Here, Eat This

Eating Through the Eastern Bloc in Houston

When people think about food from the former Soviet Union, the first two ingredients that come to mind are dill and sour cream. But there is much more to the diverse cuisines of the USSR and former Soviet Satellites and Houston has the Russian, Polish, Czech and Bosnian eateries to prove it.

Let's start with the big one: Russia. Though there aren't any great Russian tea rooms in Houston to try, there are a couple of groceries. Golden Grain, the less sad of the two, offers a selection of handmade pelmeni (meat dumplings) and Ukrainian vareniki stuffed with creamy potato or savory cabbage fillings. The dumplings come in Ziploc bags, which is how you know they are going to be excellent. There are also in-house baked goods including Russian pies with sweet and savory fillings that are worth a try.

The store also offers Russian mayonnaise made with sunflower seed oil -- a delicacy worth trying -- and even frozen oblipikha (sea buckthorn) berries that are used in a long list of Russian remedies for everything from colds to itchy skin. One of the few things you can't find in either store is Crimean wine, but Golden Grain does stock the sweet Russian champagne Sovetskoye.

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Catherine Gillespie