Siberian Cuisine

Siberians have preserved a large portion of their traditional culinary identity.

Siberian cuisine originated as a rich mixture of European and aboriginal traditions. Chaldon people produced basic food products on their own farms. These foods included dairy products, meat, vegetables, eggs, breads and other cereal products, vegetable oils, as well as mushrooms, wild berries, pine nuts, fish, and game. Although every family possessed hunting guns and traps, game was not central to the Siberian diet. Food was stewed, boiled, or baked in a Russian oven or fried in oil or drawn butter.

pelmeniPel’meni was a very distinctive Siberian stuffed pasta dish traditionally cooked during winter. In form, pel’meni was a thin round (about 2–3 inches in diameter) of soft pasta dough folded over a minced meat filling to make a semicircle, with the two arms (the corners) twisted around and stuck together. One could find hundreds of pel’meni filling recipes involving chicken, game birds, elk, fish, reindeer, mushrooms, and many vegetarian variations. However, the filling was made traditionally of two (beef and pork) or three (with the addition of lamb) types of meat, along with onion, salt, and ground black pepper.

Pel’meni were not cooked over steam, as many similar central Asian dishes were; rather they were boiled in water. In the past, pel’meni was the food normally given to travelers.

The name pel’meni originates from the Komi language: pel’, meaning ‘ear’, and nian’, meaning ‘bread’. In turn, the origin of Komi’s pel’nian recipe can be traced to thirteenth-century China. At the end of the sixteenth century, Perm’, the land of Komi, was used as the base for expansion. All Russian expeditions to Siberia went through Perm’, where Russians learned about pel’meni. As a result, pel’meni spread and became a Siberian national dish.

pirogi-150x150Pirogi, pirozhki, and bliny are widely spread in Siberian cuisine. Made out of leavened dough pirogi (large pies) and pirozhki (small pies) could be fried or baked and stuffed with potatoes, carrots, green onion and eggs, liver, minced meat, fish, or fresh or dried berries mixed with malt. The Siberian analogue of pizza was a round, flat pie called shangi, which was topped with cottage cheese and sour cream and then baked. Another round pie, called beliash, was stuffed with meat, closed up, and fried. Beliash can be traced to a Tartar heritage, since in Kazan tartar cookery there was a meat pie called belish. The traditional large holiday pie of Chaldons, often called kurnik, was made with fish or chicken.

Many different recipes exist for bliny (large thin pancakes) and oladyi (smaller pancakes of thicker dough usually oval in shape). These could be made of wheat or rye, leaven or unleavened, and some buckwheat flour, milk, and eggs. Oil and honey could also be added. Once they were made, bliny could be stuffed with caviar and eaten cold, or filled with cottage cheese or meat and then baked in the oven or fried.

Other types of baked pastries included pechen’ya (cookies), prianik (a type of honey-cake), sooshka (ringshaped pretzels, small kalatch dipped into boiling water before baking); kulich (Easter cake with raisins or other dry fruits).

Meat. At the beginning of the twentieth century, meat was one of the main features of the Siberian menu. It was always on the table, excluding, of course, fasting days preceding the big Christian holidays, as well as Wednesday and Friday of every week.

The most important meats were beef, lamb, chicken, and goose. Meat-and-cabbage soup, called shchi, was usually cooked on a daily basis.

borshch-150x150Borscht, the red-beet meat soup, was popular among settlers from southern Russia. Due to the convenience of Russian ovens, boiling or stewing was the most common way of cooking meat.

One of the most popular traditional foods in Siberia was aspic or meat jelly, called kholodets. It came from the legs and ears of cows and pigs that are boiled for a long time over a low heat. The meat was then cut off the bones, chopped into very fine pieces, and covered with its broth. Usually onion, garlic, and black pepper were added, as well as carrots and other root vegetables. Kholodets was usually served with very hot Russian mustard or horseradish sauce.


Kotlety, an oval-shaped rissole made from a mixture of minced beef and pork (with additions of onion, garlic, and white bread soaked in milk), was adopted from German settlers, as were rybny and kurinny kotlety, made from minced fish or chicken.

Also important to notice that Asian cuisine is firmly established in the Siberian menu. Central Asian foods such as shurpa (meat and vegetable soup), bishbarmak (noodle and meat soup), shahslyk (small pieces of marinated meat grilled on sticks), manty (pasta stuffed with meat and onion, then steamed), and plov (rice pilaf and meat) are now quite popular.

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