5 Curious Facts About Siberian Cuisine

The culture of hunters, game dishes and Siberian tea

LIFE Photo Collection

Curious Fact #1

Siberia became part of the Russian Empire in late 16th century, prompting the arrival of the first Russian settlers who soon made the region their home.

Historical Siberia by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

This enriched the Siberian edition of Russian cuisine with many dishes and foods unknown in Central Russia, including raw fish, the Altai kaimak or edible ferns.  

Here they would live as they were used to while borrowing whatever came in handy, including traditions and skills, from the locals such as the Evenks, the Selkups, the Dolgans, the Buryats, the Khakas’, the Altai, the Nenets and others.

Milk ukha by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

Curious Fact #2

Soup is a favourite dish in Russia as a whole, but it is especially valued in Siberia. The recipes are mainly the same as in the rest of the country, but rely more on local products.

Mushrooms by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

In addition to shchi and chicken noodles, there are numerous mushroom varieties — evidence of a multitude of mushroom species in local forests. This abundance permits to pick up only the very best.

Mushroom by Alexander AverinFederal Agency for Tourism

Siberians love a soup with just the Penny Buns. Another favourite is gruzdyanka, which features milk-mushrooms.

LIFE Photo Collection

Curious Fact #3

For centuries, life in Siberia was centred around the great rivers of the region: Ob, Angara, Yenisei and Lena. 

Sterlet by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

All of them abound in fish, making the local people experts in fish cuisine, which includes fish pies and strong ukha as well as stroganina and sugudai.

Still Life: Tea Set (Main View)The J. Paul Getty Museum

Curious Fact #4

The border town of Kyakhta, now part of Buryatia, historically straddled the major caravan way from Russia to China. The most prominent among imported goods was tea. Much of it went to Central Russia, but a significant portion would end up in Siberia.

Much of it went to Central Russia, but a significant portion would end up in Siberia.

Tea with bagels (21st Century) by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

As a result, by the late 19th century, Siberians had become the Russian Empire's foremost tea drinkers with some downing 40 cups a day, according to personal accounts, which, even if exaggerated, testify still to rather substantial consumption.

The practice has not waned, but the cheaper green tea bricks have lost in popularity to loose-leaf black varieties.

Hunter (21st Century) by Shamil KhairtdinovFederal Agency for Tourism

Curious Fact #5

Until recently, deer herders, hunters and gold miners led a partially nomadic lifestyle. This explains the popularity of game dishes (deer, elk, bear, hazel grouse, black grouse), dishes that can be cooked fast on-site (stroganina, sugudai) and ready-made dishes (pelmeni and frozen soups). 

Another popular camping dish is omul or other fish ‘on the stick’ that would be roasted with ember heat.

Credits: Story

Сhief Сonsultant — Ekaterina Drozdova, restaurateur, gastronomic entrepreneur, food and social activist, Contributors — Natalia Savinskaya, Anna Kukulina, Proximity Russia, Shamil Khairtdinov, Denis Yershov

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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