The 5 Grossest Russian Foods of Your Childhood

by Semechka on June 24, 2013

If you grew up American in a Russian immigrant family, school lunches might’ve been an ordeal for you. The other kids just didn’t understand how half a kotleta slapped on a piece of black bread was your Grandma’s idea of a hamburger. While they indulged in their smorgasbord of American delicacies, you sulked that your lunch never came with a plastic toy, and that your baby bologna sandwich was decidedly less appetizing than the Oscar Mayer/Wonderbread pairing so popular amongst your peers. And try as you did to score some Gushers when shopping with Mama v Shopraitye, the answer was always the same: “A popa ne slipnitsa?



School lunch isn’t the only source of food-related grief one encounters growing up in a Russian household. When I was a kid, meals were a dreaded affair. Somehow my grandparents never grasped the concept of child-size portions, and were thus unsympathetic to my desperate pleas to escape the dinner table. Not to mention that Russian food isn’t the most “kid-friendly” cuisine. Case in point…

 The 5 Grossest Russian Foods of Your Childhood

1. Holodets

Whoever decided that encasing shredded meat in a blob of salty jello could be even slightly appetizing was probably high off exhaust fumes. One morsel of this snot-flavored appetizer would send me reeling out of my dining chair in violent fits of nausea. If any one food could make headcheese look tasty by comparison, this would be it.


meat Jell-O, anyone?

2. Pickled Fruit

Want to gross out your American friends? Direct them to the section of your Russian grocery with the open vats of pickled tomatoes/watermelon/grapes/apples/cabbage/anything. When it comes to marinating produce, nothing in the Russian culinary tradition is sacred. At some low point in history, we decided collectively as a people that the question “Should we pickle it?” is entirely rhetorical.

“Can we pickle it?” “Yes we can!!!”

3. Salo

“Hey, let’s take some sliced pig lard, spice it, and serve it on black bread as a vodka-chaser.” Sliced. Pig. Lard. Need I say more?

mmm, spicy pig back.

4. Silyodka Pod Shuboy

Literally translates to “Herring Under a Fur Coat.” I’ll tell you something — there’s nothing vaguely resembling a “shuba” in this dish. This is a “salad” of marinated herring, topped with layers of boiled potatoes, eggs, beets, and copious amounts of — what else? — mayonnaise. One bite of this is a mouthful of Nope.

Masquerading as a cake, are we? Nice try.

5. Kvass

Basically carbonated bread juice. Similar to beer, except without all the pleasant side effects. Sometimes they put raisins or other random crap in it to mask what tastes like fermented dirt. If you have kids, spare them the displeasure of drinking this liquid rankness.

Bottoms up.

Other common Russian ingredients that are generally disagreeable:

Beef tongue, chicken gizzards, tripe (intestines), beef/goose/cod liver, milt.

….but the one treat that redeems it all?

Screen shot 2013-06-23 at 11.34.11 PM

hell yes.

  • D

    All the foods described are delicious when done right. only Americans can think that their Oscar Mayer made from antibiotic-fed, sick cows and processed to a point where it doesn’t have any connection to any kind of real food is something that is appetizing while pickled veggies are ‘disgusting’. What brainwashing.

    • devka

      when you are a child, logic and reason don’t always win you over :)

      • D

        But the idea of ‘kid’ friendly food is an American one. Everywhere else kids eat exactly what adults eat, maybe with few small adjustments. Europeans wouldn’t feed their dogs with chicken nuggets and bologna that are catered to kids here. It’s amazing how successful this type of brainwashing has been, to advertise really unhealthy foods as ‘kid friendly’ while fresh foods, fish and vegetables as undesirable.

        • devka

          it’s an american idea that’s become globally successful! happy meals for all!!

