With the Winter Olympics taking place in Sochi this year, it's a great opportunity to learn more about classic Russian cuisine! Today, we're looking at great Russian appetizers, street foods, and other snacks you might not know about. (Though, as you might expect, many of these dishes also have strong ties to Ukraine and other Eastern European countries too!) From blini to vareniki, there's all kinds of new snacks to get the culinary explorer in anyone excited!

Savory Mushroom Pirozhki from Melangery

Savory Mushroom Pirozhki from Melangery

Pirozhki are small, baked or fried Russian pastries that contain sweet or savory fillings. Typical savory options include beef, salmon, mashed potatoes, or mushrooms. For a sweet option, fresh fruit, jams, and sweetened cottage cheese are all great choices.

Pork Skewers (Shashlik) from Natasha's Kitchen

Pork Skewers (Shashlik) from Natasha's Kitchen

Shashlik is essentially just a shish kabob! These are a very popular street food all over the world, and is traditionally cooked over an open flame, outdoors (just like barbecues in America!)

Gravlax with Blinis from Saveur Magazine

Gravlax with Blinis from Saveur Magazine

Blini are close cousins to crepes, though they do have slight differences. Traditional Russian-style blinis are made with yeast, and therefore do rise and have more weight to them than crepes. They can be baked or fried, and are also commonly found sweet or savory.  You can enjoy them with anything from fruit & cheese to smoked salmon & caviar!

Olivier Potato Salad from Food52

Olivier Potato Salad from Food52

Olivier Salad is a classic, traditional Russian dish to serve at any kind of party or holiday function! Commonly, it is a potato salad that can include hard-boiled eggs, capers, green peas, cucumbers, and any variety of cold meats such as shredded chicken, ham, or fish!

Turkey Chebureki from Natasha's Kitchen

Turkey Chebureki from Natasha's Kitchen

Chiburekki (or chebureki) is very popular in Eastern Europe! It is a crispy fried turnover made from one piece of dough that is filled and then folded over. The most traditional filling is minced meat and onions!

Fluffy & Healthy Cottage Cheese Pancakes from The Chic Brulee

Fluffy & Healthy Cottage Cheese Pancakes from The Chic Brulee

Syrniki are fried quark (aka cottage cheese or curd) pancakes that are often garnished with cheeses, sour cream, or served simply with a drizzle of honey or jam. The outside is typically crisped lightly, and the inside is slightly creamy. Feel free to try them out for breakfast or dessert!

Russian Chicken Pelmeni from Natasha's Kitchen

Russian Chicken Pelmeni from Natasha's Kitchen

Pelmeni are thin-skinned dumplings, very similar to Ukranian vareniki or Polish pierogies (and even to Chinese jiaozi or Korean mandu). The primary difference between them is that Pelmeni dumpling skins are made to be as thin as possible, emphasizing the savory fillings instead. Typically, you'll find minced meat-filled pelmeni, but mushroom or fish fillings are fairly popular too.

Russian Meat Patties (Kotlety) from My Delicious Meals

Russian Meat Patties (Kotlety) from My Delicious Meals

Kotleti (or kotlety) are essentially seasoned ground meats formed into small cutlets, similar to Salisbury Steak or meatballs! Feel free to serve them in a more traditionally Russian way, with mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, or pasta, or in between two slices of bread with tomato and lettuce like a burger! It's delicious either way.

Pierogi and Kielbasa from How To Simplify

Pierogi and Kielbasa from How To Simplify

While Kielbasa and Pierogi are Polish in origin, they are still very popular dishes throughout many parts of Eastern Europe. Pierogi are very similar to Russian Pelmeni, though the method for making them is slightly different, as pierogi are typically made in a 2-step process, first being boiled, then baked or fried. Kielbasa (and its Russian variant, Kolbasa, which is generally more salami-like) is  very commonly eaten and served in Russia too.

Apricot and Walnut Vareniki from Smitten Kitchen

Apricot and Walnut Vareniki from Smitten Kitchen

Varenyky (or vareniki) are a Ukranian variant of Russian pelmeni that are very popular in both countries! Varnyky have a slightly thicker dough and served drizzled with a bit of oil or butter after they are made. "Lazy varenyky" is also popular, which is unfilled varenyky dough shaped into small dumplings and boiled, like gnocchi! Try this sweet variation on varenyky from Smitten Kitchen at home this weekend!