Russia is a very big place, and there's no bigger part of it than Siberia. The region is split into two, and the city of Novosibirsk is the third-most populous city in Russia located in the smack dab of the vast wilderness of Asian Russian territories. Dating back to the Tsarist times, it has been a centre of life and trade, which makes exploring the food scene almost as interesting as checking out the records and stories about the city built on the great mysterious river Ob.
Many countries call dumplings their invention. Chinese jiao-tzu, Asian manti, Italian ravioli, Georgian khinkali, Japanese gedza and, of course, Russian dumplings - pelmeni, are small boiled pies with meat.
Nothing quite as Russian and as Siberian as pelmeni. This dish consists of a filling wrapped in thin, unleavened dough and is always welcome at any table at home or in a restaurant. They are made with pork, veal, chicken, mushrooms, cheese, and almost anything else one can wrap up and boil or fry. Siberia contests the invention of pelmeni with the Ural region, but every Russian must have tried them at least once. Thus, making the food more interesting than something your grandmother makes is a challenge in itself.
The restaurant taking the singular form of the name Pelmen offers a great variety, including brightly coloured pelmeni beloved by children.
Syrniki is a Russian dessert cooked from quark with eggs, flour and sugar. The mixture is fried in the shape of patty cakes on the sunflower seed oil to become crispy. They are usually cooked for breakfast and served with sour cream, berries or condensed milk.
Here's something simple, delicious, and universal for all regions of Russia. Syrniki are extremely simplistic pancakes made of cheese or quark. Also known as 'home cheese" in Eastern Europe, the dish is easy to make but requires the precise calculation of ingredients and preparation times to get right. These little pancakes are made from creamy quark, mixed with flour, eggs and sugar, sometimes adding vanilla extract. They are perfect for tea time or a quick bite in a local cafe.
In this context, the place called Chashka Kofe, or "coffee cup", is perfect.
Solyanka is a famous thick Russian soup. There are three most famous types of this dish based on the main ingredients: meat solyanka (with beef, sausages or chicken), fish solyanka (with salmon, sturgeon) and mushroom solyanka. The common ingredients are the same: dill pickles with brine and onions. Olives, lemon and sour cream are added optionally when serving.
Russians have a term for something eclectic, assembled from different places and making up something in itself. The word is "solyanka", and it comes from the name of the soup made across the country. There are three basic types of solyanka, with the main ingredient being either meat, fish, or mushrooms. Other ingredients vary, but most often, there are cabbage, salted mushrooms, potatoes, sour cream, and dill. Solyanka is cooked hot and served in bowls of different sizes.
The best solyanka place in Novosibirsk seems to be Baranzhar.
Borsch is a native Ukrainian and Polish dish. A distinctive feature of this soup is its color - red or dark red, it all depends on the beet, which is added there. Borsch is a very rich soup, its broth is brewed from beef meat, and then vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes are added to it. Today there are many varieties of borsch, but, of course, this is one of the most favorite dishes in Russia and Moldova.
Besides vodka, borsch is probably the most stereotypical Russian consumable product. That is despite the fact that the invention of the dish is contested among Russians, Ukrainians, and other Slavic peoples. Borscht derives from an ancient soup originally cooked from pickled stems, leaves and umbels of common hogweed. Beef, pork or a combination of both are most commonly used for making good fatty borsch. There's actually a rather humorous obsolete opinion that a wife must be able to make borsch to keep her husband.
The Na Dache restaurant has a very comfy name meaning "At the country house" and offers wonderful borsch.
In the culinary arts, the term cutlet is used to refer to a boneless, thin cut of meat — chicken, veal, pork, or lamb — that cooks very quickly and is usually pan-fried. Most cutlets are made by pounding the meat until there's even thinness and are often dusted with flour or coated in breadcrumbs before cooking.