        • Jonic Itskov

          A lot of these foods are far from healthy so thats not really the point here

          • Arthur

            not per se. there’s nothing wrong with sala, it’s just a high concentration of fat and you don’t eat much of it in the traditional sense. Plus, it’s a workers’ food. As in, you’re out in the field you grab a slice of bread and some sala, you get a few hundred calories, about 20 grams of protein and some simple or complex (depending on the bread) carbohydrates and you’re back to work. No different than peanut butter sandwiches many athletes consume such as swimmers. Kvas is not far from healthy and my mom makes “shuba” without the herring with very little mayo, so it’s just boiled organic beets, carrots and some A2 cows’ milk cheese. You’re looking at it from a macro level without looking deeper into it. IMO

            YOU’RE RIGHT THOUGH, that’s not the point. :)

    • Amanda Holman

      Many, but not all Americans feel that way. Southerners are very fond of picked anything (vegetables, fruit, pigs feet).

  • den

    Everything here is awesome. You can keep your happy meal, and hotdog. And you shouldn’t eat too much candy btw.

    • Jonic Itskov

      Yous shouldn’t eat too much halodyets and sala…btw

  • SM74

    All these foods are vastly superior to American “cuisine”, which is made entirely out of chemical waste and high-fructose corn syrup.

  • Julia

    You are hilarious!!!!!!!!

    “Sometimes they put raisins or other random crap in it to mask what tastes like fermented dirt.” I’m crying that’s so accurately funny.

    Thank you so much for these amusing and sweet posts, which I even read out loud to my mom, who used to force me to eat farshirovaniye pertsi, kurinniye pupki (bellybuttons?!!), and anything disgustingly filled with zhilki/hryashiki :((

    • SM74

      Raisins are added to kvass to facilitate the fermentation process, not to enhance flavor characteristics. Which, I might add, are stand up pretty well on their own and are in any case much better than any drink Americans have come up with. Unless you seriously consider Mountain Dew (a mixture of toxic waste and glucose) fit for human consumption.

      • Anna

        There are dozens of different variations of Kvas. Some have no sugar added and as a result the flavor is bitter. Some are brewed differently and are sweet, have carbonation added and are delicious. Don’t like Kvas? Don’t drink it. Enjoy your Coors Light light beer flavored water instead. It’s kind of the same thing as a bitter Kvas anyway.

    • Костя

      Сама ты ХряШики

  • Ar

    Bashing holodetz and kvas? Shameful

  • Anon.

    Whoever wrote this article has obviously been Americanized Go eat the standar american diet (SAD) diet. Dummy.

  • Lena B

    Well, there is always PB&J and Fried Marshmallows

    • SM74

      None of those things are, strictly speaking, food.

  • TheGastroMe

    I love you. the list of things I’ve written so lovingly and so salivatingly about for years. salo in particular – which I call melt in your mouth cured pork fat, or white butter – whole ma dissertation on the thing. we should be friends, comrades at least.

  • Anon

    Korovka is good – but does not redeem it all. In any meaningful way.

    • Kostya

      Anon idi v Anus i tam Anoniruy

  • Marianna S

    except for holodetz, I actually loved the other dishes as a child. And also would beg my parents to buy me kvas!

  • Alex Faynshteyn

    how can you hate kvas and yazik? are you not human?

  • Anna

    You know, none of these foods ever grossed me out when I was little. They don’t gross me out now. The pickled watermelon and apples are damn tasty. The herring in a “fur coat” isn’t my favorite but it’s not a vomit inducing trip down the memory lane either. Salo is bacon in a different cut. You know what’s really gross? Ground beef slapped together with pink slime. Holodetz made out of pork feet over that crap any day.

    • Jonic Itskov

      I was scared of many of these as a kid…seeing my friends lunchboxes…but yeah anything picked is now great in my book

  • Food

    Whoever wrote this is obviously an ignorant moron.

  • Vika

    I have to disagree with the writer of this. If cooked right most of these foods are much better and healthier for the kids then anything that you can feed them in America. I’ve been living in America since my teens and still love all Russian food much better then American. Wonder bread is only good to make katletki and not even all the time.
    You have to be more thankful to your parents for feeding you normal food!

