I look delightedly over my host’s perfectly executed Russian feast and tell her how gorgeous it is. There is pelmeni, there is sweet black bread, dimples of orange caviar, and fresh green vegetables.
“And what do we have here?” In the centre of the table there is a small dish with gloopy beige sauce, which my host identifies as garlic sauce. Expecting a lush tsatsiki, I dip my fork in and taste it. And almost wretch.
Let me preface this article by saying that I love Russian food and everything Russian, with the exception of condiments
There is a cornucopia of sauces in Russia, the most popular of which is sour cream. It seems sour cream arrives on every plate, from vareniki to pizza to Greek salad. It adorns most soups and takes up great swaths of space in the grocery store. The other popular dressing is mayonnaise. You can buy it anywhere, anytime, and in massive quantities. The greatest mayonnaise crime is surely the Salat Olivier- a congealed mess of potato, canned peas, pickle, eggs- a bastardized version of a Belgian recipe and French-sounding enough to make any French person renounce their citizenship.
Under the sour cream and mayonnaise umbrella there lies a number of dipping sauces and dressings. In my eternal search for an edible salad dressing or pleasant, complimentary dip in Russia, I have tasted them all. I will now share the results of my culinary journey. Let this be a cautionary tale for all of you.
From worst to best:
7. Zhinkina Krinka- Yantarniy
Enticingly described as Melted Cheese Product, Yantarniy’s packaging is nautical-themed. It has the consistency of medium-density tofu and a similar visual appeal. Yantarniy should be spread on things, and not, as the packaging suggests, swum in. What exactly it is supposed to compliment is not clear, we only know that Yantarniy exists as a food and we should accept that fact.
Because it surely does not exist for any reasons of taste. Even on strong Russian black bread it packs a powerful stale sunflower oil flavour with a soupçon of hair conditioner. My first thought was masla and Pantene. The aftertaste lingers for a regrettably long time and leaves your tonsils feeling coated, as if they are wearing a parka. Overall, Yantarniy might be an acceptable food in prison but in the democratic aisles of the produkti, just walk on by.
6. Astoria- Garlic Mayonnaise for Meat and Poultry
Astoria products are all attractively packaged and ambitiously-branded. This particular garlic mayonnaise smells good and garlicky. The fun stops there. Expecting a party in your mouth, you are instead assaulted by what tastes like garlic ice cream. It is so sweet, you won’t even need (or want, due to nausea) dessert.
5. Haas- Sweet Bavarian Mustard
Diabetic or not, take your insulin before consuming this.
4. Heinz: Cheese Sauce
Looks very black label, with its black label and snazzy pictures of potatoes. Tastes like 7-11 nacho cheese paired with cupfuls of corn syrup and also sunscreen.
3. Viola- Creamy Cheese
Not cream cheese, but creamy cheese. Not bad, not good but at least there’s no Pantene.
2. Skeet- Olive Mayonnaise
This olive mayonnaise tastes nothing like olives but has no sugar. Thank god.
1. Rostagpoeksport: Garlic Sour Cream
Everything you want in a garlic dip, flavourful, creamy and lovely. Buy this and never buy anything else.
Good luck out there!