For some of my friends who have never had the opportunity to visit Moscow, their perception of Russian living may not be totally correct. I remember the first week arrived in the city, I was worried about being able to get ingredients I was used to. Well I was in luck because I found the Dorogomilovsky Market near the Kievskaya Metro station.
My thoughts about Moscow markets were not favourable prior to moving. I remember my father telling me that when they traveled there in the 70’s and 80’s that you lined up for hours just to get some mediocre produce if there was any by the time it got to your turn. I knew things had drastically changed in the past 10 years but I didn’t have great expectations. I was delighted the moment I walked into the Market to see a Russian version of St. Lawrence Market or Granville Island Market. The fruit and vegetable displays were fantastic.
The following is a bit of a warning to those people going for the first time and having limited Russian language skills.
As I walked through the market my mind was spinning with ideas of what I would make for dinner. I had decided on the seafood area as my start. Venders were talking at you to buy their produce but I spotted two young men from Azerbaijan that appeared to be brothers. They made the effort to try to say hello in English, well I was hooked. They enticed me to buy prawns and scallops for a seafood risotto. The prawns were massive and the scallops perfect so 6 prawns, 12 scallops and $50 later I had my first purchase. I know I got totally ripped off but I rationalized it as a learning experience. Most sane people would have decided that they would try a different vender the next time but I knew in order to get the best produce and service, you need to build a relationship so I have stuck it out with the same venders. It doesn’t hurt to remind them that you are looking for “best price”. My latest purchase from my fish mongers was two fresh tuna steaks for $25. Last year before I returned to Canada for the holidays, I took home baked cookies to my fish buddies. It paid off because now I get immediate attention and “best price” all the time.
The same goes for my fruit and vegetable vender. I get to sample anything on his or his neighbours stands. I found out that he is from the same area that my Grandparents came from. I always find a few extra gifts in my bag when I get home. Generally when you ask for something, the fellow at the top inside of the stand will go behind the display and bag your items. I am lucky that Temor takes it off the stand so that I can see exactly what I am purchasing. I have to tell you that they carry the best tomatoes from Baku.
I also have a sweet lady where I get my pickled goods from. She has fresh 2 day pickles as well as 3 week pickles. Something I have acquired a taste for is pickled tomatoes. Other delicacies at her stand are pickled garlic (plain or with beet juice), garlic shoots, grape leaves, apples, cabbage and a very lovely hot sauce. When my brother came to visit, she insisted he try everything on her stand.
Dorogolmilovsky also has a meat section but they don’t like people photographing it. Each section of stalls has either beef, lamb or pork. The carcasses are all hung up and the venders will cut whatever you want. A couple of months ago I wanted to make slow braised short ribs but had a rough time finding the right cut. I got taken into the back cold lockers to find exactly what I was looking for. Interestingly the one difficult thing to acquire in the poultry section is turkey. For Thanksgiving this year I had to order from an organic farmer but the max. size was 5 kg each. I could have gotten an old 30kg tom from a market on the outskirts of the city but I don’t think I was ready to tackle something that size.
This Market also has dry goods stalls where you can get practically anything from universal plugs to panko crumbs. I love the dried fruit and nut stalls. Yesterday I had decided to make mincemeat for some tart next week. I ended up in a place run by some young Tajikistan men. Here too they insist you try everything they sell. When I was paying, I pulled out my coins that were mixed with Canadian coins. Like bees to honey, they wanted to know all about each coin and it’s worth. Finally one of them pulled out a bill from his wallet and gave it to me in exchange for some of my canadian coins. They were all smiles as I left the shop.
I don’t shop at the market on a regular basis but maybe once a month as it is a bit of a trek and there is only so much one can carry. There are many market similar to Dorogomilovsky throughout the city, some smaller or specializing in certain items that make shopping in Moscow an adventure.