Recipe: Furry Shuba Salad

Recipe: Furry Shuba Salad

MIR’s Veronika Melnick is a first-generation American; her mother and father emigrated from Ukraine in 1990. Many of her parents’ traditions, cultures, and languages are part of Veronika’s life in Seattle, where she now lives. Here Veronika shares her deep relationship with a beloved – and misunderstood – childhood food.

It's really just coincidence that Veronika Melnick is wearing fur in this photo <br>Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

It’s really just coincidence that Veronika Melnick is wearing fur in this photo
Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

I grew up in what I technically like to call “Little Ukraine:” Sacramento, California. Even our Walmart store has a Russian food section! I’m Russian on my mom’s side and Ukrainian on my dad’s, so you can imagine I grew up surrounded by Russian stores, delis – and of course Russian food on the table.


Making ShubaOf all the foods cooked in our house, my favorite was and is: shuba. It’s kind of strange, but “shuba” in Russian means “fur.” Why fur? At the heart of it, shuba is salty marinated herring “dressed” in a heavy coat of potatoes, carrots, onions (the only vegetables of Russia, I think!), topped with shredded beets mixed with mayonnaise. The entire salad looks like a bright purple fur coat – thus the “fur” analogy. It kind of looks like a Mexican 7-layer dip; if you slice into it, you’ll see the layers – except this is shrouded in deep purple.

<b><i>Shuba</i> Lesson 1:</b> Start with fresh ingredients, like herring, onions, carrots, eggs, and – of course - beets. <br>Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

Shuba Lesson 1: Start with fresh ingredients, like herring, onions, carrots, eggs, and – of course – beets 
Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

Underneath this <i>shuba</i> white coat of mayonnaise: herring, carrots, potatoes, and onions – and still not finished! <br>Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

Underneath this shuba white coat of mayonnaise: herring, carrots, potatoes, and onions – and still not finished!
Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

Shredded beets top this mound of Russian <i>shuba</i> delight, but still not quite done! <br>Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

Shredded beets top this mound of Russian shuba delight, but still not quite done!
Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

Shuba RejectionI didn’t really think shuba was such a “bizarre” salad – that is, until I introduced my favorite food to my non-Russian friends. They’re culturally savvy and well-traveled, yet they refused to even touch this bright purple dish that has stolen my culinary heart and reminds so much of home. I took their shuba rejection personally.

Very personally.


Shuba NostalgiaWhen I was younger, we made shuba for potlucks, Easter and holidays. I remember my mom making shuba in our soup bowls – maybe 10 to 15 bowls, and we’d make them layer by layer, adding herring, onions, potatoes, carrots, and then the shredded beets – and on top of all that the mayonnaise across the whole salad. I love shuba with a rounded top; it reminds of the way my mom would make it – so pretty, so pridefully presented.

Ready to eat! This Russian <i>shuba</i> salad is sprinkled with "egg dust" <br>Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

Ready to eat! This Russian shuba salad is sprinkled with “egg dust”
Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

Retro Shuba, Soviet-StyleOK, here’s the tacky part: you CAN form shuba into different shapes, like bumble bees or flowers, or fish – or even snakes. Some people shred a boiled egg and sprinkle the “egg dust” over the entire salad. I much prefer my mom’s plain round shuba. My mom would make shuba for special occasions, and there was often a bowl in the fridge we could munch on over several days — until it was gone.

<i>Shuba's</i> pairs well  with stuffed cabbage (</i>голубцы</i>) and fried potatoes with dill (<i>картофель с укропом</i>) <br>Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

Shuba pairs well with stuffed cabbage (голубцы) and fried potatoes with dill (картофель с укропом)
Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

Home Sweet Shuba HomeHere’s what I love about shuba: carrots and beets make it sweet, and the salty herring and crunch of onion are good contrasts. But most importantly about my shuba love is the memory of shuba, and my mother making it for me. Every time I’ve left home to study abroad, my mom emails me and asks what I want when I get back home.

Shuba, of course!

Veronika Melnick's parents welcome her at the airport; <i>shuba</i> is waiting at home <br>Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

Veronika Melnick’s parents welcome her at the airport; shuba is waiting at home
Photo credit: Veronika Melnick

Taste Shuba in Russia with MIRWhen you travel to Russia with MIR  you have many opportunities to taste Russian cuisine – perhaps even try Veronika’s beloved furry shuba salad. On MIR’s award-winning tour, “A Chronicle of Russian Cuisine & Culture,” you eat your way through Russia’s iconic cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow as well as take in the sights and culture of these great places. You can also book a custom private journey.


(Top photo credit: Veronika Melnick. It’s a close-up of the layers that make up “furry shuba salad.”)

PUBLISHED: July 9, 2014

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