All About Seafood in Russia

The North and the South

Putyatin Island by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

The ukha fish soup, the aspic fish or the traditional kulebyaka fish pie are just a few examples of a wide variety of fish dishes in the Russian cuisine: the country has countlesslakes and rivers. 

Uha by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

The ukha fish soup, the aspic fish or the traditional kulebyaka fish pie... 

Sturgeon & Caviar/Ussr (1960-04) by Carl MydansLIFE Photo Collection

It has long been believed that fish are the progenitors of all living things, and all life originated precisely from water. In Russian fairy tales, the fish is endowed with magical properties and knows how to fulfill desires - for example, in "The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish" and the fairy tale "By the Pike's Command."

Shore by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

Let's take a tour of Russian chief fishing areas in the north, south and the Far East to see where and what it is best to savor. 

Fish in a pan by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

Cod in Milk and Smelt Day

In the North, there are a variety of ways to consume fish. Sometimes, it will simply be finely sliced, slightly salted and eaten raw.

Sometimes, it will simply be finely sliced, slightly salted and eaten raw. More often, it will undergo some manner of cooking be it frying, salting, baking, or boiling.

In Arkhangelsk, cod is fried in milk together with potatoes and onions. It turns out that milk enhances the overall palate while infusing the fish with a creamy taste.

Fish soup by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

The Pomor ukha is the best known dish in the Northern Russian cookbook. Traditionally, it would be boiled with a fresh catch, adding onion, milk and spices. 

Rasstegais and kulebyaks, or closed pies with a variety of minced meat fillings, and, on special occasions,  the rybnik fish pies could be served to accompany the soup.  

Seafood (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

In the north, the fishing areas are Murmansk, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, the Arkhangelsk and Leningrad regions. Murmansk is famous for its seawater fish such as cod, wolffish, and halibut or its sea urchins and northern shrimps, the best in Russia. Kaliningrad holds larger pikes and zander in high esteem, while its central market trades in a wide variety of fried fish from eels to bream. A trip to the north of Russia is also an unmissable chance to try smelt, herring or ruffe.

In the north, the fishing areas are Murmansk, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, the Arkhangelsk and Leningrad regions. Murmansk is famous for its seawater fish such as cod, wolffish, and halibut or its sea urchins and northern shrimps, the best in Russia. Kaliningrad holds larger pikes and zander in high esteem, while its central market trades in a wide variety of fried fish from eels to bream. A trip to the north of Russia is also an unmissable chance to try smelt, herring or ruffe.

Herring under a fur coat by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

Herring      

Imagine a Russian New Year celebration. On the table proudly sits the traditional dressed herring, a favourite accompaniment of both special occasions and weekdays since Soviet times. 

Vinaigrette Salad by Proximity RussiaFederal Agency for Tourism

This salad that has given rise to all layered salads in the former Soviet republics, is made of boiled beets, potatoes, carrots, onions and herring, which is lavishly dressed with mayonnaise.    

Herring, Napoleon by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

Russian villagers used to soak herring, dredge it in breadcrumbs and fried it in oil before serving with fried onions. Another regular is the simple but beloved amuse-bouche of herring with boiled potatoes, oil and onion rings.

Fish by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

Smelt
A spring visit to St. Petersburg means there is no missing the city fish favourite of smelt. Its popularity is such that it is even considered a symbol of the city. 

Cucumbers by Alrxander AverinFederal Agency for Tourism

Shipped to market in mid-May, it fills fish stalls with a smell surprising like that of fresh cucumbers.  It is also when St. Petersburg celebrates Smelt Day that brings together over 100,000 people each year.

Shipped to market in mid-May, it fills fish stalls with a smell surprising like that of fresh cucumbers.  It is also when St. Petersburg celebrates Smelt Day that brings together over 100,000 people each year.

Peterburg Smelt FishFederal Agency for Tourism

Smelt is used to make ukha, and can be baked, fried, stewed, pickled or fashioned into rolls. The simplest method is to dredge it in flour and fry it in vegetable oil to make a dish that the people of St. Petersburg love the most.

Crayfish (21st Century) by photo by Aleksander AverinFederal Agency for Tourism

South: Tsar Ukha, Fresh Crayfish, and Aspic Pike

If there is a paradise for fish lovers, it is the Rostov Region and the Black Sea shore. Here, fish is part of culture and the whole climate. Walking along the Black Sea waterfront  you are sure to smell goby fried after being dredged in breadcrumbs. 

Large plaice, herring, anchovy, and goatfish are produced all along the Black Sea coastline. Volgograd Region fish recipes are different and include sturgeon balyk, the local Caspian herring and, of course, crayfish.

LIFE Photo Collection

Southern regions are Russia's Astrakhan, Rostov, Volgograd regions and Krasnodar Territory. If you ever go to the south of Russia, don't forget to sample pike, zander and sterlet.

Pike cutlets by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

Pike    

Pike is called the queen of ponds. Delicious pelmeni and pike patties are original Russian dishes. In the days of old, pike caviar was considered the best, and it is highly valued and served at restaurants even today.    

Pike is used to make ukha or aspic dishes where it is covered with transparent jelly and served with smetana, horseradish and mustard. Pike can be fired, baked, and stuffed with cream and garlic to make a dish that would be worthy of a Tsar's table.

Stilleven met vissen, zeevruchten en bloemen (ca. 1612 - ca. 1615) by Peeters, ClaraRijksmuseum

In the 17th and 18th centuries, pike was exclusively used to cook ukha with saffron and kletzky or small boiled bits of spiced dough. It could also be pickled in barrels to extend its shelf life to a whole year.

fish_3 by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

Pike is also a common subject in folk tales. In one of them, At the Pike's Behest, Yemelya the Simpleton is seen catching a pike to make ukha. The pike convinces him to let it go instead telling him magical words that can make any wish come true.    

Fish sterlet (21st Century) by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

Sterlet      

In old Russia, sterlet was a gourmet food that would be typically served whole with sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers, mushrooms and onion. It would also go into what was called "Tsar" ukha which was cooked by stewing fish, not boiling it, to produce a transparent broth.

Fish in a pan by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

Zander      

Zander has a role in many Russian cuisine dishes such as kulebyaka, patties, white ukha, to name just a few. It can be marinated, fried with onion, stewed in smetana sour cream and jellied. This fish will make perfect appetizers and filling as well.    

The fastest way to serve it is to fry it on a hot pan after dredging it in breadcrumbs or batter. Zander can also be grilled, but for that you need to grill it whole and to first rub salt, pepper and garlic into it.  

Seafood (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

Seafood    

In the south of Russia, people are very partial to sea snails and muddles, the latter of which is a favorite culinary delight for both locals and tourists. 

They are farmed in clean areas of the Black Sea coast before being shipped to restaurants where they end up in salads, stewed with white wine and served in shells. 

Don crayfish (21st Century) by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

Don River crawfish is another food held in high esteem in Russia's south. At authentic crawfish eateries one will be caught just for you to be cooked to your taste.

Credits: Story

Сhief Сonsultant — Ekaterina Drozdova, restaurateur, gastronomic entrepreneur, food and social activist, Contributors— Proximity Russia, Denis Yershov, Alexander Averin, tm agency, Svetlana Shpak, Andrey Kolodyazhniy, Natalya Rybalchenko

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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