I believe food choices are personal and never dictated by the place itself. For instance, most Indians believe finding vegetarian food outside of India means living on salads and potatoes. Similarly a number of people we met in Russia believed it was almost impossible to get meat in India, whatever happened to all the biryanis and kebabs!
Faced with the daunting task of being a vegetarian traveller in Russia, we consulted a friend. Sadly, he agreed that we might have to give up vegetarianism if we had to travel in Mother Russia. Turns out he was wrong!
Befriending locals and breaking stereotypes
A typical russian meal borscht,sour cream and some bread.
It is always useful if you have a friend or host who can help you out with local food options. We were lucky to have a friend who served us a modest yet tasty lunch consisting of Borscht, bread and sour cream (yogurt). Borscht is a vegetable stew made primarily with beetroot, potatoes and onions; it is of Ukrainian origin though. As with most European nations Khleb or bread is popular in Russia too and is delicious on its own. Smetana or sour cream was the comfort food we had with almost everything we ate.
Thanks to all the warning we embarked on the Trans Siberian train ride with khleb, Smetana, loads of Tomato juice and some ready to eat food from India. But we soon realized vegetarians could actually have a feast on these journeys. Our co-passenger revealed to us that the sweet smelling snack sold on the trolleys inside the coach was indeed vegetarian! Kapoosta piroge or cabbage filled pie and Kartofel piroge or potato pie are your options for a good evening snack.
An English gentleman was kind enough to get a menu card from the in-house restaurant and marked everything that was vegetarian on it, this took care of the rest of our meals on the train. We had one of the best borscht, the best grechika (or buckwheat) and also some buttered rice with sautéed potato.
Local Canteens and Buffets
A very interesting dining option in Russia is the buffet on offer at several chains. These invariably have a number of vegetarian options and are pretty cheap. A popular chain called Mu-mu amused us with the numerous options it had on the menu, we realised that Lobio or black-eyed peas is a staple here along with numerous salads and bread. You should definitely try Vegetable Solyanka which is a soup and the local beverages.