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Salad Olivier – A Russian Delicacy  

Salad Olivier, a Russian origin salad is composed of meat pieces, vegetables and diced potatoes all bound together in mayonnaise. Some also call it Russian salad but the phrase Russian salad is basically used to describe the vinaigrette salad. The earliest version of this salad was created in the year 1860. The inventor of this specific salad was Lucien Olivier. He was the chef in one of the Moscow’s renowned restaurants. Within few days it became the signature dish of the restaurant due to its immense popularity among the restaurant’s regulars. The original recipe was a well guarded secret but it basically consisted of veal tongue, lettuce, capers, grouse, caviar, crayfish tails and smoked duck. The seasonal variations are possible in the recipe.

The dressing on the other hand composed of Provencal olive-oil, mustard, French-wine vinegar and mayonnaise. The exact recipe is not known till date. During 20th century, a colleague of Lucien Olivier tried to steal Olivier’s recipe. Olivier was preparing the dish’s dressing according to his custom in the evening. Suddenly he got the call and went to attend it. At the same time the chef named Ivanov went into his kitchen and examined the contents of the recipe. He made the assumption though not completely about the dish’s dressing and started working with another restaurant. As the restaurant was not very famous so he started to prepare and serve the similar kind of salad called The Capital Salad. The food enthusiasts at once rejected it saying that it’s missing something.

They pointed out that the quality of the salad was inferior to the original Olivier’s salad. The recipe was also distributed to the publishing houses of that time by Ivanov. This contributed towards the popularity of the dish even more. But after the closing of the restaurant in the year 1905, Olivier also left Russia. But the salad Olivier remains there. In 1894, the recipe of the salad also appeared in the printed format. It was written by Aleksandrova. The recipe consisted of hazel grouse, small cucumber or cornichon, crawfish tail, capers, potatoes, lettuce leaves, cubed aspic and olives. It was served with Provencal dressing. Though initially some expensive, seasonal and rare ingredients were used but they got replaced with the cheaper and readily available items with time. So, the present version of the dish is entirely different from the original one.

The traditional version of the salad included fish, tongue, ham or any type of cold meat. During 20th century some variations took place with the addition of the vegetables, sausage, truffles, lobster meat and pickled tongue. These were garnished with anchovy fillets and capers. Aspic was also used in some of the variants. Today it’s made of boiled vegetables and mayonnaise and is served with a specific sausage. The recent version consisted of smoked or boiled chicken is known as Stolichny salad. Though various other similar types of salads came into existence but the Oliver salad and the Stolichny salad remain at the top positions. These two versions are the most famous in the entire world. The recent popular version contains the bologna or boiled chicken/beef, carrots, eggs, dill pickles and boiled potatoes dressed with the mayonnaise. This is basically an Ivanov’s salad version not of the actual creator Olivier’s.

This was the main food item of the holiday dinners in the Soviet Russia. On the special occasions like New Year they always include it in the dinner’s menu along with the Moroccan Tangerine and Soviet Champagne. The main reason behind this is the availability of the ingredients in the winters. In the presence of various exotic food items in the Russian market its popularity has not got down at all. The salad is still the most popular dish for the celebration of the New Year in the Russian houses. Some basic and most essential ingredients include the mayonnaise, cold meat, potatoes, pickled cucumbers and peas while the optional ones consists of onions, cucumbers and carrots.

One can find it commonly in Greece, Macedonia and Bulgaria under the different names like Ruska salata means the Russian salad. In Macedonia, the salad generally consists of ham, salami, pickles, peas, carrots and potatoes. In Greece they don’t add meat to it. In Iran the popular version of this salad consists of the chicken instead of other types of meats. The Spanish version having some French influence comprises of mayonnaise, potato, green olives, and roasted strips of red pepper, peas, eggs, canned tuna and carrots. In turkey also it’s popularly called Rus Salastasi or Amerikan Salatasi. This version includes the mayonnaise, boiled peas, cucumber pickles, boiled potatoes and carrots. The salad is decorated with the beet-root pickles, black olives, sliced and boiled eggs. It’s often served as a meze or as salad filled sandwich.

Various cafes or delis in the Eastern Europe offer a complete range of the Olivier-styled salads. These salads range from gourmet to passable. In addition to this various truck stops, convenience stores and cafeterias sell these in a packaged form basically consisted of the low quality ingredients and cheap dressing. These differ greatly from the original and the authentic salad. These can’t compete with the traditional or even the recent classic version of the Olivier salad. These are just the ordinary prepackaged food items. On the other hand, the locally made salad versions often consist of the home grown food items lacking the use of the basic ingredients of the recipe. So these local versions in any way don’t signify the true Olivier salad.

The Belgium version of this salad is specifically made in Malmedy’s Ardennes region. In this region and various other municipalities the Walloon variant of the salad is served especially during carnival season. The recipes comprises of apples, celeriac, red beets, vinegar herrings and potatoes. This salad doesn’t resemble the original Olivier salad at all in fact it’s associated with a modern Russian cuisine called dressed herring. The only difference between these two is regarding the layering of the ingredients. Dressed herring usually consists of the chopped onions, mayonnaise and boiled vegetables including beat roots, carrots and salad. The outer layer consists of the mayonnaise coated boiled red-beets. So, it gives the salad a distinctive appearance. This dish is also very popular among the Russia and various other countries.

Though, it’s a Russian cuisine so they mostly have it on every auspicious occasion without fail. They celebrate with their families and friends and offer them the tastiest salad on the earth on the very special day. For them it’s a traditional dish which they like the most. Also they make it with the basic ingredients only substituting the one kind of meat with the other. Though, the kind of meat can vary but not the other ingredients. The basic recipe comprises of

  • 5 pieces Potatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • Green peas 1/2 pound
  • Mayonnaise 1/2 pound
  • 3 pieces potato
  • Boiled meat 1 pound
  • Green peas 1/2 pound
  • Salt according to taste
  • Dill pickles 2 or 3 pieces

All these ingredients are boiled and then chopped. After that they are mixed together. Sometimes sour cream is also added into the mixture.