WHILE Russia's President Boris Yeltsin is busy in Moscow battling a communist corpse that won't lie down, four Moscow chefs are in Hong Kong to host a nine-day ''To Russia with Love'' food festival which opened last night. Few people outside Russia know much about the nation's foods, and that's a shame because when it is good, it's very good indeed, hearty and full of flavour. After all, when was the last time you saw a skinny Russian? Sadly, during its 70-year reign the Soviet regime instigated a kind of culinary conspiracy which virtually stamped out Russian's once rich restaurant culture. This meant that practically the only place to sample good Russian food was in a Russian home, a place few foreign visitors ever visit. Happily, that's no longer the case, and Moscow is now awash once again with scores of new private restaurants. But if a visit to the Russian capital isn't on the cards at the moment, senior chef Serguei Teliatnikov and his three colleagues Andrei Vakhndv, Tatiana Papina and pastry chef Valentina Borisoglebskaya, have brought a selection of some of the best Russian foods to the Kowloon Panda Hotel until October 17. ''I think Hong Kong people will especially like our pies made with meat, fish and cabbage as well as cutlets a la Kiev,'' says chef Serguei. Contrary to popular belief, Russian cuisine offers a wide range of dishes far beyond the famous borsch soup, cucumber salads and beef stroganoff. Veal, pork and lamb are popular, as is the famous thin, saucer-sized pancake known as blini, used to wrap everything from caviar and sour cream to Ural mountain honey or strawberries. Nor is Russian food bland; in fact, herbs and spices are common, including black and red pepper, salt, basil, thyme, mint, ginger, coriander, parsley, garlic and dill. Russian mustard, called gorchitsa. is hot and tangy. Russian cooks also do wonders with potatoes. Russians claim to produced the best-tasting breads in the world, and anyone who's tried them will agree they may be right. The blackest bread, called borodinsky, is made of rye and wheat, and is perfectly black, very sweet and very moist, glazed and studded with coriander seeds. Over the years, Russians have adapted cooking styles from Germany, Finland, Italy, the Middle East and France. The word bistro, which many people believe is French for cafe, is actually a Russian word meaning ''hurry, hurry'' which hungry Russian soldiers introduced to Parisian waiters during the Napoleonic Wars. The Russian sweet tooth is proverbial and Russians make superb desserts, the equal to French or Italian pastries, says pastry chef Valentina Borisoglebskaya. But they're also fond of fresh fruit, especially the wild berries from their vast northern woodlands. To eat without drinking is sinful to the Russian mind, and Russian International Airlines, a co-sponsor of the food festival, has flown in crates of sweet Crimean champagnes, Moldavian dry wines and of course, the Russian national drink, vodka. A troupe of eight Russian folk dancers will also entertain diners during the promotion. On the question of healthy eating, chief chef Serguei, who has promoted Russian cuisine in Sydney, New York and San Francisco, agrees that now even Russians are becoming health conscious and Russian chefs are using less fat and sugar in their dishes.