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Nenets Cuisine: What to Eat When Exploring the Russian Arctic
July 31, 2018 13:20

The study of the history of any region is inextricably linked with its culinary traditions. Italian pizza, German sausages or Russian pies are an integral part of culture. At the same time, the cuisine of the peoples of the Far North and the Arctic remains little known.

No matter how severe the Nenets tundra may be, it can feed the humans! The main sources of food for the Nenets people inhabiting the Russian tundra are meat and fish.
For residents of other regions and countries, the traditional Nenets cuisine may seem strange and even weird, but these seemingly "shocking foods" have saved more than one generation of reindeer herders in the Far North of Russia.

The harsh climate conditions of the Arctic have imposed many restrictions on the way of life of indigenous peoples. The everyday diet of the Yakuts, Eskimos, Nenets and other peoples is almost the same since the plant and animal life in the circumpolar regions is not too diverse. Low availability of fire and materials for the production of kitchen utensils has also impacted the Arctic cuisine. It is the freezing of foods that has never been an issue for the northern peoples.

The Far North meals are very nutritious and high in calorie value - after all, they are meant to maintain the man’s energy in extreme cold.

So, the main ingredient of almost all cuisines of the Polar ethnic groups is definitely fish: different breeds of salmon, whitefish, and pike. Heat cooking was extremely rare. Basically, the fish was served as dried, salted or raw.
A unique Arctic dish, which is possible only in 
the Far North is stroganina. Stroganina is frozen fish or meat, sliced and sprinkled with salt. Meat of hunted animals or breeding reindeer was also  dried, frozen and salted. Dried in the freezing cold under strong winds, it was stored for a long time. At the same time, it was light enough to carry on a long Arctic journey.
As a side dish, the Far Northern cuisines use not cereals and vegetables, but local berries, such as cranberries, cloudberries and others.

Traditional Nenets meat broth – Evay

In addition to raw meat, the Nenets eat boiled meat a lot. The traditional Nenets broth called Evay is made from meat boiled in slightly salted water. Meat soup called Ai is seasoned with rye flour that makes it rather thick.

Young deer antlers are considered to be a local delicacy. Blood pancakes made of fresh blood of reindeer with the addition of salt and flour are also very popular among the peoples of the Arctic region.

Soups and desserts are not at all customary among the Arctic peoples.

Despite the popularity of the national cuisines of the world, traditional polar dishes are not easily available. In any metropolis around the world you can find a pizzeria, a sushi bar or a snack bar with sausages. Seemingly simple Far Northern cuisine needs fresh fish and other natural products. So stroganina of frozen raw deer or pike is unlikely to become a fashion in the city streets.

Nenets Cuisine Joined The International Arctic Cooking Book
Do you know that there is The International Arctic Cookbook? So, it includes the recipes of the Nenets cuisine. For the first time the book was presented at a meeting of ministers of the Arctic Council in Fairbanks, Alaska. Since then, the creators of the cookery folio have been collecting recipes throughout the Arctic and reached the Yamal Peninsula. The book was published in a small number of 200 copies and distributed to 15 countries around the world. Now many more Arctic recipes are being collected; the second edition of The International Arctic Cookbook will be published in English and Russian.

Find more about Russian Arctic 


Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Nenets Cuisine Russian Cuisine Regional Cuisines Gourmet Tours Arctic 

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