  • SM74

    Sliced pig lard may sound unappetizing but at least it’s real lard from real pigs, unlike the byproduct of the American plastic industry that passes for bacon here.

  • Zelig Krymko

    Are you out of your God damn self-hating Russian immigrant mind? I came here from Leningrad when I was 1 and I gotta say I LOVE Holodetz – especially with some horseradish.. Seledka pod shuboy is heaven on EARTH. I remember in 4th grade bringing salmon caviar open sandwiches on Italian bread for the International Food Festival at my public school in Astoria. The Americans were like “eeewww that’s disgusting” and I was like good don;t eat it! I’ll have all of it for myself lol… The following year I brought the most delicious tongue sandwiches ever – again the same stupidity from these American classmates and even teachers… I was a happy camper — I ate all of them :-)..

    • SEMECHKI raw

      “Are you out of your God damn self-hating Russian immigrant mind?” – could not have phrased better myself.

  • Aleona

    This is very disappointing, and I rather doubt that the author of this crap is actually from Russia. Anything to squeeze a smile or two from humor-deprived americans, and to generate something resembling an article. I remember my life as a kid in Russia, and for the last 25 years here in the US, I enjoy Russian traditional foods and drinks much more than the chemically processed garbage that is American food. And most of the people in the comments seem to agree with this point of view. I guess there is only one question left. Why doesn’t this waste of an article get censored on the way to being published? Or anyone can write anything nowadays and claim they’re an expert? Let’s form a blog about what the hedgehog was actually thinking while wondering around in the fog. I bet that would make for a much more interesting discussion than this brain fart.

  • Ira

    I think this list is very subjective, everyone has their own taste and there are so many variations on the food you listed that it might just be that you haven’t tried the right one that best fits your pallet. I think for kids when it comes to school lunch, they just want to fit in and eat what their peers are eating regardless of the taste or quality of the food. I remember I wanted to have those oscar myer lunchables packs because they looked so cool but if I were to eat it now I am sure that I would find it thoroughly disgusting, ham, cheese and crackers no thanks. Personally I love Russian food though overall I don’t think that it is very healthy and it tends to be quite heavy, but one can always tinker with the recipes to make them more healthy but aside from that if you are to make things from scratch almost all of the dishes take tons of work so I don’t tend to indulge too much.

  • Non

    Love most of these foods now that I’m a grown up as a child hot dogs hamburgers and nuggets were more appealing

  • Arthur

    I came here to say pretty much what has already been said. Besides all the chemicals and processed food talk in the comments, I’d like to add that the author doesn’t know how any of those foods are actually made. Kvas is, in a sense, a version of “kombucha” (made up word) which is all the rage these days and I don’t remember my mom or dad ever “making” me drink it — they made it in the summer with rye and if I asked, I got some, if not then nope. Also, as someone else said you add sugar or raisins to facilitate fermenting and no, this is not optional. Sala is, indeed, fatback and is gross but if you aren’t Jewish or vegetarian, and can find a quality source of pig then it’s quite fine. Pickled fruit? Yeah, in the USSR I remember vaguely my parents pickling stuff but in the US the only pickled stuff we bought were brined cucumbers/pickles and mushrooms (not the magic kind, unfortunately).

    Although, I will point out that most people who claim that SAD (standard american diet) is so terrible, probably consume the same sickly cows that live in a cage and urinate, defecate and vomit on each other, all the same.

  • Boris

    The point of this article isn’t to identify the differences between the quality or taste of Russian vs. American food. Rather, its to highlight the assimilation challenges faced by those who “grew up American in a Russian immigrant family.” And it doesn’t just apply to food. Some of you guys may remember the grandma busting out the Soviet made sweater for you to wear to school and you dreading every moment of it. Yes the sweater may be of higher quality but it aint no Nike.

    • SM74

      But this blog is written by adults, who, having outgrown their Happy Meal cravings, should understand that trotting out Wonderbread and Oscar Meyer isn’t really the right move when complaining about any ethnic food whatsoever.

