Second course on the Russian table is notorious for its diversity.
For the second course Russian usually have meat, mushroom or fish dishes; some of them are quite traditional, while some are borrowed from other cultures.
Kotletas (patties), roast meat, shashlyk (skewered meat roasted over a live fire - originally, this was a rather Armenian or Georgian dish), ham, gulyash, tushenka (canned stewed meat – beef or pork), aspic – these dishes are prepared from different kinds of meat, as well as fish and poultry.
Pelmeni is an especially noteworthy dish. It is present on the Russian table quite often. It vaguely resembles Italian ravioli, but has thicker dough and the filling is minced meat (beef and/or pork) or fish. The size of pelmeni varies from very tiny to rather big. It is considered a traditional Siberian dish, where it was brought by Mongols during the time of the invasion of Rus’. But it turns out that it is impossible to corroborate the authenticity of this legend. This high-calorie and nourishing dish is very tasty. Pelmeni are boiled in water with spices and are served with smetana. They are especially warming for lonely - and not very lonely - idlers on winter days and evenings. It is served either in pots with stock or separately.
Russians eat vareniki. They are like pelmeni, but can come with almost any kind of filling: mushrooms, potatoes, cheese, berries or fruits.
The main course is always served with a garnish:
Porridges: basically, not mushy, cooked in water with salt from buckwheat or rice.
Potatoes: mashed potatoes, fried potatoes or – everybody’s darling – French fries. They are in every restaurant and on every table.
Sour or fresh cabbage (sour cabbage can be both wet or stewed) – it can be a garnish to meat, poultry or fish served as the main course. As a second course it can be served as solianka: stewed fresh or sour cabbage with all kinds of ingredients: onions, carrots, tomatoes, olives, meat, mushrooms, sausages and whatever comes to the cook’s mind (or is found in the fridge).
Makarony is a dish that was borrowed and took root in the Russian kitchen. It resembles Italian pasta in terms of its variety of forms and sizes, as well as the time it takes to cook. The difference is, makarony are served as a garnish to meat or fish, not as a separate dish. It is sometimes seasoned with sauce (usually, tomato sauce) or grated cheese.