Exploring the Russian Snack Scene

So, this article was originally supposed to be about different Czech foods and snacks to try that you might not come across normally. However, every time I went out to buy snacks in order to research and prepare for this blog post, I kind of fell back into my comfort zone. I think we’re all guilty of this sometimes, especially if we’re a little far from home, so instead of me giving you insight on Czech foods, I am actually going to tell you about some Russian foods that aren’t very hard to find here and have been helping me reconnect with my childhood and Russian heritage. But not just that, they’re also pretty tasty.

The majority of the things I mention below I normally find at a Russian specialty store near Máchova, but various items are actually popular among Czechs as well and can be found in other grocery stores and mini markets. I also searched on Google Maps for a similar store near Osadní and came up with one at Komunardu 27 called “Ruské a ukrainské speciality Hopak”, but I’ve never been there so I don’t know much about it.

1. Pelmeni

First things first, pelmeni are my most frequented Russian food here. They’re very easy to find because they have them in most freezer sections of grocery stores and mini markets. They’re kind of like dumplings and they come with different things inside, most often veal, beef or chicken. I actually just accidentally came across a Pelmeni focused restaurant this past weekend but have yet to go, so a review on that will have to wait. These are one of my favorites because they’re good for an easy dinner as you just pop them into boiling water for 7-10 minutes and then they’re ready to go. My friends and I usually top them with butter and some sour cream. They do however also come with fruit or other sweet filling inside, but these are most often only found fresh and not in the frozen section in grocery stores. Those versions could be closely compared to the Czech fruit dumplings, knedlicky.

2. Syrok

These little bars are kind of like cheesecake bars coated in chocolate and they sometimes have filling inside, which could be condensed milk or different flavors of jams. I really like to eat them as an on-the-go breakfast, but they’re more traditionally considered desserts. Although they don’t have the same brand and as many options here as I do back home, they are arguably better tasting here because they are less sweet. I highly recommend these even as a snack though because they can last for quite a while outside the fridge, they’re small and they still do have a little bit of protein from the cheese, which makes them pretty filling. Though they have different flavors available, I still prefer the classic vanilla with chocolate.

3. Russian Candy

Almost any Russian store will have a candy section that works the same way as most others internationally, there’s a price per 100g. Most of these, if my parents didn’t stock them at our house, I tried them at my grandma’s apartment, my aunt and uncle’s house or various family friends’ homes. However, there was one that we always bought and it was easily recognizable with a picture of a cow right on the front. It’s almost like a caramel fudge with with a thick caramel inside of that. It’s incredibly sweet. Even though it’s essentially pure sugar, I still really enjoy the candy, though part of that can probably be attributed to the memories of childhood and family that are associated with it. Besides that one though, there are also a lot of fruity, chocolate, wafer and other types of candy that are really worth trying. I recommend just to choosing few random ones and seeing what they are instead of doing too much investigation, it’s more fun that way!

4. Zefir

As if I didn’t already have enough sweet things on this list, this one is a type of marshmallow that’s a little different in taste and texture from the classic American marshmallow made out of gelatin. Marshmallows are usually made with sugar, water and gelatin, Zefir is a little different in that the base is sugar with egg whites and goes a little further and mixes that often with fruit or berry purees to make different flavors. However, even the plain, vanilla flavored one is still pretty different from marshmallows in that it is simply a soft and fairly dense sweet whereas a marshmallow is lighter, airier, and is a bit chewier. Zefir makes for a really good dessert with evening tea and if you can find them, my favorite type is a fluffier kind coated in chocolate, though I haven’t seen it here in Prague yet.

5. Sushki

As most of the list are dessert foods, I thought it might be nice to end on a snack. Sushki are round bread-like cracker rings that are commonly eaten as a less sweet dessert with tea or as a snack. I like them a lot as snacks because they’re easy to take with you, they’re cheap and they are pretty good at holding you over as they’re mostly are carbs. However, if you’re looking for something a little more savory as a snack, though these have a hint of sugar, they could still work especially because I’ve eaten then with cheese and cold cuts before.

Though I didn’t specifically touch on these, if you do find yourself in a Russian market or if you even come across one of these in a regular supermarket, I recommend trying these foods as well: Russian ice cream, condensed milk, and pryanicki. Condensed milk is like a syrup that I top a lot of breakfast foods with and pryanicki are similar to gingerbread cookies though there are less flat and chewier but with a similar taste profile. I hope that my descriptions and love for these foods has inspired you to maybe go out and try one or two. Of course, if you need any help navigating the stores or getting the right thing, feel free to reach out because I would love to help anyone who wants to learn a little more about Russian foods. If you have any other questions as well, feel free to reach out to me at alice.berlin@nyu.edu. Thanks!

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