushroom, sauerkraut or fish fillings.
The first known recipe for this hearty delicacy was printed in a Russian cookbook in 1861. The dish is believed to be named for the prominent Russian family, the Stroganovs. Served in a sour cream sauce, the stew consists of sauteed pieces of beef, onions and mushrooms. As with any classic recipe, there are many varieties of stroganoff that incorporate different methods and ingredients.
As Team USA travels to Russia, show your support by trying out some of these international foods. While salty fish eggs might not be your ideal snack, beef stroganoff and borscht are two delicious dishes that might make your family seem part Russian.
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Alli Sands is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.