Russian salad

Russian salad

Russian salad or salade russe (also known as Salade Olivier in Russia, Ukraine, Iran, and in the United States) is a salad composed of diced vegetables and sometimes meats bound in mayonnaise. It is rarely spelled "Olivier" when retranscribed back into latin letters, but rather follows the transcription convention for the language in question, for example "olivieh" in Persian or "oliv'e" or "оливье" (olivye) in Russian.


In modern usage, it is usually simply boiled diced vegetables bound in mayonnaise, very similar to some versions of macédoine de légumes froid. Earlier, it always included cold meat such as ham or tongue, or fish. The mid-20th century restaurant version involves not just vegetables, but also pickled tongue, sausage, lobster meat, truffles, "etc." garnished with capers, anchovy filets, "etc." Some versions mold it in aspic.


The original version of the salad was invented in the 1860s by Lucien Olivier, the chef of the "Hermitage" restaurant, one of Moscow's most celebrated restaurants. Olivier's salad quickly became immensely popular with Hermitage regulars, and perhaps, the restaurant's signature dish. The exact recipe -- particularly that of the dressing -- was a jealously guarded secret, but it is known that the salad contained grouse, veal tongue, caviar, lettuce, crayfish tails, capers, gherkins, cucumbers, hardboiled eggs and soy beans. Other reported ingredients included truffles, cubed aspic and smoked duck, although it is possible that the recipe was varied seasonally. However, the dish certainly did not contain potatoes -- the main ingredient in today's Salade Russe a/k/a Salade Olivier.

At the turn of the 19th century, one of Olivier's sous-chefs, Ivan Ivanov, attempted to steal the recipe. While preparing the dressing one evening, in solitude as was his custom, Olivier was suddenly called away on some emergency. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Ivanov sneaked into Olivier's private kitchen and observed his mise-en-place, which allowed him to make reasonable assumptions about the recipe of Olivier's famed dressing. Ivanov then left Olivier's employ and went to work as a chef for "Moskva", a somewhat inferior restaurant, where he began to serve a suspiciously similar salad under the name "Stolychnyj" (rus: "Столичный", "The Capital Salad"). It was reported by gourmands at the time, however, that the dressing on the Stolychnyj salad was of a lower quality than Olivier's in that it was "missing something". The original Olivier dressing was a type of mayonnaise, made with French wine vinegar, mustard, and Provencal olive oil; its exact recipe, however, remains unknown.

Later, Ivanov sold the recipe for the salad to various publishing houses, which further contributed to its popularization. Due to the closure of the Hermitage restaurant in 1905 and the Olivier family's departure from Russia, the salad could now be referred to as "Olivier". As inevitably happens with gourmet recipes which become popularized, those of the salad's ingredients that were rare, expensive, seasonal, or difficult to prepare were gradually replaced with cheaper and more readily available foods, until it evolved (or "devolved") into the dish we know today.

Modern Olivier

Today's popular version of "Salade Olivier" -- containing boiled potatoes, pickles, peas, eggs, carrots, onions, and bologna or boiled meat, dressed with mayonnaise -- is a bastardized version of Ivanov's Stolychnyj salad, and only faintly resembles Olivier's original creation. This version was a staple of any Soviet Russian holiday dinner, especially of a New Year dinner (on par with Soviet Champagne and Moroccan Tangerines), due to availability of components in winter. Even though more exotic foods are widely available in Russia now, its popularity has hardly diminished. It is also very popular in Iran, where chicken is very often added to the recipe. Because of French influence on Spanish cuisine, it is also widely consumed in Spain (where it is called "ensaladilla rusa" and popular as a Summer meal) and typically consists of carrots, canned tuna, eggs, peas, roast red pepper strips, green olives, potato and mayonnaise.

ee also

* Russian cuisine
* Macédoine salad
* potato salad


* Alan Davidson, "The Oxford Companion to Food", Oxford, 1999. ISBN 0-19-211579-0.
* Larousse Gastronomique
* Andrey Savostyanov, "At the source of the recipe: Olivier's salad family", a detailed history of the salad and the Hermitage Restaurant (in Russian):

External links

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