Even though the concept of cutlets was not invented in Russia, the people have become extremely proficient in making the dish from scraps of meat and leftover filling. Russian can make cutlets out of anything, including cash money if the sayings are to be believed. The most popular kinds of cutlets are pork, chicken, and beef. They are made by hand, with or without oils, prepared on a skillet or in any other way that imagination allows. Just mash together anything you'd like to prepare, and you've got a Russian cutlet.
The place called Barak has some interesting cutlets.
It is a broad range of dishes from all over the world. They are small balls of dough that is made with flour and water and wrapped around a filling. Fillings are so versatile, it can be any meat, fish, seafood, fruit, etc. Dumplings can be boiled, baked, steamed or fried.
It's a common confusion among those who are not familiar with Russian cuisine that pelmeni from the first paragraph of this list are just dumplings. That could not be farther from the truth. Aside from the differences in making the filling, dumplings are prepared using a greater variety of methods, including baking, boiling, frying, simmering or steaming. The most popular dumplings in Russia are actually the Ukrainian "vareniki". The filling in them is mixed with quark, something unthinkable for pelmeni.
Khan Buz offers great dumplings with more of an Asian influence.
The dish presents finely chopped meat with vegetables and sauces, which is wrapped in pita bread.
Despite not being Russian in origin at all, shawarma became popular in Russia long before the first Avengers movie immortalized it in its finale. Yet shawarma is actually Arabic and traditionally consists of meat cut into thin slices, stacked in a cone-like shape, and roasted on a slowly-turning vertical rotisserie or spit. Naturally, there's no real taste without spices, and those may include cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric and paprika. Shawarma is a real people's dish, a popular street food famous for its universality and balance.
Shawarma can be found at any corner and any local grill house, including the Grill House, named just that.
Potatoes are something of a double-edged sword in the popular Russian consciousness. it's an ever-present lifesaving food of the poor, a nutritious and tasty basis for many meals, and stuff of anecdotes and jokes at the same time. Despite not being as prolific in potato-based food as neighbouring Belarus, Russia has its share of food culture phenomena. One very popular variation is the creamed potatoes, mashed and cooked to provide a smooth lighter alternative to more gritty and raw recipes of solid foods. It goes especially well with cutlets and sausages of different types, as well as a wide array of sauces.
Mamin Sibiryak, with its name meaning a punny phrase "Mother's Siberian", offers great creamed potatoes with meat.
Very small dumplings in the form of envelopes, with a filling of beef or mutton minced meat with herbs and served with a sauce of yogurt, paprika, and mint.
Siberia is in a rather unique position. It can enjoy influences from all across Russia, including strongly European ones, but maintains undeniable Asian sensibilities, which include some aspects of the local cuisine and the food scene as well. Beyond the dichotomy of pelmeni and dumplings, there is a thing called manti. It's a dish of Chinese origin initially made popular in the Central Asian republics of the USSR. Siberian manti are a thing in their own right, neither the regular dumplings nor regular Asian varieties. A special saucepan is used for making properly and preserving the delicate balance of dough, meat, and spices.
Another place with a funny name, Sarai, meaning "a shack", is a good choice to get manti.
Pilaf is one of the main side dishes of the Turkish table. Ideally, rice should not be stuck together but should be scattered with individual grains.
Let's finish the list with yet another Asian influence on Siberian cuisine. Pilaf, or pilau, is a popular dish prepared in stock or broth with spices and other ingredients such as vegetables or meat. The most popular Russian pilaf variety is Uzbek and made with rice, but other modifications known around the world are also known, including ones with bulgur. Some chefs make pilaf with the most unusual combinations of meats, fruits or vegetables. It's a very satiating kind of food, heavy on the stomach but incredible with the right ingredients.
Chuchvara offers some great pilaf in Novosibirsk.
Novosibirsk is a big and strong city, the symbolic representation of Siberia and Russia themselves. It has a lot to offer to those who are willing to get to know it. Have fun doing just that!