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STUDENT GUIDE TO RUSSIA  / HARD TO FIND FOODS IN RUSSIA
12.10.2013


You can't buy Mrs. Butterworth's in Russia! :( "Normal Food"
Hard-to-Find Foods in Russia

Very often SRAS is asked by Western students in Russia where they can find "normal food." While we encourage students to acclimate to the culture (and food) in Russia as best they can, we realize that Russian cuisine can be very different from what students are used to and can often seem bland and overly oily or fatty.

The list below is a list of Western foods that are hard to find in Russia either because Russians generally find them unpalatable (like Root Beer or Grape Nuts) or because they simply haven't been introduced to the market (like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups).

The list below is provided for general interest as well as to help students pack a supply of something they might miss too much while abroad! It includes both English and American "delicacies." To help even out the cultural value, we polled Russians on foods they miss while abroad - that list is provided below. All entries were originally collected from the forums on Expat.ru, a forum for English-speakers in Russia, 2007. We updated the list in 2013.

 
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Much has changed in the last five years. For instance, flour tortillas, peanut butter, breakfast cereals, cheddar cheese, and several other products, while still products that one might have to look for and chose from unknown brands, are making substantial inroads in Russia and can now be found at many of the larger supermarkets in Moscow or St. Petersburg.

Note that nearly all of these can be found in Moscow or St. Petersburg at Stockmann's grocery, which caters largely to the foreign populations in those cities (and offers products at fairly high import prices).

Mexican Foods:
Mexican food is something that students often complain that they miss. While there are Mexican-themed options now in most major Russian cities, the food is often more of a Russian take on Tex-Mex food rather than Mexican cooking. In stores, products can be found to make your own, but, again, is often lacking spice.

  • Salsa (hot; mild salsa, particularly the Delicados brand, is now fairly widely available in major supermarkets)
  • Tortillas (corn, hard or soft shell; flour tortillas are now fairly widely available in Moscow and St. Petersburg, again, under the Delicados brand)
  • Frozen burritos
  • Guacamole 
  • Spanish Rice (also rarely occurs in even the most authentic of Mexican restaurants)
  • Chili con carne
  • Chili
  • Refried beans
  • Bean dip
  • Cumin (the spice)
  • Canned jalapenos
 
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Dinners:

  • Mac and Cheese (in a box)
  • TV Dinners
  • SPAM
  • Canned pastas (Chef Boy-ar-dee; Franco-American)
  • Baked beans
  • Corned beef hash
  • Stove Top
  • Yams (canned or fresh)
  • Pumpkin (canned)
  • Falafel
  • Tesco pork pies

Baking Goods:

  • Betty Crocker Mixes (in general, baking mixes are not a common site in Russian supermarkets)
  • Bisquick
  • Corn syrup
  • Molasses
  • Marshmallows
  • Marshmallow Cream

Cereals:
Kellogg's brands still rare, but Nestle and other European brands of corn pops, rice puffs, corn flakes, etc. are now common. Russia's Lyubyatovo brand even makes corn and multigrain flakes domestically now. Some flavors that you might miss:

  • Grape Nuts
  • Raisin Bran (try buying Nestle Fitness cereal, plain, and adding raisins)
  • Wheetabix (can be found in many Sedmoi Kontinent grocery stores)

Peanut Butter is another hard find in Russia, especially at a reasonable price.Sauces and Toppings:

  • Maple Syrup (Real maple syrup is becoming increasingly available in larger, upscale supermarkets, but it is pricey. The fake maple syrup that most Americans grew up is still a rarity. As a substitute, try honey with a bit of vanilla extract added.)
  • Marmite
  • Heinz Salad Cream
  • Peanut Butter (Peanut Butter is beginning to appear in larger, upmarket supermarkets - in smaller jars made by a German manufacturer; Skippy is still something that you'll have to go to Stockmann for)
  • Jelly (for sandwiches, etc.)
  • HP Sauce
  • A1 Steak Sauce
  • Molasses-based BBQ Sauces (such as Bulls Eye or Jack Daniel's)
 

