What food to take on a train in a Russian supermarket?
A Trans-Siberian dream journey comes true? Congratulations! Have you already got your tickets for the Trans-Siberian route? Where are you going: to Lake Baikal or even further? Either ways, probably you have never travelled this far by train and not sure what to eat during this exciting journey. Caring ExploRussia team made a list of Trans-Siberian Railway tips for you that you are welcome to follow, or not follow.
If you are a 3rd class passenger, meals are not included into the price. For the 1st and 2nd class conditions also vary, sometimes a meal box will be served. Most of the trains have a restaurant car (“wagon- restaurant”), there you can have a proper hot meal or have a drink with your travel buddies. Our advice is, anyway, pack some backpacking food and have a meal planning session before you get into the Trans-Siberian train.
A good idea will be to adjust meal times: if you travel from west to east, you might want to switch from Moscow time to local time nearby Glazov. In Perm and Yekaterinburg time difference with Moscow reaches 2 hours, in Novosibirsk– four, and Khabarovsk lives with 7 hours difference.
Trans-Siberian railway tip №1: bring the essential
Instant foods are not the instinctive choice if you want to keep a rational diet. But as experts in travelling in Russia, we can assure you that a warm meal of instant noodles or mashed potatoes is a must on a train. They can be bought from a provodnitsa and in station kiosks; in a supermarket you will have a greater choice.
Be sure to add cheese and bread to your shopping list. You can even try and buy several sorts of cheese. Good local cheese is produced in Altai region and in Tver. In winter some trains are heated to a subtropical degree, and you can even have a bread-and-cheese sandwich with melted cheese. For delicious multigrain breads you can visit a local bakery before the train.
Smoked ham and canned beans can also feed you well.
To more liquid matters, the charm feature of a Russian train is a boiler at the entrance to a wagon. It’s a source of boiled hot water that you can use for preparing noodles and tea. Basically, you won’t need to buy water bottles, unless you need water of a certain composition.
Tea-lovers, don’t hesitate to bring tea bags with you. We encourage you to try a herbal infusion “Ivan-chai”, drinking herbal teas is actually a returning tradition in Russia.
For sweet tooth: pack some chocolate and cookies. Russia has been known for its “Alenka” chocolate, “Milka”, famous for an ad with violet cows, “Babaevsky” and “Vdokhnoveniye” chocolate bars. What’s your favourite chocolate?
Trans-Siberian railway tip №2: travel sustainably
Bring your own cup or a tumbler on a train journey instead of using plastic. First and foremost, it’s sustainable. If you happen to be an influencer, you can’t disappoint your followers with images of plastic dishes, right? Even if publicity is not your thing, most likely you will agree with us that a responsible lifestyle helps us protect nature and keeps it pristine and beautiful. Second, the train stops both during the day and night, and people with suitcases walk in and walk out. It means that in a few hours you will unavoidably find a plastic cup and the remaining drink on the floor.
If the eco-friendly cup is still on your bucket list, please, don’t get upset. A train attendant will gladly provide you with a tin coaster and a simple glass that you can use until your final destination.
Trans-Siberian railway tip № 3: add some freshness
A lot of us remember national campaigns “5 A Day” that encourages us to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per a single day. Good news- Russia is not that different, we hold the same opinion on a healthy diet. To boost your energy and pick on your neighbors from a cupe, pack apples, bananas and a bunch of grapes. They are all seasonal, and can crunch very appetizingly which helps if you lose your appetite on a train. It’s typical to forget that you should eat when you spend all day on a comfy berth and gazing from the window. However, it’s one of the features of a Trans-Siberian journey, and surely making friends with someone in a dining car, will divert you.
Tomatoes and cucumbers might not make it through all 9 time zones from Moscow to Vladivostok but you a kilo of veggies will last well for 2-3 days. In geographical terms it equals a distance from Moscow to Novosibirsk.
It’s recommended to buy local fruit rather than imported from far away. If you’re travelling in August or September, shop for fresh “Garden” (“Sadovoye”) apples, and be an apple king of the train. A kilo will cost you a price of 1 US dollar, and nothing can be sweeter than these apples. Those travelling off season, pay attention to fresh goods from former USSR countries, like Uzbekistan or Azerbaijan.
Trans-Siberian railway tip №4: keep it authentic
A Trans-Siberian journey is the perfect chance to explore national Russian meals. Where else will you try such a variety of berries and berry jams? Cranberry, buckthorn and raspberry jams are a nice addition to your breakfast on a train. A spoonful of honey from a local honey bee farm will help you get asleep faster with the clickety-clack sound of train wheels. If you specifically want to visit a bee farm and check the beehives yourself, include a stopover in Maly Turysh village. The locals grannies will share their unique knowledge of bee products and invite you for a cup of herbal infusion tea with delicious honey cream.
Speaking of local sweets, another delicacy to try is cranberries in sugar powder. Older generations had these sweet sour beans instead of chocolate candies that were rarely available.
Kids will like gingerbreads from Tula with their tea. Sometimes gingerbreads have a fruit sauce filling or a condensed milk filling, they are very sweet. A classic gingerbread will have honey and spices in it, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom, without any ginger. Our team adore it for its rich warm scent which reminds of a sweet Christmas dream.
Finally, we recommend everyone to get some Russian toffies (“Iris”). They taste different than American toffies and have a very delicate structure. However, you want to be careful about toffies: those in individual wrappers ( “Iriski”) are very tough and sticky.
Trans-Siberian railway tip №5: Buy all that food for the Trans-Siberian tour and feel like a Tsar! In Eliseevsky store.
Eliseevsky Store, some people compare it to the food hall at Harrods, is a grocery store in the center of Moscow. Frequently visited by tourists, who admire its luxurious interiors, and by Moscovites, searching for slightly overpriced delicacies. For shopping or not, Eliseevsky is a must-stop!
Eliseevsky Store was opened in 1901 by Grigory Eliseev, a millionaire from Saint Petersburg, who decided to astound the whole Moscow with his new business. Located on Tverskaya Street 14 in a beautiful building from the 18th century, it became famous for its luxurious interiors in Neo-Baroque style and an exclusive selection of products.
Offering from caviar to French truffles and exotic fruits, Eliseevsky stood out from the other food stores in Moscow.
Its golden ages passed when the communism came. Eliseevsky Store became “Gastronom no. 1”, assortment significantly shrank and well-known for its professionalism staff was replaced by Soviet style sales ladies.
Fortunately, after the fall of communism, Eliseevsky was restored in 2004 (using the original blueprints) and gained back its fame.
Although the competition of shops with fine selection of goods is quite high nowadays, Eliseevsky is still an extremely popular spot among tourists and locals. This is because it has really convenient location and a very unique decor.
Check the stunning chandeliers, huge decorated mirrors and beautifully carved columns. Buying even the simplest loaf of bread in such interiors is an unforgettable experience!
Don’t miss the chance to visit Eliseevsky when you are in Moscow before your legendary Trans-Siberian Train Tour starts.
This text was written by our friend, a passionate traveller and a word buff Natalia Motorina.