Charcoal Ice Cream

On a hot day in Moscow, it just seemed right to get an ice cream from a street vendor. What I didn’t realize was that my teeth would turn a welcoming shade of black. Ugoljuk – meaning “coal” – seemed like a reasonable name for ice cream that might be say, chocolate.  Could I have guessed that it was made with actual charcoal? Smooth and creamy, it tasted just like every other vanilla ice cream. I didn’t sense any trouble until I saw black streaks on my hands, scary movie style.

Pine Tree Lemonade

You heard that right – not pineapple, but pine, as in a Christmas tree. At a street food festival in Moscow, one restaurant was doing brisk business pouring lemonade made from ground-up needles, lemon and simple syrup. The first travelers to the Arctic would have loved this in their quest to avoid scurvy. A little tart and very sweet, it was supposed to go well with meat dishes.  The chef noted that he generally doesn’t recommend more than three servings because the effect of the main ingredient on humans hasn’t been well tested.

Soda Pop Soup

Credit: Nikkolo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Credit: Nikkolo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Okroshka – a cold, summer soup – is made with a popular rye drink called kvas. In the past, families used to brew their own kvas following a secret recipe featuring yeast, grains and sugar. Now it’s probably the most popular Russian soda pop – a carbonated soft drink you can buy at just about any store. For a perfect okroshka, cut up cold boiled potatoes, eggs, ham, cucumbers and green onions and cover with a bubbly drink straight from the bottle.

Pickled Sea Cabbage

A Russian version of Korean kimchi, it’s actually a type of kelp seaweed cut up in thin slices and brined with carrots. On the store shelves it hangs out next to its friends brined actual cabbage and pickled cucumbers. Here it has a reputation for being rich in iodine and in general, good for you – much like other disgusting looking dishes.  I just like its slippery, chewy texture and munch on it straight from the can or pile it on a toast.

Egg Burger

Credit: S O C I A L . C U T (@socialcut) on Unsplash

Credit: S O C I A L . C U T (@socialcut) on Unsplash

You expect that popular fast food chains carry some items depending on the region. Burger King chose to add a regular fried egg sunny side up to their bacon cheeseburger as a local specialty and call it “egg burger”.  In BK's ad, the voice of the guy who used to dub foreign movies in the 1990’s says, “Russians are so tough, it’s so hard to make them show emotions. Then a special agent looking character takes a bite and smiles. Apparently, the burger with eggs (a whole other story) is “Approved by Russians.”  

P.S. Still hungry? Here's some Russian foods to bring home and also our favorite Australian's take on Russian classics.