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Going to Russia in 1 month and I need help!

I'm going to St. Petersburg and Moscow in a month and I'm really scared about what I'm going to eat.

I've already decided to take my own stash of pb, dried fruit, soup mixes, nuts and cliff bars, but even cliff bars lose their appeal after a couple of days.

I've looked up the vegan friendly restaurants in these two cities and there appears to be a dearth of them.

What I'd like are some suggestions of Russian dishes I can choose in regular restaurants that are vegan.

No, I don't speak Russian. Communications will be difficult, I know.

Thanks in advance.

A good suggestion for traveling is to write down particular phrases in their language. That way even if you can't remember exactly what to say you have some back up.

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any russian resturant will have a side dish called "Kasha" which is buckwheat made like oatmeal. sometimes an egg is put in but this is usually a Jewish tradition and not a regular Russian thing. it is usually served with butter but is damn tasty without. also there are good fresh vegetables to be bought--- fresh unusual types of edible mushrooms, dark greens, root vegetables, and occasionally you can come across huge apples from Kazakhstan...
i have not been in a long time and my russian is not good, hope this helps :)

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Hi Cates,

I went to university in St. Petersburg, Russia. I was a vegetarian then and not vegan.
Sadly, I'm going to be giving you some bad news...
Even if you were fluent in Russian... convincing most people that you don't eat meat would be hard enough, let alone dairy and eggs.
Prepare for mistakes, intentional and unintentional.

Mini-Story:
Me: "I'm a vegetarian. I don't eat meat, is there meat in the borscht (beet soup)?"
Waiter: "No, no."
Soup comes, it distinctly tastes ham-like and has little meaty pieces floating on top...
Me: "Excuse me, you said there was no meat in this soup..."
Waiter *scoffs*: "No BIG pieces!"

Kasha is not a dish which I remember ever being able to order in a restaurant, only at home.
I'm assuming you're vegan, but if you aren't and eat eggs, you can always have blini with jam or veggies and blini. Blini= savory crepes.
Chinese food in Russia rules. I remember not having problems ordering a veg dish at most chinese places.
How long will you be there?

Oh also, restaurants in guidebooks and online sometimes tend to vanish once you are in Russia... the turn around for new businesses is very high. Check them out for sure, but I wouldn't rely on those being there.

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Thanks.

I will be there for a little over a week. 

I will be with a group and they will know in advance I am vegan.  I don't know that they'll be aware of what a vegan is. 

I will be responsible for some of my meals.  I will persue the Chinese idea.  Do they have Thai or Vietnamese as well?

I don't know of any Russian dishes other than borscht, lard, boiled potatoes and vodka.  And from what you've told me, borscht is now off my list.

Do they cook vegetables in a vegan manner?  Maybe I could focus on bread, vegetables and potatoes?  Are there vegan sauces or dressings I could use to season my vegetables and potatoes?

I have looked up some vegetarian restaurants, but I don't know that these will be easily accessible.

Thanks in advance for any more suggestions you may have.

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Good News! Many Russians are Orthodox Christians, and are required to be "fasting" for Lent and other times of the year (including right now). "Fasting" to an Orthodox Christian is nearly-Vegan - no meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or dairy - but shellfish and honey are permitted. Many Observant Orthodox Christians follow this diet every Wednesday, Friday, and at other set times of the year, Advent, Lent, and two other "fasting" seasons - for a total of about half of the days of the year.

So, there are choices - if you know what to ask!

I emailed a Russian friend who is Orthodox, and asked her how you should order. This is what she recommends:

"The word for fasting is "post" (easy to say) strict fast is "strogii post" (people will tend to think that she is Orthodox). Generally, all know what "post" is and if she will say: "No meat ("miaso") or milk ("moloko") products" - it should be ok.
There are plenty of dishes that Russians cook that are all-fasting: Vegetable borsh (you have to specify vegetable), "rassol'nic" - is a sour soup with pickles (all vegan), different kashas ("grechca," "ovsianca," "perlovca," "pshenichnaia kasha," etc.), however, the best bet are the vegetables - potatoes, cabbage (excellent taste), mushrooms; salads from carrots, fresh cabbage with fresh carrots, fresh beets and pickles; "vinegret" is one of my favorites. - these dishes are all vegan and prepared with sunflower oil and vinegar.

I have not been at home for a while, so I do not know what kind of restaurants are there now. If this lady goes to Moscow or St. Petersburg - she will be right at home - there are Thai, Indian and Chinese places all over.
       
    Even better word for Fasting is Russian version of diet - "dieta." All Russians are obssessed with dieting and figure (ladies) so this will be a holy of holies for the waiter (the Orthodox fast will be over or almost over by the time she will get there, so, some might misunderstand her).

Sorry, cannot tell you more on restaurants. Before I came to America I've been in a restaurant once! Her best choices are public markets - there she can buy organic and healthful stuff. It will be all before her eyes so she can choose (prices are usually displayed)."

Hope that helps

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I wouldn't write off the borscht. It is often meat free and truly yummy and so Russian.
"She" is a common cabbage soup, all veg.
"Salat" good choice.... shredded beets and carrots and cabbage in a vinaigrette usually. EVERY restaurant has salat but I have never seen kasha cooked outside the home.
I dream about Russian bread! Yum! It may or may not be vegan though... I wouldn't be surprised if there was an egg wash over the crust of many kiosk bought types.
Oh another tip...  you should remember to order all food (even if you would never dream that they'd put sour cream on it!),  "Bez Cmetana" at restaurants it's the most common garnish (c'metana=sour cream). You can say "Bez... anything" meaning "without ...."  so, "bez miasa" = without meat  etc.

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Can't add anything about the food because I have never been to Russia but wanted to tell you to have a great time!  Please post when you get back to tell us all about the trip and how it went with the food!

Di

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jenniferhughes, I laughed out loud when I read your post about the restaurant borsch and remembered how hard it was to get my mother-in-law to understand that I didn't want meat.. and I'm fluent in Russian.  It was difficult enough just coming up with an argument that they'd understand  ;D  For Russians, a meal without meat is.. not a meal.  Even if you invited most Russians to your house and cooked them a fabulous vegetarian/Vegan meal, they'd still consider it lacking.  But there are some options out there.

My mother-in-law made what she called "diet borsch", which is simply cooked without the pork bones.  It was pretty good.  Then, like you said, there's bliny, there's pirozhki with jam or tvorog, there's so many different kinds of kasha..  plus there's this gorgeous tradition of canning everything - mushrooms, fruit, cabbage, etc.  Plus, when I was living in Minsk, I could have lived on the bread alone.  Sooo good.  I definitely didn't die of starvation over there. 

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