Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

FORKLORE

What's Cooking in Siberia

January 07, 1998|CHARLES PERR

The French sometimes serve fish a la siberienne, meaning covered with a cream sauce, because they think of Siberia as eternally clad in snow. To put it mildly, this is not a traditional Siberian dish.

The largest single group in the vast Siberian wilderness is the Turkish-speaking Yakut nation, who wandered north about a thousand years ago to avoid the Mongols. The Yakuts continued to herd cattle like their ancestors, but since they were living in the Arctic, their herds had to be sheltered from the weather most of the year. And they have kept on making dairy products such as yogurt (suorat), though stretching it out with desperate Siberian ingredients like roots and pine sapwood.

The other Siberian peoples fall mostly into two groups: reindeer herders and fish-eaters. The Reindeer Evenks wander over a stupefyingly vast territory from the Ob River to the Pacific. They live on reindeer milk and meat.

Their fish-eating cousins, the Sitting Evenks, like other Siberian fisher folk, dry their catch and grind it to a powder (nyukola), from which they can make instant fish porridge. West of the Evenks, the Khanty and Mansi traditionally lived much the same way. They ate certain parts of the reindeer raw, such as the eyes, ears, lips, marrow and organ meats, and relished the soft horns of young reindeer.

People living in the coldest areas, such as the Samoyeds, have an Eskimo-like taste for pure fat--fish, seal, reindeer or whatever they can get. On the Pacific coast, sashimi-like salads are prepared from thinly sliced raw fish. And the Chukchi people have a traditional breakfast dish made from the semi-digested contents of a reindeer's stomach (rilkeil) plus blood, fat and bits of small intestine.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|