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Snack Foods:

  • Doritos Corn Chips (Try Papa's corn chips - made the Russian company Ruskart.)
  • Fritos
  • Ritz Crackers and Ritz Bitz (Try Lyubyatovo brand crackers - particularly "Klassicheskii" for a good substitute)
  • Oreo cookies
  • Brownies (these can be found at Praim sandwich shops and other assorted bakeries now)
  • Wheat Thins
  • Chips Ahoy cookies
  • Nutter Butter cookies
  • Pop-Tarts
  • Triscuits
  • Rice Thins
  • Crispers
  • Cheez Whiz
  • Fig Newtons
  • Jello

Candy:

  • Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and Reeses Pieces (however, Russians love them! - bring some and make some friends)
  • Candy canes
  • Peppermint Patties
    (The below are truly only applicable to the brand loyal. Russia has two major brands: Krasnyi Oktyabr and A. Kornikov which produce excellent quality and affordable candies and chocolates. Try them and you'll be missing them when you go home!)
  • Hershey chocolate bars
  • O. Henry candy bars
  • Babe Ruth candy bars
  • Heath toffee candy bars
  • Nut Goodie candies
  • Turtle candies
 
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Drinks:

  • Hot chocolate mix
  • Malted milk mix
  • Dr. Pepper (Dr. Pepper can increasingly be found, but it costs $3 a can. It was widely available in the 90s in Russia, then left the Russian market. It is now imported and sold as a nostalgia item.)
  • Mr. Pibb
  • Root Beer
  • Mountain Dew (Mountain Dew has recently started local production in Russia and is increasingly available)
  • Ovaltine

AND WHAT DO RUSSIANS CRAVE WHEN ABROAD?

It is interesting to note that almost no one responded to this open-questioned by citing brand names, though many specified "Russian" in the names of the products they mentioned that are available in similar forms abroad. Below are the most popular answers given.

Many of the names have been annotated and linked to sites with more information.

Grains and Breads

  • Rye bread (often darker and thicker than what you find in America)
  • Kasha (Boiled millet - also made from other grains)
  • Russians crave gretchka while abroadGrechka - buckwheat cooked and eaten like rice

Dairy Products

  • Russian 20%, 30%, 50% dairy fat sour cream,
  • Prostokvasha (very similar to butter milk)
  • Ryazhenka (Similar to butter milk)
  • Kefir (similar to butter milk, but more sour)
  • Sgushonka (sweetened, caramelized, condensed milk – mmmm tasty!)
  • Yogurt drinks
  • Russian ice cream
  • Tvorog (similar to cottage cheese, but with smaller curds and thicker texture)
  • "Russian" mayonnaise (generally has a much higher fat content than in the West)
 
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Pickled Things
Russians take their pickling very seriously. Russian pickles are traditionally made in a lightly salted brine. Too much salt or the use of vinegar is generally frowned upon.

  • Pickled cucumbers
  • Pickled cabbage
  • Pickled garlic
  • Pickled tomatoes

Meats and Fish

  • Kholodets - a jellied product usually made from pork and flavored with garlic
  • Salo – pork lard, often cooked and eaten alone or diced, fried, and added to dishes
  • Selyodka pod shuboi - a layered salad made from herring that no one except real Russians seems to have the ability to tolerate
  • Shashlik - marinated meat roasted over coal

Traditional Medicines
Most Russians prefer herbal and non-traditional medicines to professional health care.

  • Chainyi grib - a cure-all made from yeast and mushrooms
  • Russian herbal medicines and traditional healers 

Drinks

  • Baltika 9 - a Russian beer with 9% alcohol
  • Cheap Vodka - according to most, that available in the West is a third of the quality for many times the price. Vodka is often cheaper than beer in Russia!
  • Kvas - made from fermented bread, usually slightly alcoholic

Other

  • Tkemali sauce (a Georgian spiced sauce made from tkemali fruit)
  • Russian Chocolates (Krasnyi oktyabr, mishkas, alyonka),
  • Russian hot chocolate (generally it's just melted chocolate in a cup)

 


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