Traveling as a vegetarian can be tricky anywhere, and that is especially true in Ukraine. If you keep to a vegetarian diet, it will take some planning, consideration, and at least a few words of Ukrainian or Russian to ensure that you’ll have dining options throughout the country.
If you eat dairy or eggs, you will have a fairly easy time finding foods that you can eat. Vegan travelers to Ukraine will have a tougher time. If you are able to be flexible enough with your diet to include fish, you will have plenty of food choices, particularly along the coasts. While many foods are vegetable-based in Ukraine, items are often cooked in or flavored with a small amount of animal-based ingredients such as beef broth or pork fat. Learn a few Ukrainian phrases so that you can ask servers in restaurants how the dishes are cooked.
If you are invited to eat at your Ukrainian sweetheart's home, let your host know in advance about your dietary restrictions. Ukrainians hold hospitality in high regard, and your host will probably do all that she can to accommodate you. However, if you are served meat, you should probably put respect for your host above other scruples and eat it. It is considered the height of rudeness in Ukraine to fail to at least taste food that you are given.
When shopping for food in the markets, you’ll usually be able to buy fruits, vegetables, cheese and bread without issue. If you plan to pick up packaged food, you’ll need to read enough Ukrainian to puzzle out the ingredients if you want to ensure that the foods you pick up are animal-product free.
While vegetarianism is a concept that will be foreign to many Ukrainians, there are more and more vegetarian options available in restaurants. Kiev has over a dozen restaurants that are considered at least vegetarian-friendly. At many Ukrainian restaurants, there will be salads, soups and breads that are vegetarian. You may also be able to sample local delicacies like cheese or sauerkraut-stuffed dumplings, or crispy potato pancakes. Many cities also have Japanese, Indian, Italian or other cuisines that frequently feature vegetarian-friendly offerings.
As with anything else in Russian dating or traveling abroad, most problems can be avoided with a bit of education, preparation and the flexibility to enjoy new experiences.