Being Vegan in Russia
The previous time we visited Russia was in 2006, when we were still omnivores. Having been vegans since 2010, we were a bit skeptical of what the Russian kitchen could offer us now when mettwurst, grilled chicken, smetana, and caviar were out of the question. Veganism is only emerging in Russia, and it is generally regarded as a folly. It raises eyebrows and wonder: "What do you eat then?"
Russia is, at the moment, one of the world's cheapest countries for Europeans and Americans. The ruble has collapsed due to the plummeting oil price and the Western sanctions. While great news for travellers, the situation is less flattering for locals. Some, particularly pensioners, have to get by with US $4,50 a day. That is not much, but by eating vegan food, we managed to eat sumptuously with that sum.
An Ode to АШАН
We enjoyed the wide variety of grains, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fresh and dried fruits, different sorts of bread, halva, dark chocolate, and red wine. We became regular customers in a French supermarket chain called Auchan [АШАН]. It is one of the cheapest hypermarkets in Russia, frequented by common people and the middle-class alike. Luckily enough, one Auchan market was within a one-hour walk from where we were staying. There are many others stores as well, but they are not as affordable and versatile as Auchan. Perekrestoka and Metro, for example, are pricier and Azbuka Vkuza, an upscale grocery store mainly sells imported products. We preferred to experiment with regular local food instead.
Having a kitchen was a life-saver. In fact, we didn't try eating out at all. Our Russian is limited to basic greetings and questions so we wouldn't have been able to explain our diet to waitresses. Below is a list of some of our favourites that can be found everywhere in Russia.
Top 10 Vegan Foods in Russia
- Ikra [икра], an eggplant/squash spread
- Sauerkraut [kвашеная капуста]
A Russian classic of finely cut cabbage and carrot that have been fermented by lactic acid bacteria. Sauerkraut is classified as a one of the new superfoods that are packed with nutrients. It is salty, though, so it should be consumed moderately.
- Gherkins [Огурцы]
Often eaten as zakuska [закуска] before the main course or in drinking parties. Goes well with rye bread or basically anything, just like sauerkraut and ikra.
- Fruit [фрукты] and vegetables [овощи]
- Seeds [семена]
Auchan is wonderful for buying nuts, because you can buy them in bulk. All kinds are available, the cheapest being peanuts [арахис] (raw or salted).
- Grains and beans
- Bread [хлеб]
- Halva [халва], popcorn [Попкорн] and dark chocolate [темный шоколад]
- Wine [вино]
Russia has plenty of wineries, but local wines tend to be very very sweet. A common load of sugar is 40-60 grams per 100 ml. Fortunately, imported European wine is easy to find and affordable.
To sum up, we fell in love with Russian kitchen and are looking forward to return here next year when the weather gets warmer and our visa allows us to return. Unfortunately a one-year Russian visa permits you to stay in the country only 90 days in every 180 days.