Russian Barbecue Tips
Need some barbecue tips? Well, why don't you pamper yourself with the real Russian shashlik?
Shashlik is a dish with quite a history. Born in Asia, it spread throughout the entire Russian Empire. Later, it survived the Bolshevik revolution and became the top choice of the Soviet people. Why? Because it simple, nourishing and most of all - it's dellllllicious!!
Want to learn how it's done? Need some advice on how to behave when your Russian friends invite you over?
Well, what are we waiting for? Let's start!
What is shashlik?
Basically, shashlik are pieces of marinated meat on a skewer, roasted on a blazing charcoal. It's a Russian version of barbecue, and these days some people even make it the American way - on the grill.
Personally, I prefer the more traditional one - and if you ask me for barbecue tips, that's the first thing you'll hear. Meat must be roasted on skewers - end of story!
Shashlik's history is long and vague. We know it's been a main dish of people in Central Asia for centuries. They called it "shish kebab", and mainly used lamb meat. Plus, the skewers were their invention.
From there, shashlik gradually spread to all parts of the Russian Empire, including Moscow.
It first appeared in our city in the 19th century, and was one of the few dishes to survive the Bolshevik revolution unharmed.
And it didn't just survive - it became a "star". Every Soviet citizen knew the basic shashlik barbecue tips, and every Summer weekend thousands of families got out of Moscow to roast some meat and have a great time.
Many variations of shashlik have appeared. Today, it's not just lamb. It can be pork, chicken, fish and even beef - although beef is slightly hard. Plus, many different spices and kinds of sauce are available.
The choice is yours!
What is shashlik's recipe?
OK, so here's a recipe and barbecue tips from my mother-in-law Svetlana.
Well, first of all you'll need meat. Lots of meat - at least a couple of kilos. The more - the merrier!
I recommend gammon or chicken breasts, but if you wish to get traditional - choose lamb. After all, that's how they did it hundreds of years ago - and who are we to argue with the Asian barbecue tips and tradition!
It's best to buy fresh meat that's never been frozen. Otherwise, you'll spoil the taste!
- Slice the meat to even pieces (see the photo to get the idea about the size).
- Alright, the next thing you need is onion. Take approx. 2 pieces per kilo, and cut them to nice onion rings.
- Mix the onion rings with the meat, add salt and shashlik spices. If you can't find them - curry will do just fine. Haven't got curry? Use black pepper, it's good as well.
- Now it's time for marinade. Take water and lemon juice in even portions, and mix them. Pour the marinade into the meat, stop at approximately 2 cm before the top.
- Cover the meat with a plate, and put something heavy on it, like a jar filled with water. Leave the meat for a couple of hours. One of important barbecue tips is to make the meat soft - and that's exactly what we're doing.
- That's it, you're done! Now all you have to do is put the meat on a skewer, and roast it slowly right above the charcoal. Turn the skewers slowly once the side below is ready.
Don't roast too much - if you think it's ready - try it. You can always put it back!
Watch out for fires - they will pop here and there. We need to roast the meat, not burn it, so put them out at once with water at once. One more tip from my barbecue tips collection - use beer or white wine instead of water - and shashlik will taste great!
When is the right time to make shashlik? Where is it eaten?
Ok, here goes one of shashlik barbecue tips - it's the right time to make shashlik when you have a good company, a couple of good jokes and a nice weather to spend some time outside.
Shashlik is very "social" - it's not the meal that counts, it's the atmosphere! Never, ever make it alone. Call your friends, gather your relatives, bring as much people as you possibly can.
Don't worry if you aren't that familiar with some - you will be by the end of the evening!
If someone around knows to sing and play the guitar - that's gorgeous! Nothing brings people closer than sitting around the campfire, eating and singing quiet songs from old Russian movies.
One of important shashlik barbecue tips is that it's great for all kinds of events - birthdays, graduation parties - even weddings! Now, I don't mean you'll roast the meat right in the "Wedding palace" - but why not get together again a couple of days later to celebrate it in a more intimate way?
And of course, it's best to eat shashlik at the open air. Russian dacha is an ideal place for that.
Fresh air stimulates the appetite - and brings the people closer. That's how our ancestors used to do - gather around the fire, fry the meat and talk to each other.
Guess what - it still works!
Should you eat one in restaurant?
I think it's best to make your own shashlik, and share it with your friends and loved ones - one of the great barbecue tips of all times. However, we don't always have the chance to go out of Moscow, right? In that case, the restaurant remains your only option.
If you want to eat it in restaurant - make sure it's a good one. Don't settle for "quick and dirty" roadside cafes that open in millions in summer, find something worthy.
