18 | Jul | 17

Hugh Thomas

From Russia With Love

If you want to eat on the street in Russia, you have to be brave. Traders don aprons over their ski jackets. Customers warm their faces in the steam put up by deep fat fryers. Visitors not used to the bitterness clutch polystyrene cups of tea and condensed milk. But, as the organisers of the European Street Food Awards, it’s written into our job description.

Those who do come out for the food are rewarded. Russia’s favourite street food is the blini (a kind of crepe). It’s everywhere, and is filled with everything. From mushrooms, to cream and jam, to salmon mousse, to cheese, to caviar. There’s pirozhki, which sounds like the Polish pierogi, but is closer to the Cornish pasty (still with us?): pastries filled with chopped meat, vegetables, or fruit, then baked or fried. Doner kebabs and loaded baked potatoes are common sights, too.

Then, only a few years ago, the modern street food movement not only threw the doors open, but went ahead and blew them off. Dary Prirody and their shiny Airstream came about 2012, slinging whatever they damn well liked. Seeing as they were (arguably) the first ones on the scene, they were at liberty to. Then came along the likes of Durum-Durum and their chicken and lamb wraps; The Burger Brothers and their guess what; and Pie Point, eager to offer up their ornate little meat, gravy, ‘n’ pastry parcels, each flagpoled with a toothpick and the Union Jack.

What was once the workman’s lunch is – in St. Petersburg, Moscow, et al – starting to become so much more. The time is ripe to help put what the Russians get up to on the streets firmly on the map. That’s why we’re joining forces with Sreda, who run the Kaliningrad Street Food Weekend, to find the best that’s out there. They’ll be hosting the Russian heat of the European Street Food Awards and destined to make Europe – and the rest of the world – sit up and listen.