Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Russians in statistics and gherkins

Ever wondered what lurks behind the ubiquitous banner of 'Eastern-European products' above some Cyrillic looking but mainly Asian shops around the capital? My findings in pictures:

Russians are as famous for drinking vodka three times a day, as for walking bears as pets and eating pickles as staple food. But as opposed to Indian cucumber pickles, which are normally made out of long and smooth varieties sliced into slick rounds, Russians would not dare to use anything but the little, prickly type - as above. Acclimatisation of Russians in the UK is particularly troublesome therefore, as one would not find this type anywhere in Britain. Hence my heart lipped the other day when I came across a modest box of wrinkled gherkins, in a gleaming beauty of all-import Eastern-European shop called 'Smak' in the otherwise Ottoman vicinity of Green Lanes.

'Corned bird - Eastern variety'
Corned meats were particularly popular with the Soviet folk, not only as a useful staple taken to camps (pioneer type, not the concentration, although the latter most probably too), but often stirred into noddles to make vermishelli po-flotski, noodles a la navy (presumably because the dish was easily assembled on ships and boats across the USSR). The dish is a Soviet equivalent to the Shepperd's Pie, and as such much loved by kids everywhere in the 1/6th of the universe.
Clearly the 'bird' variety is a more exquisite offer, more appropriate for the Russian emigree.

'Sunflower seeds - selected'
Called 'Amusement' - one almost wonders if the healthy snack is used to sell other, less virtuous, and slightly less legal seeds. A London equivalent to an Amsterdam coffee shop!

'Male jam'
No jocking, this is an exact translation. If you think this is some kind of alternative medicine to treat 'male problems', you are understandably, but seriously mistaken. This is a Russian alternative to a 'Gentleman's Relish', essentially a tomato marinate or a sauce aimed specifically at men. I have not tasted this delicacy, but assume it has some chilly, less sugar and is quite chunky - this is what a real man is like of course.


Anonymous said...

thank you for this recollection of our trip to the "amuzement shop". I've tried the herbs I bought as tea, very bitter but am still alive

kelsie and mel said...

what a treasure trove of food delights. i had a similar experience yesterday in a mexican store. my favorite find was tamarind candy flavored with habanero chili powder. think sweet and sour and hot all hitting you at the same time.

would love to go to a market with you and maybe even cook something?

Katrina said...

market? cooking?! just say when!:)