Taste of Russia: Sweet or Savory?

As soon as Japanese people hear that I’m from Russia, they start bombarding me with questions about the most common stereotypes about my country: Putin, vodka, severe climate, borsch, and of course, pirozhki. There are some shops and restaurants in Japan where you can buy and try this Russian snack, although the way it’s made is completely different from the original. First, the dough in Japan tastes to me like donuts when in fact it’s supposed to be yeast-leavened as in hotdogs and quite sweet as in Japanese milk bread. Russians say you may get to know one's character by tasting their pirozhki. If the dough is stiff, stale, dry, and not sweet enough, the baker is believed to be a heavy-handed, grumpy and unpleasant kind of person. If it's the opposite and the dough has a light, airy texture, I’d love to have this person as a friend and enjoy their pastries every weekend. Pirozhki take a whole day to be made, so when I was a child, we could enjoy them only on weekends when my mom didn’t work or when we went to visit our grandma. Pirozhki are either fried (the only version in Japan) or baked (the prevalent type). They come in sweet or savory varieties. Common savory fillings include ground meat, mashed potatoes, mushrooms, boiled egg with scallions and rice, or cabbage. Typical sweet fillings are fruit and berries (apple, cherry, blueberry, lingonberry, cranberry), jam, or quark (cottage cheese in Japan). Baked pirozhki may be glazed with egg to produce golden color. Also, they may be decorated with strips of dough. Pirozhki are usually hand-sized and depending on its shape you can guess the fillings. Triangular ones might come with fish or apples, boat shaped are with potato or cabbage and round ones are definitely sweet. A smaller version may be served with soups (to substitute bread).


‘Pirozhok’ is the diminutive form of Russian ‘pirog’, which means a full-sized pie. Pies tend to be baked for a big family or events. Russian weddings can’t be held without Karavai, a traditional bread loaf that is heavy on salt. The bride and groom are given the Karavai as a blessing before the wedding ceremony. They both take a bite and, as the superstition dictates, the one who takes the biggest bite will become the head of their future household.


I used to eat pirozhki as a snack at school and university. Parents usually give children some pocket money, so during recess you could go and buy some freshly baked pastries at a school cafeteria. To have one or two pirozhki with a cup of tea after hard studies is refreshing. Guess which one was my favorite filling of pirozhki? Let me know in the comments! Ekaterina Belousova

Vocabulary:

Bombard - (質問や要求などを浴びせて人を) 攻める、苦しめる

Bride - 花嫁、新婦

Diminutive - 小さい、ちっぽけな、指小の、小型の、小形の、小柄の

Dough - (パン・ピザ・ケーキなど) 生地、練り粉

Filling - {料理} (サイドイッチなどの) 具

Groom - 花婿、新郎

Ground meat - ひき肉

Grumpy - (人が) 不機嫌な、機嫌の悪い、イライラした、気難しい

Heavy-handed - (行為・手段などが) 手荒な、強引な、強圧な、高圧的な、圧制的な

Household - 家族、家庭、一家、世帯、所帯

Lingonberry - コケモモ

Prevalent - (ある場所・期間・世代・集団などにおいて) 広まっている、広く行き渡っている、流行

Quark - ドイツ・オランダ・イギリスで製造されるフレッシュチーズ。フロマージュ・フレとよく似ている

Recess - 休み、休憩(時間)、休み時間、休暇

Savory - (料理の味) ピリッとした

Scallion - (タマネギに似た) エシャロット、リーク

Severe - (天気などが) 厳しい、極端な

Stale - (パンなどが乾燥して) 硬くなった

Stiff - (物が) 堅い、固い、こわばった、ゴワゴワする

Strips - 細長い切れ、細長い一片

Substitute - 代わりの物 (人)、代用品、代替、補欠

Superstition - (不合理な) 迷信、盲信

Yeast-leavened - イースト発酵させた

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