TODAY   |  October 01, 2014

Lester samples the delights at Sochi’s food market

“May I try?” asked TODAY’s Lester Holt, who toured the fruit stands at Sochi’s central market. He tried salty cheese that tasted like bacon, as well as juice, tea and more.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> morales: and we´re back now on a saturday from sochi with a lesson in one of the most important parts of any new culture, and that is the food.

>> holt: this is my favorite kind of assignment. the kind of assignment where just, "hey, go out and eat some stuff." i took a trip to the central market in downtown sochi for a little taste of everything this area has to offer. take a look. can i try this? here in the sochi market, you can buy everything from seafood to teas to pickles. the russians love pickles. they´re all quite different. ooh, i like this one. very good. shrimp. mm-mmm. bamboo? pickled bamboo? smoky cheese? it´s smoky. it almost reminds me of bacon.

>> woman: yes.

>> holt: tastes like bacon.

>> woman: people traditionally eat it with beer, for example.

>> holt: mm-hmm. i want a beer. may i try? it´s not beer, but it´s a whole lot healthier. it´s pomegranate juice from azerbaijan, freshly squeezed, as you just saw. really, really good. we have things very similar in the united states . fruit roll-ups, but not -- this is not as sweet. persimmon. mmm. i like this. sochi is known for its teas, but these particular teas come from abkhazia. it´s a breakaway, tiny republic that used to be part of georgia, and it´s only about two miles from the olympic park . so, we´re gonna try some of this. oh, this is very pleasing. it´s very, very fruity. i taste -- i taste the strawberry.

>> morales: all right, i have got to go there. haven´t been there yet.

>> holt: did you notice a theme, though, like, "ooh, this is good. this is good"? i like everything.

>> morales: you´re a good eater. so, everything was pickled, i saw.

>> holt: try the, uh... >> morales: so, what is that?

>> holt: pickled bamboo.

>> morales: okay. that looks really good, actually.

>> holt: it´s actually pretty good. it really is.

>> morales: i like the pickled foods here.

>> holt: love pickled foods .

>> morales: that´s good. it´s a strong pickled flavor, though.

>> holt: yeah, it is. we didn´t bring anything to wash it down. you got to try this, though. this is the string cheese . it´s really smoky cheese. i think it originally comes from armenia, but they sell a lot of it here.

>> morales: it tastes like bacon.

>> holt: yeah. doesn´t it make you want a beer? that´s what i said.

>> morales: it´s very salty. wow.

>> holt: well, how about something sweet now?

>> morales: i´m in for something sweet.

>> holt: churchkhela.

>> morales: this is like a snickers?

>> holt: they call it "the georgian snickers." it´s actually dried grapes and nuts.

>> morales: and nuts on the inside? mmm. now, all the different colors, i guess different flavors?

>> holt: i don´t know.

>> morales: mmm. that´s good!

>> holt: isn´t that good? a lot of nuts in there, though. if you´re not a nut person, you wouldn´t like it.

>> morales: i do love that. it´s really good.

>> holt: the first thing when i saw this, i said, "it looks like a fruit roll-up." this is called pastilla.

>> morales: dried fruit ?

>> holt: it´s a dried-fruit puree. it´s not as sweet.

>> morales: it´s like our eating tour. this is the most russian food i´ve eaten my whole time here.

>> hill: so, i want to know, lester, how much of this -- whatever you can actually bring back through customs, we want you to bring us a sampling.

>> morales: there may be some good bottles of vodka --

>> holt: the cheese might be stinking up the airplane by the time we get to new york, but i´ll take a shot.

>> morales: this is good. i like the fruit roll-up thing.

>> holt: i´ll send you some good stuff back.

>> hill: i´m intrigued by the pickled bamboo, too.

>> holt: yeah, when i first looked at that, i thought, "well, it´s gonna be woody and stuff," but it´s working.

>> morales: i´m not such a fan of that. but what´s this one down here at the end?

>> holt: you´re gonna love this one. this is dried persimmon. they put it on a string and dry it. your tongue will throw a party for your mouth. check it out.

>> morales: tongue will throw a party for my mouth?

>> holt: yeah.

>> morales: there´s a party going on in my mouth right now.

>> holt: i told you it was good.

>> morales: that´s really good!

>> holt: i could eat these all day.

>> morales: it´s like a fig.