I'd recommend "Rahat-Lukum" - they are professionals in shashlik. Plus, you can check out their other meat dishes - they're fantastic!
There are many good restaurants in Moscow that'll serve you shashlik. If you're dying to have one - even "Moo-Moo" will do!
Don't be in a rush, though. On of important shashlik barbecue tips is that it's better to wait and enjoy fully than to have a non-tasty shashlik and lose the interest to it forever!
What do you eat and drink with shashlik?
All kinds of stuff. After all, fried meat goes well with everything - there aren't any special barbecue tips for garnishes!
We eat shashlik with fresh vegetables, ketchup, and delicious Georgian bread called "lavash". Plus, we sometimes make different salads.
You can add any garnishes you like. For example, shashlik goes great with potatoes - either fried or baked. Pasta is good - almost all kinds of it.
Remember one of the important Russian barbecue tips - keep it simple. Shashlik is not complicated, so keep it that way. It's not meant to be complex.
Soups are great as well. Note we don't usually make soups before we roast shashlik, but if there's lots of it left the day after - we store it in the fridge and use it as the main dish.
In that case, it's the same home food as everything else, so why not precede it with a plate of hot, delicious broth?
Same goes for the drinks. Get whatever you like - you are the only one that decides. Some like beer, others prefer wine. My personal favorite is juice - or water, if there aren't any juices around.
Just remember to always keep it simple - don't go too far thinking about complicated stuff. The simpler - the better!
Where is it better to buy meat for shashlik?
Another one of shashlik barbecue tips is that I don't advise you to do that on your own - there are just too many small things you have to know. Ask your experienced Russian friends to do that, otherwise you may end up buying the wrong meat.
If you really, really have to buy it yourself - here's a couple of tips.
- Buy on the street markets. As a rule of thumb, it's better to buy the meat on the street markets. Department stores meat is usually frozen and way too expensive, whereas the markets often offer you fresh meat that's never been in the freezer.
- Check the meat well. It must be fresh, without too much fat and bones. Again - DO NOT buy frozen meat - it'll ruin the taste completely.
- Take someone with you. If your friends aren't willing to do the dirty job - maybe they'll agree to go with you?
How to behave when you've been invited for shashlik?
First thing you do is you agree. If people invite you over for shashlik - it means they really like you. Remember I said you invite your friends and loved ones? Well, that's the case!
Sure, Russians can invite someone they don't quite know, but they'd never call up anyone they don't like - that's one of the most important Russian barbecue tips!
Don't decline unless you have a very good reason to. First, you may insult the hosts. Second, you'll miss a great chance to make Russian friends. Third, if you're into studying Russian language and culture - there's no better time than now!
Once you're there, just be natural. You don't have to speak Russian - people in Moscow have an excellent communicative skills - especially after couple of bottles of beer But - if there's someone who speaks at least some English - you're golden.
Be ready to draw lots of attention - at least in the beginning. There are lots of tourists in Moscow, but they don't often visit Russian parties. People will ask you a lot of stuff, it may sound funny and sometimes silly, so have patience. Take your time, enjoy the evening and most important - be yourself.
Remember - this is not a test. You're here for your enjoyment, so relax and have fun.
Looking for romance? Well, shashlik is the place! Look around, do you see any single girls? You do? Well, go for it! Approach her, start the talking - and who knows? She may very well become your wife one day!
Keep your eyes open!
Should I bring anything with me?
I think it's best if you brought some alcohol. Beer, wine, vodka - check with hosts, and they'll let you know what they need.
We've talked it's no use to try and buy the meat, and you don't really need other stuff, so I think it's best to buy the "booze". Again, try to find out what the people need. It's easy, really. Just ask.
Still not sure? Well, in that case shashlik barbecue tips tell us to use the "gut-feeling". I'd say the best "default choice" is red wine. Hard to miss - I can't imagine a company that would refuse to drink it.
These days, the wine is sold in tons in every retail store. You can settle for any good wine you'll see. Look out for Spanish, Chilean and Portuguese - they are good and inexpensive.
Oh, one more thing. Don't buy bottled wine. You'll pay more for less. Instead, watch out for carton, 2 liters boxes. Don't let the simple packing scare you - the wine's the same, but it's lighter, easier to carry - and costs less.
...as the Russian ad goes - "why pay more if there's no difference?"
Do I have to be Russian to go?
No, no, no! You can be German ,French, American, Chinese or Korean - it's not the nationality that counts, it's the personality that does the trick!
If you're open and nice to people, if you're flowing with the situation - it doesn't really matter where you were born.
I'd say Russian shashlik is the incarnation of Martin Luther King's dream - everyone is judged by his character, not by the skin color.
After all, did you know that Pushkin was black?
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