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What is that Russian Shchi About?
December 10, 2020 18:36

The national Russian dish of shchi is no other than a hot first course dish with on sauerkraut or fresh cabbage as its main ingredients. Cabbage soup has been cooked in Russia since time immemorial and has a super long history. While epochs, rulers, people and customs were changing, this thing remained unchanged – a hot and thick cabbage soup called shchi, sometimes lean based on mushrooms and vegetables, sometimes with meat or fish broth. For decades and centuries, it has been a regular meal for almost every Russian person. Shchi has been eaten by everyone, both young and old, tsars and peasants, both in poor huts and in merchant mansions.
The significance of this simple dish in the life of Russias was enormous, hence a large number of sayings on this topic: «Our Food is shchi and kasha», «Shchi is everything's head»; «Wherever cabbage soup is, there you'll find Russians».
Cabbage soup came to be cooked around the 11th century, when the Russian people found out all the nutritious properties of cabbage, and began to use it fresh and pickled in various dishes, both everyday and festive.
There are several versions regarding the origin of the word "Shchi". Some believe that it comes from the Old Russian "sto", meaning food, sustenance or "eat" - a liquid brew, a hot soup seasoned with cabbage, sorrel or other green vegetables. Others give preference to the version of its origin from the Slavic word "shavn", i.e. sorrel. There is even an assumption about the Danish roots of this word, the Danish word "ski» that is soup, broth. The spelling of the word "Shchi" is unique in the sense that it is a word of two Russian letters, whereas in order to spell it in other languages a few more letters are required.
In each specific region of Russia, cabbage soup was cooked in different ways, with the addition of original local ingredients. Only the cooking method remained the same for all: cabbage soup must be cooked in a cast iron pot and an earthen pot of the traditional Russian stove. Shchi was not boiled fast but simmered for quite some time so that it could acquire its rich and unique taste and aroma. The cabbage pot itself was a particularly revered household item: there were certain rites and spells for washing and using it.
Several main components in cabbage soup are as follows:
- Fresh cabbage or sauerkraut (or green leafy plants such as nettle, sorrel, and turnip);
-Meat, fish or mushrooms;
-Various roots (carrots, parsley);
-Spicy dressing (onions, celery roots, garlic, dill, bay leaf, pepper);
- Sour dressing (cabbage or apple pickle, sour cream, sour milk or yogurt).
Mandatory for any cabbage soup is a leafy mass (cabbage, sorrel, etc.) in combination with a sour dressing. Their main feature should be a piquant sourness, which is achieved by adding sauerkraut, pickle water, pickled mushrooms, sour apples, sour cream or sour milk in fresh cabbage soup. One of the peculiarities of Russian cuisine is that traditionally vegetables were not sauteed but boiled from raw in cabbage soup.
First of all, beef, fish or mushroom broth is boiled with carrots and parsley root and onions, fresh or fermented cabbage (which must be boiled separately and ready to add to the broth) or greens replacing it. When the vegetables are cooked and soft, add salt and spices.
Russian cabbage soup is seasoned with sour cream or yogurt, and eaten with famous Russian leaven rye bread.
Cabbage soup boasts a lot of positive properties that are typical for all vegetable dishes. Cabbage, both fermented (sauerkraut) and fresh, contains a large amount of fiber, minerals and vitamins. This easily digestible dish has beneficial influence on the work of the digestive system. Thanks to the presence of complex carbohydrates, it will satisfy your hunger and keep uou satiated for a long time. To top it all, authentic shchi can give you the taste of Russin cuisine as well as traditions and customs of Russia.


Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Cuisine National Russian Dishes Shchi   

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