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Russian Food Vocabulary: What You Need to Know



What are the first three things you think of when it comes to Russian food? Vodka, pickled cucumber, and borscht? When is the right time to eat certain types of food in Russia? In this article, you’ll learn the names of Russian meals and some of the most popular dishes.


Names of Meals

Russian meals are “zavtrak” (завтрак, breakfast), “obed” (обед, lunch), “uzhin” (ужин, dinner), and, somewhat obsolete, a reminder and remnant of Soviet canteens and pioneer camp afternoon snack time called “poldnik” (полдник). If you’re not sure about the correct pronunciation of this new vocabulary, practice it with a Russian tutor.


Breakfast (завтрак, zavtrak)

Most people have breakfast at home before going to work. Russians are big fans of cereals and “kasha” (каша, porridge). Kasha can be made from buckwheat or any other cereal (wheat, barley, oats, millet, and rye). “Grechka” (гречка, buckwheat) is a traditionally Eastern European food, but now you can buy it in major stores and special Polish and Russian food shops.


Lunch (обед, obed)

Compared to many cultures, where the most substantial meal of the day is eaten after five p.m., Russians are very conservative about the time and composition of lunch. Lunch is usually a one-hour break from work in the middle of the day or a set time at home when a family has three courses consisting of “salat” (салат, salad), “soup” (суп), and a hot meat or fish course. Most common lunch menus include a raw vegetable salad (cabbage and carrot, cucumbers and tomatoes) and a soup of your choice, including “borscht” (борщ, beetroot soup), “kuriny bul’on” (куриный бульон, chicken broth), “gorohovy soup” (гороховый суп, pea soup) or “okroshka” (окрошка, cold meat and vegetable soup) in the summer.


If you prefer to forgo soup and leave more room in your stomach for the main course, you’re not Russian, because some Russians eat soup every day and consider it the best food in both hot and cold weather. On the phonetic side, Russian learners are quite lucky, as “salad” and “soup” sound almost identical to “салат” and “суп.” If you remember this, you’ll be able to order at least two courses in any Russian restaurant.


Afternoon Snack (полдник, poldnik)

This word was used mostly for the menu at pioneer camps. After a compulsory afternoon nap, young pioneers were summoned to the canteen and given a glass of “kompot” (компот, stewed fruit beverage) or “kisel’” (кисель, fruit dessert), fresh fruit, and a slice of cake or a cookie.


Dinner (ужин, uzhin)

The number of evening dishes depends on many factors: Eating out differs from eating at home, eating healthy means you try to eat less in the evening, and for some workaholics, evening is the only time when they can sit at the table and enjoy their food. The most common choice is between “myaso” (мясо, meat) and “ryba” (рыба, fish) for the main course and “макароны” (makarony, pasta) or “kartoshka” (картошка, potatoes) for the side dish.


Of course, it’s impossible to talk about all Russian food vocabulary in one article. Work with a Russian tutor and learn more Russian meals and delicacies to name and try.

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