From Russia with love! That’s all that came to mind as we began our descent into Moscow. Russia was another one of those cities that was not on my planned travel list this year. It however turned out to be a great surprise. Initially, I went about getting my visa for Russia with apprehension as I wasn’t sure what to expect. After much ado, I decided not to expect anything and just be open to the experience. Now, in hindsight it was a wonderful whimsical trip to the city of Moscow that was full of surprises. Rich in history in the midst of growing modernity.
While I explored the Kremlin, Red Square and Saint Basil's Cathedral among other sights. True excitement came as I got to tour the local neighbourhood market in Danilovsky, which is off the beaten tourist path. Now the food in Moscow is similar to what you would find in colder climes, is mostly animal foods fish, root vegetables and of course vodka. But, I was able to work around that the best I could as there were lots of salads and vegetables with each meal we had.
There is an ongoing gentrification happening in Moscow, a mix of where old is being transformed into new. Danilovsky Market located across the street from the Tulskaya metro station is a clear example of the change that is occurring in this city.
Thanks to our tour guide, I was soon immersed in a Russian foodie experience. Danilovsky market is a Soviet-era farmers market that has turned into a location for deli food cooked and served in many eateries found on the periphery of the market stalls. A bustling local market (calm by Nigerian standards of bustling), you can walk around while exploring Russian and Soviet foods and cuisine. You can find everything from Vietnamese pho, Indian curries and Italian pasta served by vendors surrounding the market. I walked around several times before having to force myself into a decision. It was wonderful observing the locals as they went about their daily business of grocery shopping, and it was fun interacting with the traders using Google Translate to halfway have a conversation. In the market were traders who sold foods local to some of the countries that once belonged to the former USSR and others who sold delicacies from other parts of the world. It is intriguing to see the impact of global trade because in the midst of all the local produce were familiar foods from Asia, Middle East and the tropics - mangos, dates and figs, and coconuts to name a few. It just confirms how Moscow has become home to a diverse population as well. My most intriguing find were the Georgian and Armenian candied dreid sweet called sudzhuk churchkhela, which hung bright coloured bundles from several stalls. Churchkhela is a traditional candle-shaped candy. The main ingredients are grape must, nuts and flour. They are made by stringing together almonds, walnuts, hazel nuts and chocolate and dipping them in a thickened grape juice and dried in the shape of a sausage [source]. They look as though they have been dipped in wax and mildly sweet, this candy reminded me of liquorice in texture and flavour.
The market stalls were piled high with fresh produce, nuts, dried fruit and endless rows of pickled everything - cabbage, mushrooms, cucumbers and more. I tasted wild honey of all possible varieties and found a small health food store full of gluten and dairy free goodness. I filled my time at the market drinking fresh blackberry juice, kvass and smoothies, then ended up enjoying a bowl of Vietnamese pho on the terrace. I could be sitting in a food court anywhere in the world, but this was Moscow. If not for the fact that I couldn’t take any produce along with me, I could have easily spent hours here filling up shopping bags with all the fresh goodness. Danilovsky was inspiring and I look forward to pickling more ingredients at home. I have a whole new appreciation for the pickling process and deep flavours it produces.
"RUSSIA IS A RIDDLE WRAPPED IN A MYSTERY INSIDE AN ENIGMA"
~ Winston Churchill