Ask Baikal

Hi there! My name is Maxim Milyutin. I am based in Irkutsk, Russia's Siberia. Traveller, organiser of local travel talks, and owner of Irkutsk hostel. Travel for me is not necessary movement to some place far away from home, it's a state of soul. That's why I like to travel around my home region and and abroad as well. I'm happy to share my knowledge about Baikal with everybody! Feel free to ask me about Lake Baikal via the contact form Tatiana Baksheeva, our previous blog runner, remains with us as a contributor.

Baikal ‘Omul’ Whitefish

Hi! Today I’ll tell you about very famous Baikal fish in Russia, it’s Omul, also called Baikal whitefish, or stranger whitefish! You can find it everywhere at the lake, at markets, cafes and restaurants. Locals cook it in many ways, boil it (then you get local fish soup, called “yushka”), fry it. And salted omul fish is very good in salad, called “zagudai”, when except the fish you have slices of onion, pepper, salt and vegetable oil. It is traditional food fot local minority called “buryats”, originally nomads, but here they are also hunters and fishermen. But the most tasty it is hot-smoked and cold-smoked (I prefer hot!). Try it!

Gastronomic tour to Siberia

What to taste in the far-away Siberia? There are several meals that very typical here. First of all, Omul – yummy-yummy Baikal salmon, famous around all Russia. Try it fresh, salted, cold-smoked in Irkutsk, or hot-smoked in Listvyanka and Slyudyanka.

Buuz (do not confuse with booze :)) is traditional Buryat big dumplings, cooked in special bowl on hot steam. Local people always eat them from 1 to 15 at once, some locals say it’s healthy alternative to McDonalds. They are cheap and usually made of good beef.

Want some sweets? Okay, we have Cedar grillage candies, very tasty and nutricious, made of local cedar nuts, that you can buy on the Central market during August and September.

Zhivitsa (or “sera” in Russian) is unusual brown chewing gum that seems to be the only natural one. It is made from trees sap. When you chew it, it’s soft, but once you take it from the mouth, it becomes hard, and then you have to chew it some time to make it soft again.

Local drinks. If you will come to Lake Baikal during summer, you will see many yellow tanks in cities and towns. It’s so called “kvas”, traditional Russian non-alcohol drink, made from yeast, it’s sweet and cold and that means very good when it’s warm. If you want a herbal tea, ask Sagaan-Dalya (Rhododendron adamsii Rehder), it’s refreshing herb, just add 1 or 2 leaves for the teapot, no more unless you want to have hallucination (no kidding). Alcohol? If you want to try local beer, buy Bagira’s beer, just ask it in supermarket. If you want to try Soviet old-school beer, buy “Zhigulevskoe” or “Admiral Kolchak”. Irkutsk is the homeland for federal Irish pub chain Harat’s, and many local people like it, it’s good place to meet with locals.

Keep travelling!