Svetlana and Abram Sulaymanov opened Russian Market over a decade ago in a dusty strip mall on the corner of 19th Avenue and Northern. Since then, they've been bringing the best dishes from the homeland to a hungry, and often homesick, community of ex-pats, immigrants, and globetrotting foodies. From beers, wines and champagne to chocolate, dairy, sausages, crackers and caviar -- the Holy Grail of Russian cuisine -- you'd be hard pressed to find a better selection of these regional specialties in town.
The Sulaymanovs' warmth makes instant friends out of new visitors, as they help navigate a whole world of unfamiliar letters and words on product packaging. They stretch beyond Russia, too, with customers from Poland, Bulgaria and Romania - all places with similar cuisine. And Russian Market carries the native tongue in the form of newspapers and magazines from home, as well.
Chow Bella: How long long has your store been here?
Abram Sulaymanov: For 11 years. But this is not my first store. In Russia I had stores for many years.
CB: How did you end up in Phoenix? I imagine the weather is very different!
AS: I was here on vacation, and I liked it very much. I like Phoenix. I am from the Southern part of Russia, Uzbekistan. It is very hot there, it's the same weather as here. The summers are very hot so it was not much trouble to come. In many ways it is like home
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CB: Russian food isn't spicy? What is a classic Russian dish people should try?
AS: Not much spicy. I would tell them they must have pelmeni. It's Russian style pasta stuffed with pork and beef.
Svetlana Sulaymanov: In Russia, people would eat it with vinegar and sour cream.
AS: And everyone knows borscht, vegetable soup. Maybe cabbage soup.
SS: UGH! Cabbage soup? (laughter)
AS: Our milk products are very popular. We have a Russian condensed milk. You put it with bread or with the Czar Nicholas tea. We use it like preserves, jam.
CB: What is your favorite thing to eat?
AS: Oh, caviar! It is too expensive to eat every day. Now it is $400 a pound! From 2004, the price has doubled. It is good to eat on bread with butter. It's very good for the immune system. The black caviar is the most expensive but the red is a lot cheaper. It is for the holiday. If you have good money you can have it every day.
CB: Since you've been here so long, with your store, you must have a lot of good stories to tell.
AS: (Laughter) My English is not so good. It's hard to tell them all. We're very happy that we came here. It's our country, too.