  • Artem

    Enjoyed the read, but do you really think herring under fur coat (skip the useless article if you are a true russian) is disgusting? I’ve enjoyed it ever since I was a kid… man those babushkis know. what. is. UP!

    You nailed the portion size/lunch time dilemma by the way.

  • Rinka

    Do people realize this is a satirical blog?! Geeze. Also, yeah I hated most of these foods AS A KID which I think is what the two authors are trying to say. Now in my very late teens, I’m generally extremely happy to see Kvass. All day. Sylodka Pod Shuboy will always be disgusting to me though. Also, people hated Holodets? I always thought of it as solid bullion.

  • Yoav

    I used to poke the holodetz while it was in the fridge and pray to g-d it wasn’t moving!!! >:(

  • S

    this is retarded. who ever made this post is not a russian or ukrainian/russian. but pure american i only speak english but understand russian, russky. all of those foods are delicious and native to our culture. the holodets, i agree look unbelievably grotesque, but when prepared properly with some red horse radish, is actually pretty good. sala, is nothing but pig fat but still good. there is nothing about that has a gross taste. it has no flavor. so to say it tastes disgusting is nonsensical. and kvass, its a bitter coca cola tasting drink, and incredibly poplar taste for people who were born and raised for even 5 years in russia. its an acquired taste but to say its one of russians 2 disgusting dishes, you are a moron. none of these 5 suffice. there are much much much more distasteful bludi than these.

    • Dee

      interesting — I lived in Russia for 7 years but hate kvas til this very day… so based on what you’re saying I can’t possibly exist. sooooo…. there goes your argument.

  • Nina

    you know, i came to usa 5 years ago and i still miss my home food. thankfully i cook, but all of this just made me so hungry. and to the person who wrote this: you only eat a tiny bit of sala, not an entire stack. and i hate american food it really makes me sick. eat organic, home food, not american processed crap. no wonder the entire country obese.

  • Nina

    agreed seryoga

  • mike

    i love shuba and holodets, 2. and 3. are the only things i dont like there but the rest of them are delicious. though i do hate the herring under the shuba but without the herring its amazing

  • Masha

    Whaaaaaaaat…. Everything described here is delicious! My American boyfriend LOVES kotletki. And when I told him that my grandmother used to make us her own “humbugers” by putting kotletka on a piece of bread instead of going to McDonalds, he told me that I was the luckies child. Also borsch, he got addicted to it instantly.
    So stop the bullish*t. Russian cuisine is ama-a-a-a-a-azing.

  • ma33ai

    Dear scorned soul, you are soooooooo out of your mind!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! All of these are delicious and by far more nutritious than the hamburger you were/are craving. If you don’t like certain foods (Russian or otherwise) no need to bash the entire culture/cuisine/and babushkas.
    Be nice, it’ll serve you!

  • batman dad

    What baboon wrote this?

  • jobersh

    dont pay attention to this american jerk who eats all artificial food and doesn’t even have a clue what kholodetz and salo mean.if he would ever work with italians or spanish {from Spain} or black guys from south of usa he would shut his f.. mouth and never say anything like that.everybody who agree with me have anise day.

  • Sashko

    Author of this is Dolboyob

  • Matreshka

    As a mother of 3 kids who have been born and raised in Toronto and disliked most of above stated food I’m really glad that most of those comments advocate for native Russian food..Have you any idea how time consuming is it? Today one of my my daughters who married Canadian fellow thank me when I send stuffed paper to them.My youngest daughter who is a lawyer & lives downtown adores my kotletki.My oldest son who preffered Mc Donalds to my food while growing up, saying there is nothing better tasting then home made Russian food. Preferences changes as you mature. Be grateful for your Russian. mothers & grandmothers who has been slavering in the kitchen to feed you kids a wholesome home made food.This is one of the way to show love to a family.How many Canadians cooked from scratch? Bless your mothers & babushkas for being so damn lucky.

  • greenelephant

    I love all the foods on this list. Russian food is the best!!

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