Russian Dressed Herring Salad "Shuba" ("Cеледка под шубой") Recipe
Russians love to celebrate in a grand, almost carnivalesque manner, and New Year's is the biggest holiday of the year.
Every December 31, my mom (and millions of other Russian moms) would cook an entire legion of hearty, super-delicious dishes meant to not only feed but AMAZE guests and family. Shuba (or seledka pod shuboĭ in Russian) was the crowning glory of the table.
This is my favorite dish in the whole world, and I learned to cook it when I was around 11 years old. That's how easy shuba is—even a child can make it. The preparation steps are numerous, yes, but they're not complicated. It's basically a lot of shredded veggies smeared with mayo and arranged like a layered cake.
And another thing...about the herring. I realize that most Americans would not find the taste of pickled herring appealing. It's an acquired taste—like coffee or alcohol. But I still encourage you to try shuba because the taste of herring is very diluted by other ingredients, and it's the combination of all the nuances that makes shuba taste so great. Ask any Russian!
The biggest problem with pickled fish - it smells like pickled fish.
- 4 large fillets of pickled herring in oil, de-boned and chopped into small pieces
- 6-7 eggs, hard boiled and shredded
- 7 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and shredded
- 5-6 large carrots, boiled, peeled and shredded
- 3 large beets, boiled, peeled and shredded
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cups of lite or fat free mayonnaise, and it'll be easier if the mayo is more uncongealed than dense
- parsley, for decoration (optional)
Step 1: Boil the Veggies
First step is boiling the vegetables (beets, carrots, potatoes) and the eggs.
You can boil potatoes and carrots in the same large pot, but they do take different preparation times. The carrots will take about 15-20 minutes, potatoes will take about 40 minutes.
Boil beets in a separate pot because they tend to color everything they touch deep magenta. They take about an 1-1,5 hours to cook, or until they become tender enough for the knife to slide into them easily.
The eggs take about 10 minutes to cook, after which place them in cold water—it'll make them easy to peel.
When the veggies are ready, let them cool off.
Step 2: Chop the Herring and the Onion Into Small Pieces
While the veggies are cooling off, prepare the herring and the onion.
I remember when herring was a slippery stinky fish that took forever to clean, de-gut, and de-bone. Nowadays, herring fillets are sold in jars of oil, having very few bones and no skin. So all you have to do is chop the fillets into small pieces, and make sure to do it on a special fish board, the herring is still very smelly!
Step 3: Peel and Shred the Veggies and the Eggs
When the vegetables are cool enough, peel them, shred them, and place them onto separate plates. The same goes for the eggs—peel them, shred them, but save 1 yolk for decoration (optional).
At this point you should have 5 or 6 plates in front of you with chopped herring, chopped onion, shredded eggs, potatoes, carrots, and beets.
Now you need a jar of mayo and a deep salad bowl. I know it seems like a lot of mayo but trust me—dry shuba is no good. Mayo is the glue that holds shuba together and makes it moist and tangy, especially after letting it sit in a fridge overnight.
Congratulations! You're ready to begin assembling your dressed herring masterpiece.
Step 4: Assembly
The order of the ingredients may vary from cook to cook; I do it the way my mom taught me. I think there's really no wrong way since it all blends in together in the end but I prefer this order of layers:
potatoes on the bottom, mayo, herring and onions, mayo, eggs, mayo, carrots, mayo, beets, mayo, potatoes again, mayo, and so on in the same order, so the top layer is beets.
Basically, every ingredient is layered twice and you have a layer of beets on top, which will turn a pretty pink color once you put mayo on it. The potatoes will probably be the thickest layer. Herring and onions, because of their intense taste, should be layered thinly, more like sprinkled.
Tip: before smearing the mayo, smooth down the veggies with the back of the spoon. This way the mayo will go on more evenly, and you won't need as much of it. The egg layer will be the hardest to apply the mayo to because hard boiled eggs are fluffy when shredded, so they will stick to the spoon. Just do the best you can.
The great thing about shuba is that it doesn't have to be perfect. It'll still look (and taste!) great.
Step 5: Decoration
This step is optional—but I like it. Take that boiled yolk you set aside and crumble it over the top of your shuba. Little yellow pieces look good against the pink canvas.
Now garnish with parsley and refrigerate overnight. Refrigeration for at least a few hours is crucial so that the mayo can soak through the layers and work its magic. Enjoy!
Still Confused? Here's the Video Recipe for Dressed Herring
Looking for Another Russian Food Recipe?
- "Olivier": Russian Twist on a Potato Salad
A step-by-step recipe for a traditional Russian potato salad with pictures, nutritional facts and the healthiest way to make it.
The Healthiest Way to Make "Shuba"
"Shuba" is mostly a vegetable salad, so it's loaded with vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. But there are ways to make it even healthier.
- Buy organic! Root vegetables like beets, potatoes, and carrots are some of the most vulnerable to chemical contaminants in the soil. Do yourself and your family a favor—spend a few extra bucks on organic food and save thousands of dollars on medical bills.
- Use lite or non-fat mayo since we're using a lot of it. Tastes the same, saves the calories.
- Steam your veggies or boil them in skin—it helps to keep the vitamins intact.
- Never cook when you're in a bad mood. Put your favorite music on, dance as you move, sing along—do whatever makes you feel good while you cook, and your food will always come out healthy and delicious!
© 2013 Lana Adler