Today there are around 22,500 Khanty living in Siberia. Most Khanty people live in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug in Western Siberia. Until the 1930s, the Khanty were called Ostiak. The translation of the word “Khanty” from the native language means “Man”. Khanty have always been excellent hunters. Children were always the ultimate value in Khanty families. This people are very cares and family like.
Khants usually migrate with the reindeer, fishing, hunting and foraging for sustenance on the way. The whole cuisine of the Khanty is based on the products of fishing and hunting. Fish are so important that even the bread of the Khants is made with the addition of fish powder, and the main source of fat in their cooking is fish oil. Khants drink chai (tea) and eat dry wild berries for sweets.
Khanty’s actions are much influenced by their religion and taboos. For example, people of the beaver clan cannot eat beaver, and people of the elk clan cannot eat elk. The bear is a relative to all Khants and is considered the guardian of world order, arbitrator, and the judge. Especially sacred is the front part of the bear: no woman is allowed to touch it.
Dogs must not have any access to a bear’s bones, and bear bones are not cut or broken. The Khant people believe that if they follow all of these rules, then a consumed bear will regain his flesh and walk again in the forest.
Boiling crucian in the same cauldron as other fish is also prohibited, because crucian is fish for the dead who live in the underworld. All things white are holy and belong to their god, and therefore cannot be eaten, such as swans, ermine, and albino deer.
The cooking custom involving the burbot (a freshwater fish of the cod family) is also illustrative of the Khant people’s reliance on tradition and mystery. Once burbot is caught, a Khant fisherman takes the fish’s liver out through its mouth. If he succeeds in getting out all the liver, the rest of the flesh is eaten as well. But if the liver is cut and only a part of it is removed, the fish has to be released to the two sides of the world: the lower side (North) and upper side (South). The extracted liver is grilled on wooden sticks at the side of a bonfire. But the wood of the bonfire must be of the kind that is pleasing to the god. Willow wood is used for burbot liver cooking.
Content credit to Enotes.com