Friday, January 15, 2010

Vegetarian Food in Russia



Vegetarianism is not widely understood or popular in Russia, but I have discovered that it is not too difficult to be a vegetarian in Russia, in you are not too strict about your diet and if you use a little creativity.

Of course, it's easy to cook a vegetarian diet for yourself because the country's grocery stores offer a wide range of vegetables, fruits, and starches. Although traditional Russian cabbage and potatoes may not round out a vegetarian diet, other offerings will. Green, red, and yellow peppers are easy to find in Russia; tomatoes are popular; and mushrooms come in a surprising number of varieties.

When eating out, there are decent options for the vegetarian diner. Although sometimes finding vegetarian dishes can be difficult, for the most part, it is not too large of a challenge. Russians like their meat, but they also like dairy products quite a lot. (If you are a vegan, living in Russia would be QUITE difficult!) Pirozhki and sloyki (types of Russian pastries) and bliny (thin Russian pancakes similar to crepes) can easily be found filled will cabbage, various types of cheese, potatoes, and mushrooms. Khachapuri is a Georgian pastry filled with rich, mouth-watering cheese. Fried eggs and omlettes are relatively easy to come by, and the old stand-by of "rice with vegetables" often yields a delicious meal (after explaining for several times that you do not want meat to go with this!).

Japanese food has become remarkably popular throughout Russia, and in some cases, it seems like every fourth restaurant serves some form of it. Miso soup, cucumber and avocado rolls, vegetable fried rice, or vegetable soba or udon make for a great vegetarian meal.

If you are willing to eat a little meat broth in a pinch, soups can sometimes be a reasonable compromises. In many restaurants, soups like borsht (beet soup) can easily be served without the beef chunks they oftentimes add in later, and sometimes soups made with chicken broth are intentionally served without any meat. (If you eat fish, you are even more in luck, since Russians love fish. You will be able to find numerous fish-broth soups such as ukha and will enjoy baked fish, smoked salmon, and caviar.)

However, in Moscow and St. Petersburg, it is increasingly possible to find dedicated vegetarian restaurants! The one pictured above (Jaggarnath) is located near the center of Moscow, not far from Red Square, and features a cafe and a grocery store. Although the general theme is Indian-influenced, you can find vegetarian foods and spices from Asia and other parts of the world. Tofu, vegetarian sausages and caviar, and soy products can all be found in the store. The buffet-style cafe features delicious and relatively inexpensive vegetarian dishes that will be such a feast to your eyes you will likely have difficulty choosing what to eat! Below is a sample of a meal I recently had: bean sprout salad with tofu chunks, Asian-flavored stir-fry and an all-natural ginger drink. All for 190 rubles, about $6!




41 comments:

  1. Hi Katherine,
    Just wanted to tell you that I'm really enjoying your blog. I especially like posts on Uzbek cooking--I've tried a bit of it here in the U.S., but I don't know how to cook most of this stuff. The dumplings take a lot of work and practice!

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  2. Hi! I just found your blog through Yulinka Cook's. I'm an American living in Moscow too. I'm not a vegetarian, but I eat a mainly vegetarian diet, so it's nice to see your take on some veggie friendly places! I ate at Jagganath last week, and I enjoyed my meal. I had a dish with mung beans (I think) and a rice and soy protein dish. I'm still looking for regular tofu here, not the dried soy protein "meat". Any ideas where to look?
    If you have time, check out my blogs please!
    Nomad, and Moscow Daily Photo

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  3. Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Unfortunately, I'm back at home in the U.S. now, as my short-term job in Russia came to a close. I'm still working on developing a new blog here in the U.S., which might be of interest to you also. Thanks for following my blog -- I've also enjoyed yours and will continue to in the future!

    Ashira, I recommend Dzhagannat (the place I mentioned above) for tofu. They have a shop next to and inside their store, and it was stocked with tofu the last time I was there. They also have numerous dishes made with tofu that you can buy to eat there or to take home for later. It's located on Ulitsa Kuznetskiy Most, about a block east of the TsUM department store. Udachi!

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  20. Hi, I just found your blog and thought I'd write because it sounds like we share a lot of common interests. I enjoy thinking about/writing about/and cooking Russian food, and am now in Georgia doing the same with Georgian cuisine. Are you still in Russia?

    It always seemed a little odd to me that vegetarianism is so little understood in Russia considering that the Orthodox fast calendar requires those who practice to eat vegan for so many days of the year!

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  22. Here is our list of top 10 vegan foods in Russia. We really loved our 2 months stay in Moscow.

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