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With its winding canals and 342 picturesque bridges, the magnificent city of St. Petersburg never fails to impress. Once the capital of Russia, it also plays host to the White Nights In the summer (when the sun never sets) and has a cultural heritage that's hard to beat. But what about the food? If you're anything like us, discovering local cuisine is up there on your list of priorities whenever you come across a new place.
That’s why we’ve put together this cheat sheet, introducing you to seven local delicacies you can’t miss during your time in the Baltics. Time to tuck in.
Possibly one of the most well-known Russian dishes, stroganoff is now well-loved around the world. The origins of this dish date back to the 19th century, and it is named after the wealthy Stroganov family. A hearty stew in a rich cream sauce usually made with mushrooms and beef, stroganoff is best enjoyed with some dippy bread on a cold day. Splash out at the aptly named Stroganoff Steakhouse, which is housed in renovated barracks.
If you’re after something lighter, try this traditional Russian soup. It’s the kind of dish where each family will have their own time-honoured recipe, but generally, ukha contains various types of fish from bream to catfish. There is also a hearty blend of root vegetables thrown in there, and it’s then delicately spiced with saffron and nutmeg.
The people of St. Petersburg have been enjoying ukha for a very long time – it’s thought to have originated sometime in the 12th century. There’s no better place to sample some ukha than in one of the oldest restaurants in St. Petersburg, Demyanova Ukha.
What could be more comforting on a chilly St. Petersburg day than dumplings? Soft and doughy pelmeni are made from a simple recipe and then stuffed with savoury meats and spices. Though vastly different from the Asian dumplings we’re more familiar with, it is thought that pelmeni evolved from the wontons of China. When stuffed with sweet fillings, pelmeni are referred to as vareniki. Try them made from scratch at Mari Vanna, with its Soviet-inspired décor and traditional menu, or Pirogi, which serves food throughout the night (just in case you fancy a midnight snack).
Technically, borscht is Ukranian, but this soup is just as popular in Russia. It's distinctive for its bright purple colour, which comes from one of its main ingredients: beetroot. Depending on the weather when you visit Russia, you can eat borscht either hot or cold. You'll find in many restaurants that it's served with spoonfuls of sour cream, as well as pampushki (small bread buns) for dipping in. Tuck into some borscht at Katyusha Café in the Leningrad Oblast area.
Peckish, but not quite hungry enough for a full meal? Fuel your afternoon of St. Petersburg sightseeing with some pirozhki. These little buns are easy to eat on the go and are commonly stuffed with minced meat, potatoes and mushrooms. Dip them in your borscht, or eat alone. They’ll satisfy any craving, too, as you can also get sweet pirozhki oozing with apple or lemon. Pick some up at the cosy Troika bakery on Zagorodny Prospekt and enjoy with hot tea.
In Russia, pyshki aren’t just a snack; they’re a way of life. They look a little bit like doughnuts, and are served hot and soft from “pyshechnaya cafes” all over the city (make sure to get there early if you’re hungry – they often have long queues outside!). We recommend trying the pyshechnaya on Bolshaya Konyushennya, which is one of the city’s oldest. Order a coffee, several pyshki, and let the afternoon drift by.
An Olivier salad is traditionally enjoyed on New Year’s Eve, but we reckon that it’s delicious all year round. The main ingredients are carrots, potatoes, eggs and pickles, and depending on where you order yours, you can also expect meats like chicken or ham (as well as a generous helping of mayonnaise). Enjoy an Olivier salad in the Ukrop Café, which you’ll find close to the train station.
Mouth watering yet? Go on a culinary tour of St. Petersburg by joining us on one of our Russian or northern European cruises.
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