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As a country with a history of both decadence and strife, it is safe to say that Russian cuisine is equally as colorful.

Delicately balancing sweet and sour flavors, traditional Russian recipes were inspired by the peasant food from the rural areas for generations. During Catherine the Great's reign, more refined European flavors and cooking techniques made their way into the great nation, especially for the aristocracy.

Traditional Russian meals included a wide variety of soups and stews created from fish, seasonal meats and vegetables. With crops that included rye, wheat, barley and millet, bread was a crucial staple for the Russian people. In the 1600's, Russian black bread was considered a European delicacy.

When it comes to Russian cuisine, enjoy a full meal, or offer your guests a variety of zakuski. The Russian version of Spanish tapas, these would include items such as smoked sausages, hard-boiled eggs with caviar, black bread, cold fish, pickled vegetables and blinchiki. Here are some more traditional Russian delicacies.

Blini and Blinchiki

While some argue that these two are in fact the same, there are others who explain that blini are made with yeast, while blinkchiki are yeast-free. Regardless, these thin crepes are extremely popular in Russia and used in both sweet and savory dishes. Made with wheat most commonly, they are often covered with sour cream and caviar, or jam. Blinchiki are said to be wrapped with fillings such as the sweet farmer's cheese (tvorog) or wild mushrooms.

Pelmeni and Pirozhki

Pelmeni are small Siberian dumplings similar to Chinese potstickers or Polish pierogi and called the national Siberian dish because they could be stored outside safely for months on end. They are smaller than their cousins. Filled with minced pork and flavored with garlic, onions, salt and pepper, pelmeni dumplings are cooked in broth and occasionally fried afterwards. They are served with sour cream, horseradish, mustard or vinegar. Pirozhki are small buns stuffed with a variety of fillings and are baked or fried. All the ingredients inside pirozhki are cooked in advance. In savory pirozhki, hard-boiled eggs are usually present, with onions and fish, meat, or mashed potatoes and sour cream.

Herbs and Vegetables

Some of the more popular vegetables and herbs used in Russian cuisine include cabbage, beets, cucumbers, wild mushrooms, dill, horseradish, garlic, parsley, mustard and celery root. On a whole, pickling is popular in Russia as it helps to preserve foods.

Meat Dishes: Traditionally, meat can come in a variety of forms -- boiled in a stew or soup, jellied and spiced with vegetables or baked whole or in part and served with porridge and root vegetables. These, in turn come with pickled vegetables with the traditional smetana (melted butter) used in lieu of gravy. As well, many Russians enjoy the street vendor favorite shashlyk, a skewered kebab of meat and onions.

Russian Soups

While the classic borscht is what most people commonly think of when mentioning the words "Russian" and "soup" together, there is a massive variety of options to explore, all with their own unique characteristics. These categories break down into cold soups with a kvas base (a drink made from rye bread); water and vegetable based soups; cabbage soups; noodle soups; meat-based sour soups; fish soups; and grain and vegetable soups. Pickled vegetables and brine play a crucial role in some of the "sour" soups. Other unique ingredients include boiled eggs, oily fish, beetroot, horseradish, apples, rutabaga, capers and olives.

Finally, end your meal with some sweet blini, apple pirozhki or one of the two most popular drinks in Russia: strong hot tea, with extra hot water heating in the Samovar or an ice-cold glass of vodka.

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