Discussing Russian Cuisine: Solanka

There are all sorts of urban legends and misunderstandings about Russian food.  Unfortunately, most people think of potatoes and the beet-based soup “borscht” when they think of food from that part of the world.  What I don’t think is well understood is how good the food is in Russia, with just the most basic ingredients.  Today, I am going to talk about “solanka” (also spelled solyanka).

Wikipedia describes “solyanka” as a thick, spicy and sour soup.  I agree with everything, except the use of “sour”.  It has a tang to it, but I wouldn’t call it “sour”.  And I am reviewing this particular cuisine because, to be perfectly honest, it is the best tasting soup I have ever known.  When made, I eat multiple bowls of it in one sitting.  It is fantastic.

Of course, I’m certain it requires proper preparation to be good.   I have seen some solanka be very oily and that is something you want to avoid in its preparation.  You also want it to be slightly spicy, as Wikipedia describes.  If it isn’t, I think it could be suffer from a blandness.  Otherwise, it should be very difficult to spoil this “everything in the kitchen” soup.  Consider the ingredients:

Beef Sausage** Chicken Potatoes Black Olives**
Pickles Lemon* Tomatoes** Carrot Onion**
Bell Pepper Butter Bay Leaves* Oregano* Parsley *
Garlic* Salt* Pepper!    

* means important!   ** means critical to the taste!

I think it is the inclusion of the pickles and lemon that add to the supposed “sour” taste.  Again, I don’t find it sour, at all.  I do think there is a nice tang, though.  Some folks love to include some sour cream in it.  I don’t.  It dulls the tang and adds a sweetness I don’t desire in my soup.  But, for each, it is different.  In fact, I love the inclusion of green olives in my solanka!

Here is a link to a recipe for solanka.  In Russia, the soup is actually baked at some point.  Most people, to include me, don’t do the “baking” part just for the sake of time.  The baking will make the flavors come together even more.  Oh, and the solanka is always better, reheated, the day after you have made it.  Giving it that time to let the flavors continue to blend makes it an even better experience!

Cold winter days coming.  You can provide you and yours with a most incredible delicious, warming, hearty and filling meal in just this soup.  Just include some slices of your favorite bread and enjoy!

Published on October 29, 2014.

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