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Natonal soups

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Shchi - cabbage soup

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McDonalds in Russia

Shchi (or schi) – Russian national cabbage soup


1 Introduction

2 Ingredients and cooking technology

3 Yadrenye shchi

4 Name of the dish shchi

5 How and where to taste original Russian shchi

6 How to bring shchi from Russia


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If a foreigner hear the phrase: "Russian soup", then he will think about borscht first of all. It is obvious, because borscht is famous because of its unusual red color. In fact, the Russian national soup number one is shchi. Shchi have been the most widespread soup in our country for thousand years. There is a Russian proverb that says, “Our food is shchi and kasha”, that proves this fact.

Historians presume shchi appeared in Russia in the 9th century, when cabbage came from the Byzantine Empire. Most probably, the dish has been common for Russian people before, because cabbage is not a necessary ingredient for this soup.

There are many sorts of shchi in Russia. If there is meat inside, then shchi will be called “bogatye” (“rich”) or “polnye” (“full”). If there is no meat, then it will be called “pustye” (“empty”), “hudye” (“lean”) or “bednye” (“poor”). The name depends on a region of Russia. The combination of “bogatye” and “pustye” are commonly used in Moscow region.

Such a variety is convenient, because you can eat shchi in ordinary days and while fasting. The dish is the same, and only the list of ingredients is different.

Ingredients and cooking technology

Another convenience of shchi is a simple cooking technology. At first, need to cook meat and bouillon; meat should be boiled for 3 hours if it is beef or lamb and 1 hour if it is pork or chicken. Then, other vegetables should be added. After 30 minutes of boiling this mix, shchi are ready. The list of additional vegetables is not strict, usually we use something we have inside the refrigerator – carrot, potato, onion, tomato.

The most widespread base ingredient for this dish is sour cabbage, but it is not necessary. Shchi can be also cooked of fresh cabbage, sorrel or nettle (see photo on the left). These three types of soup are called “letnye” (“summer”) shchi, because the ingredients available in Russia only in summer.

Some sources on the internet say spinach is spread in Russia as a base ingredient. Of course, it is possible to use this plant, but spinach is not popular in Russia and most of Russians never tasted such shchi in their life. We may surely call this sort as exotic for us.

There is another old recipe of shchi made of “gray cabbage". Not all the parts of a cabbage-head are usually used as a foodstuff for humans; outer leaves are not often used. In Russia, we call an outer cabbage leaves with the phrase “gray cabbage".

This recipe is old and was popular when common people in Russia were much poorer. In the old times floor was added to this dish to increase the density, but this method is forgotten nowadays. You may see something with a white color inside in photos; it is sour cream – the traditional sauce for this soup.

We Russians eat every soup with bread together. Black rye bread is the best choice for shchi. See our small gallery of photos below.

Yadrenye shchi

You can hear the word “yadrenyj” in Russia sometimes. The word is very hard to translate, because there are no words with the exact same meaning in English language. We will try to provide you with the definition. Yadrenyj – means food with very strong sour, bitter or spicy taste. But, if some a dish is very sweet, then it will never be called “yadrenyj”.

If shchi are frozen, then its sour taste will become stronger after defrosting. That is why this soup is called “yadrenye” in case of defrosted.

In the old Russia in the winter time, shchi were often frozen. If somebody departed for a long voyage in winter, then it would be a good idea to take this frozen soup.

Many of foodstuffs were stored in a frozen condition in winter. Can you imagine the situation you are chopping a soup with an axe? It was common in the old Russia.

Name of the dish shchi

The word “shchi” is plural because it ends with “i:” sound. For example, pelmeni, vareniki or syrniki end with “i:”. But, let us think, what a word is singular? Is it “shch”? There is no such word in the Russian language; it is the single Russian letter. The word “shchi” is able to be only plural.

The letter “shch” (Rus. “Щ”) and this sound is rare in the world, and it often have no similar sounds in other European languages. If you want to learn to articulate this sound, it will be easy. The first sound in the English word "sugar" is almost the same as Russian sound "shch".

Some Russian people call shchi made of sour cabbage as “sour shchi”, but it is not correct. Sour shchi is a beverage very close to kvass, not a soup at all.

The beverage is already gone into history, but heritage left. There is the expression “Professor of sour shchi” in the modern Russian language. If some person tries to show himself an expert, but, in fact, he is not competent, we will call him with this phrase.

How and where to taste original Russian shchi

The better way is to visit a restaurant with Russian cuisine; shchi must be in the menu in such place. You may taste it in some national fast-foods, but this dish is not available all the time in such places. These fast-foods change its list of dishes very often.

In ancient Russia, all the people ate shchi mostly every day. Everybody - from poor peasant to landlord. The tradition is the same outside a large city nowadays. In Moscow and Sankt-Petersburg, people usually eat this soup one or two times in a month. Do not amaze if you will not find this dish in a delicatessen department of a supermarket.

How to bring shchi from Russia

Unfortunately, canned shchi are not available, and we do not know the reason. If your desire to take the soup from Russia is strong, then we will recommend to bring sour cabbage and cook shchi by yourself, it is easier.

Food companies try to introduce the frozen shchi to the market, but we do not remember any successful experience. These products appear on the shelves and disappear after one or two weeks of low sales. If you find this product while you travel to Russia, you will feel yourself as a fortunate person. If so, you can take it, and do not worry about defrosting, nothing bad will not happen.

We hope Russians soup will give you a bright experience. Try our other articles about Russia and its cuisine (list of links may be found below and on the left from the main text).

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Alexander Gladyshev

Grey shchi are still very popular in Chagoda district,Vologda oblast, Russia. An unusual festival, dedicated to one of the most famous Russian dishes – grеy shchi will be held on 28th August 2015 in the village of Pustyn Chagoda district, Vologda oblast, Russia. You are welcome!
Alex - site admin

Thanks for information, I`m sure it will be useful

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