Zakuski (закуски), the plural form of the Russian word for "appetizers" (zakuska (закуска) is singular), loosely translates as "little bites" and they are meant to soften the effects of the iced vodka or other strong potables they are served with. A zakuski spread is presented buffet-style on a table known as a zakusochnyi stol and is indispensable before a formal meal or on holidays.
The most common zakuski spreads might feature a few simple items, such as herring, cheese, and bread, or more elaborate dishes that number 20 or more.
01 of 07
Salads like the Russian herring under a fur coat salad are an indispensable part of the zakuski table and might include a simple vinaigrette salad (bинегрет), pickled cucumbers, beets, tomatoes, onions, and cabbage, stuffed eggs, cheese, and bread. But there are more elaborate offerings:
02 of 07
03 of 07
No Russian appetizer spread would be complete without caviar, herring, lox, fried smelts with onion and lemon, eel, and squid. Many Russian recipes are similar to Polish and Ukrainian recipes featuring brined and cured fish.
04 of 07
Russians celebrate flour in its many forms including the popular dumplings, savory strudels, pancakes, and more.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Soup takes pride of place in Russia and now that slow cookers are common, they can be kept warm and often appear on a zakuski spread. There are thousands of variations on one type of soup, but these are very typical.
06 of 07
Russians don't live by bread, potatoes, and vodka alone but, if push came to shove, they could. Rye, pumpernickel, black, and seeded bread hold sway.
- Russian Sourdough Rye Bread (закваска ржаной хлеб—zakvaska rzhanoy khleb)
- Russian Easter Bread (кулич—kulich)
- Russian/Georgian Acharuli Khachapuri Cheese Bread Recipe (ахарули хачапури)
07 of 07
The whole purpose of zakuski is to lessen the effects of potent drinks like vodka and Champagne. Some prefer to go the non-alcoholic route with tea, coffee, a non-alcoholic bread beer drink known as kvas, fruit compotes, juice, and kefir.