Northern rivers and lakes abound with valuable fish such as muksun, Arctic cisco, nelma, lake whitefish and broad whitefish. Dried and smoked fish is a staple of the local diet.
One of the most recognisable Arctic delicacies, stroganina is usually made from frozen raw muksun or cisco, but other types of locally harvested freshwater fish can also be used. The recipe is very straightforward: just remove the frozen skin and slice the fish with a sharp knife. The fish slices are then dipped into a mixture of salt and pepper and eaten straight away. With each bite, they just melt in your mouth!
Apart from its tender, wholesome flesh, which is rich in protein and nutrients, muksun is valued for its roe, which is eaten as caviar. The eggs are much smaller and have a more rubbery texture than salmon roe. Muksun caviar offers a strong taste with a piquant bitter note; the vibrant orange colour of the roe is an excellent mood-booster on grey winter days, when the sun only bothers to come above the horizon for a couple of hours (if at all).
Sugudai is another highly popular northern specialty made from raw fish. The only difference from stroganina is that sugudai uses fresh rather than frozen fish, which is finely sliced, mixed with onion and left to marinade for 10-15 minutes. Sugudai is often served with vegetable oil, soy sauce, vinegar or lemon juice, or simply with salt and pepper.
Yukola is a recipe for dried meat and fish, traditional to the peoples of the Russian North. Although originally invented as a method for preserving fish, this technique also worked well for reindeer meat. Prior to drying, the venison or fish is seasoned with salt or lightly smoked above the stove. The highly nutritious yukola comes with a whole list of advantages: it keeps for a long time, but it also comes ready to eat and doesn’t make you thirsty. Most importantly, yukola is so delicious that it has become by far the most popular souvenir brought back from Taimyr to mainland Russia.
A vital natural resource for many indigenous peoples, reindeer have been crucial to the survival of the human race in the severe Arctic conditions.
Reindeer provide many products for human use - even the antlers, hooves and bones are utilized. In the past, reindeer bones were made into spear heads, fishing hooks and knives; modern craftspeople use bone to create beautiful works of art. Hollow bones are crushed to obtain bone marrow, which is eaten raw.
Every year reindeer grow a new set of antlers. The growing antlers are filled with blood and covered with a layer of skin and soft hair called velvet. Velvet antlers can be cut off, finely sliced and eaten. The chewy antler slices have a salty taste, are extremely rich in nutrients and minerals and have provided an irreplaceable source of calcium for people in the North. Velvet antlers are also used as an ingredient in some medicines.
It's impossible to think of Arctic cuisine without reindeer meat, yukola. With its delicately sweet taste, yukola can be a meal in itself, or it can be used in salads or soups.
Reindeer meat is also excellent when eaten fresh. Delicately spicy venison makes tender, juicy steaks and kebabs which always leave you wanting more!
Brief Arctic summers yield rich harvests of berries and mushrooms, which are preserved to be enjoyed over the long polar winter. Unsurprisingly, the most common method of preservation is freezing.
In August, the tundra is covered with a colourful carpet of berries.
Willow grouse is highly prized for its delicious flesh with a pure and piquant, slightly gamey taste. Willow grouse meat can be stewed, boiled, fried or roasted.
Wild mushrooms in the North are so abundant that the local residents pick and cook only the best, like the Penny Bun: they can afford to leave the rest on the ground!
The remote Taimyr Peninsula in Arctic Siberia is blanketed by snow for most of the year and is battered by bitter polar winds. Family get-togethers, friendly gatherings and hearty meals with local delicacies are an important strategy for combatting the physical and mental strain caused by the inhospitable natural environment.
No matter how desolate the countryside may seem, Taimyr’s regional cuisine can boast a rich variety of both meat and fish dishes as well as wild mushrooms and berries that is unknown to mainland Russians. Lenta.ru visited the Great Argish Festival to find out more about the high-end culinary opportunities and surprise gourmets of the Russian Arctic.