Russian Dishes Which Scare Foreign Chefs

PHOTO by kues / Depositphotos
Can someone who grew up on sushi, pizza or pasta genuinely like Herring under Fur Coat or Veal Orlov?

Let’s admit it: not all Russians, let alone overseas visitors, are keen on Olivier salad with pickled cucumbers, the mayonnaise-topped Veal Orlov (known in Russia as French-style meat), or the mille-feuille Napoleon cake.

In the run-up to the festive season, heavy with its hearty meals, WMJ.ru has asked international chefs for their honest opinions on Russian New Year dishes.

Matteo Lai, brand chef of Jamie Oliver Group in Russia and Jamie’s Italian restaurants in Moscow and St. Petersburg

I was visiting Russian friends one evening. Once we were seated at the table, the lady of the house ladled a generous portion of something red onto my plate and promised that I would have never tried anything more delicious in my entire life. (As you may have guessed, it was none other than the famous Herring under Fur Coat.) I grew suspicious, and rightly so. As soon as I took the first bite I knew the dish wasn’t my thing, but had to feign excitement to please the hostess. I still shiver when I think back to that meal. Being an Italian, I can’t get my head around how you can eat raw onions and herring smeared with mayonnaise, but, if you Russians like it, then have fun with it. I have honestly tried to modify the recipe, make it more European, but have always failed. Herring under Fur Coat is my red line with Russian cuisine. I’m not really into pickled mushrooms either. I know they are popular in Russia, but this dish is clearly not to my taste.

Russian dishes scare foreigners
The much-feared Herring under Fur Coat (a traditional salad made of salted herring with layers of grated boiled potatoes, carrots, beets, onions and mayonnaise)

Chef Jeremy Uruty, Le Restaurant

One Russian New Year dish I personally find baffling is Veal Orlov. Why do you insist on overcooking meat? For me, the best way to enjoy meat is rare or medium rare. Besides, Veal Orlov is made with cheese and mayonnaise, which makes it too fatty. But what puzzles me most is the very idea of using mayonnaise for roasting. In French cuisine, this sauce is always served cold and has to have a certain texture. If you tell a French person you are going to roast a dish dressed with mayonnaise, you’ll just be stared at like you're mad!

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Kholodets (bits of meat or fish in cold jelly) makes many foreign cooks freeze in disbelief.

Chef Jonathon Curtis, Mr. Lee and Cherdak restaurants

When I first came to Russia, I could eat hardly any of the local dishes – they tasted so odd. For me, Russian rissoles or borsht are like food from another planet, so my first Russian New Year was quite disappointing in terms of food. However, when I married a Russian, I gradually got used to the local food, except, perhaps, for Herring under Fur Coat. Firstly, I’m not hugely keen on herring; secondly, I’m not into salads plastered with mayonnaise. Finally, being a chef, I find this combination of ingredients somewhat strange.

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Olivier salad (made with diced potato, peas, eggs, pieces of boiled meat, chicken or sausage, and pickled cucumbers) is the centrepiece of the Russian New Year table.

Chef Jun Kondo, Fumisawa Sushi

To be honest, I love practically all the Russian New Year dishes – Olivier salad, kholodets meat jelly, even Herring under Fur Coat. I wouldn’t add so much mayonnaise everywhere though – when used excessively, mayo ruins both the taste and consistency. I quite like a Mimoza fish salad, where the ingredients are arranged in layers; the only thing that's puzzling is the tinned fish that is called for by the recipe – you're never going to get a balanced taste using that!

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The Mimoza salad of which Chef Jun Kondo is so fond

Chef Christian Lorenzini, Buono

There are some Russian New Year dishes I don’t understand, like squid and mayonnaise salad, roasted pork with pineapples, stuffed eggs or egg-based salads. A stuffed egg is a dry, heavy bomb that makes your liver beg you: “Let’s go to bed!” Ham or cheese stuffing makes it even heavier – clearly a bad idea for a New Year party which starts late at night and lasts until the early hours. Don’t overeat, guys, and look after your health!

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Stuffed eggs will seriously put your metabolism to the test

Author: Yulia Markova