My study program is highly international and I have friends from all over the world. It is fun to learn about different cultures and of course to try different cuisines. My friends organized a cinema club where we watch movies from different countries and eat some food which is traditional of that country. Last time it was my turn to organize a Russian movie night.
There are many great Russian dishes I could have gone for but I wanted something super quick and simple to make. I decided to introduce my friends to Russian “sandwiches”. It is called бутерброд in Russian (from German “butterbrot”- buttered bread). The main difference compared to a regular sandwich is that to make butterbrot you need just one piece of bread. There are numerous toppings you could go for but I settled on two very different common types of butterbrot. The first one is very basic with traditional bologna and cheese. This is the sandwich you would eat every day. The second is a traditional appetizer with caviar that is usually served at family gatherings and festive dinner tables. As you can guess from the name the true butterbrot should be made with butter.
One of the traditional types of bread in Russia is Borodinsky bread which is rye sourdough bread spiced with coriander and molasses. The bread is dark in color and has a very rich taste. This is the bread I used to make the “everyday” butterbrot with cheese and Doktorskaya bologna (“kolbasa”). It is a traditional sausage which was first introduced in USSR. This one is super simple – butter the bread, put the cheese and then top with bologna. This is the taste of childhood for many Russians.
For the second type of butterbrot I chose white baguette. Red caviar has a very strong taste and is enjoyed best in small quantities. The high price is probably another reason why caviar is something you would usually find at a festive table and rarely eat every day. The classic combination for this appetizer is small piece of buttered white bread topped with a teaspoon of caviar.
To make the Russian night complete we had a traditional beverage called kvas. It is made by fermenting bread (usually black or rye) which is what gives the drink its dark color. Due to the fermentation process kvas has a low (0.5%) alcohol content.
It was very interesting to see the reaction of my friends. Butterbrot with bologna seemed to be the favorite among everything they tried. It is super simple and less exotic. The caviar had very mixed reactions but everyone agreed that the taste is very strong.
As for the movie, we watched the soviet classic “The Cranes are Flying” from 1957 which won Palme d’Or. All in all, the Russian movie night was a success!