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Before you start to complain that three days on the train are too long, consider the following. Many years ago, when Trans-Siberian railway hadn’t even been planned, people still had to get from one part of the country to another. Back then this trip could have easily cost them lives but generally took 6 months from Moscow to Irkutsk (5000 km away, in southern Siberia).
Since there were no trains, people travelled by horses in either a cart on wheels in the summer time or on sleighs in the winter. You wouldn’t have wanted to forget something at home, as it would be a loooong way to go back! It is hard to imagine the preparations that needed to be done prior the departure and the level of risks those travellers were undertaking. Fairly speaking, very seldom someone would have set on this journey upon their own will, but more often the route to Siberia was laid by the exiles and military divisions.
One of the most striking parts of the famous Russian writer Anton Chekhov’s description of his trip to Siberia was an experience of eating a bear that his conductor killed and prepared on fire. Mixed feelings of fascination and disgust needle through the pages of Chekhov’s Siberian novels, and the reader follows the narrative hoping they will never have to live through that.
But what are the food experiences like these days when going on the Trans Siberian? Well, one thing is for sure: you don’t need to hunt a bear. Although it is essential to make a trip to the grocery store to not feel hungry like a bear!
Train diet is based on one simple but important component: hot water. With hot water available all the way through you can almost work wonders. And no matter how insignificant it may sound to you now, keep on reading to find out why it is so important.
So, here you are on the train. Here is your train compartment: bunks, table, linen, all is good. But where are you going to store your food? And how good that beautiful salami that you bought today will be in three days time? There you go. There is no fridge to rely on when on the train and thus it is crucial to have those wonderful “add hot water” packages to get you through Siberia.
Below we’ve listed the top five “gourmet” dishes that you can make on the train. It is not a French “haute cuisine” but it is definitely something to refer to when you start feeling sick from just the look of the instant noodles.
1. Instant porridge. This one is a killer for breakfast.
Add hot water to the package of raspberry-favoured (or strawberry, whatever you like) porridge, add some fruit – banana will do, and in a minute’s time you are ready to go.
Follow it up with a cup of instant coffee with long lasting or condensed milk and some Russian biscuits (“Юбилейное» is a good one) and your breakfast is not a headache anymore! Headache could be from a previous night though.
2. Vegetable salad. Get a couple of tomatoes and cucumbers and the smallest package of mayonnaise you can find at the food store. Yeah, you should know by now, Russians love their mayonnaise so enjoy it as well before switching to yak’s fat in Mongolia 😉 Pick up a spice mix to add a bit of flavour to your train ride. Mix it all up in a plate that you smartly brought with you (or borrow one from the carriage attendant, but ask nicely!)
3. Instant mashed potato with crackers, cheese and pickles. Grab a jar of pickled cucumbers that will serve you both for chasing your vodka shots and enriching a pretty mellow taste of instant potato. Take crackers, slice the cucumbers and put some cheese on top. If you are going to eat your cheese on the first couple of days, buy any variety you like. If you want it to stay fresh for the duration of the trip, take the processed cheese (Hochland). Instant potato is surprisingly tasty and can become a good substitute to the instant noodles.
4. Train desert: banana and Nutella sandwich. Bananas and Nutella stay good on the train and you can stock up on reasonably fresh bread as you go along from either little kiosks on stations or babushkas that will be meeting the train with their provisions.
5. We can’t get away from the noodles! To be fair, they are quite flavourful when eaten for the first or even the second time. The best brand of instant noodles to get in Russia is “Doshirak” (Доширак) and it goes with a plastic container that you can use later for making your salad or mix up the porridge (the taste might be a bit strange). It is best not to add all the ingredients from the small packages right away but rather add it as you go and up to your taste. The beef flavoured noodles are quite spicy while the chicken ones are very mild. Add to it some pickled tomatos, get some cabbage piroshki from the station or even the dining car, top it up with a sprinckle of mayonnaise (come on you are in Russia) and enjoy!
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