Monday, October 26, 2015

Ossetian Food: The Top 5 Must-Eat in Vladikavkaz

"I may never have the opportunity to try this food again!" gives you the right to eat as often and as much as you want- as long as it's local.   -Samantha's rules for traveling

Caucasian food in general is known across Russia as some of the most flavorful, varied, and difficult to make. It could be loosely compared to the popularity and attitude towards, maybe, Indian food in the United States. Ossetia is no exception to great cuisine!
You can't miss the local specialties in Vladikavkaz that are difficult to find in the rest of Russia (and nearly impossible to find in the rest of the world).

1. Shashlik
The classic, of course, is shashlik- found throughout the region. Each nation put their own spin on the shish kebab-like dish. The most important part of shashlik is the act of actually making it. Usually people make a day of it, and it is a great opportunity to go up into the mountains and spend quality time with locals cooking you lunch! Snack of beer or homemade wine, smoked cheese, vobla (dried fish), or crackers while the shashlik is being prepared, and pair the meat with a bowl of tomatoes, cucumber, and dill for the full Caucasian barbecue experience!

shashlik cooking on a mangal grill

A guide to shashlik-mashlik.

2. Pirogí/ Пироги

A fresh, juicy tsaharadjin pirog-
beet root leaves and cheese
(note the accent is on the i- not to be confused with the Polish pierogi or the Russian pirozhki).

A pirog is a circular "pie" stuffed with various savory fillings, usually including Ossetian cheese.

"For Ossetians these pies mean much more than just simple, festive food. The round shape of this pie signifies the universe; and the hole in the middle is the creator. Ossetians put three pies on the table, one for each of the three elements: air, water and earth." -
(also explains the different types well at the end of the article)

 Often, a table is set with three pirogi in reference to the Holy Trinity. The full sized pies are so massive it's hard to finish one by yourself, so grab some friends and pop into one of the many restaurants serving traditional Ossetian food! Alternatively, many bakeries sell pirogi, and often they have a smaller 'personal pan' size. The general consensus is that the best spot for pirogi in Vladikavkaz is called Tri Piroga (3 pirogi), on the corner of Ul. Markusa and Ul. Kirova- they even have a website!

Tri Piroga storefront sign
no clue what kind of leaf that garnish is
3. Dzykka 

Next, we have dzykka. I ordered this because in my frantic searching for Ossetian cuisine before I went, it came across my radar. It's a sour, sticky porridge made of sour cream (or cream) and wheat or corn flour. The first bite was gooey and hot, sticking to the roof of my mouth and feeling like I was eating gobs of unflavored peanut butter, or sour is very heavy. This seems like a breakfast a farmer would eat before several hours of working in the fields. Not a great side dish. A few days later, however, I found myself craving dzykka's hearty warmth- this is the pinnacle of Ossetian comfort food. 

4. Lula Kebab

This is probably the most famous "Caucasian" meat dish. If you're looking for meat, go for this close cousin of shashlik, traditionally made with lamb.
served here in a bread bowl with a spicy, tangy adjika sauc

More info on the kebab here

5. Local Beer 
Ossetian beer (bæegæny) is widely considered to be especially delicious. Unlike its southern neighbor, Georgia, which claims the longest unbroken tradition of wine making in the world, Ossetians focus more on the hops. Be sure to check out some local breweries!

traditional style drinking vessel

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