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Russian Zakuska - What is it?

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Russian Zakuski (plural from Russian: закуски [zɐˈkuskʲɪ]; singular zakuska from закуска; Polish: zakąski, zakąska) is an assortment of cold hors d'oeuvres, entrées and snacks in food culture of Russia and in Slavicspeaking countries. It is served as a course on its own or "intended to follow each shot vodka or another alcoholic drink." The word literally means something to bite after. It probably originated and was influenced through the fusion of Slavic, VikingNordic and Oriental cultures in early Rus' regions like the Novgorod Republic.

The tradition of zakuski is linked to the Swedish and Finnish brännvinsbord which was also the ancestor of modern smörgåsbord and to meze of the Ottoman Empire and other Middle Eastern cultures. Zakuski are not served as in Scandinavia at the buffet but on the dining table. Zakuski are also a foodinitself and often not just served as starter to a meal. Zakuski were kept in the houses of the Russian gentry for feeding casual visitors who travelled long distances and whose arrival time was often unpredictable. At banquets and parties, zakuski were often served in a separate room adjacent to the dining room or on a separate table in the dining room. The tradition eventually spread to other layers of society and remained in the Soviet times, but due to lack of space, they were served on the dinner table. Zakuski became thus the first course of a festive dinner.

Nowadays, these appetizers are commonly served at banquets, dinners, parties and receptions in countries which were formerly part of the Russian Empire including some postSoviet states and Poland.A broad selection of zakuski constitutes a standard first course at any feast table. Usually, zakuski are already laid on the table when guests are called to the dining room

Typical zakuski consist of cold cuts, cured fishes, mixed salads, kholodets (meat jelly), pirogs or pirozhki, various pickled vegetables such as tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, sauerkraut, pickled mushrooms, deviled eggs, hard cheeses, caviar, canapés, open sandwiches, and breads

Listed below are some of the most popular Russian zakuska to accompany vodka:

– pickled cucumbers and tomatoes:
– herring with onions;
– pickled mushrooms with onions;
– cold salty salmon;
– cold pickled cabbage (something like German sauerkraut)
– kholodets and fish aspic;
– vinaigrette( a mix of beetroots, pickled cucumbers, onions);
– onions marinated in vinegar;
– a can of Baltic sprats on rye bread with onions;
– caviar on bread with butter;
– Russian meat salad with slices of meat or chicken, pickled cucumbers, green peas and mayonnaise (or sour cream)

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Russia (Russian: Россия, tr. Rossiya, pronounced [rɐˈsʲijə]), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is the largest country in the world, covering over 17,125,191 square kilometres (6,612,073 sq mi), and encompassing oneeighth of Earth's inhabitable landmass. Russia extends across eleven time zones, and has the most borders of any country in the world, with sixteen sovereign nations. It has a population of 146.2 million; and is the most populous country in Europe, and the ninthmost populous country in the world. Moscow, the capital, is the largest city entirely within Europe; while Saint Petersburg is the country's secondlargest city and cultural centre.
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