Ethnic cuisine

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Yukaghir Cuisine


Stroganina made of frozen fish

Stroganina making manual
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Yukaghirs ate mostly meat and fish. Such ration is typical for Northern peoples. They ate also wild berries, culinary herbs and, unlike the Yakuts, some types of mushrooms. Meat and fish were boiled, fried on open fire, baked, dried, sun-dried, fumed and frozen.


Such delicatessen fish as sturgeon, sterlet, omul, chir, muksun, sheefish, peled and herring used to inhabit Inigirka and Kolyma rivers. Sheefish could be used for excellent stroganina concoction. Sterlet meat and caviar was a delicatessen and considered to better than that of sturgeon. Chir, nelma, omul and the other “white” species of fish were eaten without processing like stroganina and yukola. “Black” lake fish was boiled, fried and baked. Moose and reindeer meat was usually boiled, but sometimes it was sliced like stroganina and served cold. Poultry was always eaten boiled.


Yukola was made as supply for long winter. In summer period women used to pick berries and herbal races that were then dried. Mushrooms were also dried and used as soup seasoning. Crushed roots (pulkhi) – was a very useful product in the periods of famine. Balded and dried roots were dried and then crushed to the flour condition. It was then baked not only by Yukaghirs, but by Russian sourdoughs. Pulkhi was added into tea and fish pasty. Fish interiors and caviar were fried. Fish bellies and nalim liver were eaten fresh. Crushed dried fish and caviar was a great flapjack filler. Yukaghir cuisine is not well studied. We need to study recipes taken from senior locals, otherwise we cal loose a considerable part of Yukaghir culture.


Contents

Telyedalgza yukola

This sort of Yukola is made of large fish of a nice quality. Fresh fish must be peeled and disemboweled. Meat must be cut off from the chine till the tail’s end. The fillet must be sliced in 4 pieces. Then the Yukaghirs made checkered cuts (trying not to cut the skin). Yukaghirs sun-dried these pieces on the hanger. When half-dried, yukola must be fumed above fireplace.


Ehaleh

After reindeer slaughter the Yukaghirs cut a whole piece of meat out together with lard. Meat is sliced into flat oblong slices with lard uniformly distributed. These sliced are hung on tendons and dried in a well-ventilated place. Dried meat is stored in bag and eaten in winter.


Kuhlybakha

Fresh fish is piled, disemboweled and cleaned from bones. Meat is then powdered and mixed with piled and mashed blueberry and cod-liver oil. This is a filling itself.


Ekhalang (meat caviar)

This meat is supplied for long term storage in winter. Venison pieces were sliced and hung in a well-ventilated sunny place. A smoked meat was milled and put into a small bag. Meat caviar was stored in yaranga’s coldest place. Before eating this meat, Yukaghirs mixed it with reindeer casing fat pieces and fried it. Reindeer fat may be replaced with cod-liver oil. It is a filling. Chumudodye-fumed meat


A vertebral tendon is slit; meat is separated from tendons and sliced. Still soft meat is fumed in yaranga. Crushed reindeer bones are boiled in the cauldron. Then fat is removed and the broth is cooled. Fumed meat is sliced and served with the cooled fat. This meat may be boiled in water. Salt and spices may be added during the boiling.


Porsa

Fish is fumed outside, but not completely. Then it is cleaned from the bones, sliced and fried in cod-liver oil. Then it is put in a bag or a keg. This fish was handy to use during the migrational movement. That’s why it was used by hunters.


Anil Kerile

Piled fish is boiled till it is ready. Broth is poured away and the fish is sun-dried on a special boarding. After drying it is milled to flour state and stored in bags of nalim skin. It is eaten mostly in winter. It may be steamed in water, mixed with reindeer blood and salt and then boiled.


Fish bowels

Cleaned and washed bowels of a large fish are boiled and drained. Then it is mixed with hedge-rose berries and poured with cod-liver oil. Then this mixture is placed in the bark containers and frozen. It is eaten in winter.


Fish bellies

Piled fish (omul) is disemboweled and washed. Bellies are cleaned, fried in fat, dried and milled. Then it is mixed with berried, milled caviar and cod-liver oil.


Yukaghir cake

Fresh fish is piled from scales and fins. The head and tail are cut off; the fish is disemboweled, washed and boiled. Then it is freed from bones and cut into pieces. Fresh caviar is cleaned from membranes, milled, mixed with fish slices and salted. Then Yukaghirs put some flour in it and make a batter cake of a round shape and bake it on an oiled pan. A cake is then broken into pieces and served with molten reindeer fat with butter.

Caviar drink

Fresh chir caviar is milled to the liquid state, salted, stirred and cooled. It is served as a refreshment drink. It is very healthful and tasty drink with long history. Yakutia cuisine, 1990


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The main food of the Yukaghirs was fish and meat. Reindeer meat was eaten raw and boiled. Stroganina was eaten raw in winter. In summer, meat was fumed on an open fire. Ekhaleng was stored in barns in bags and was boiler in winter. Fat was melted from tubular bones. Whipper fresh reindeer blood was eaten as soup (hasha).


Fish fuming

Taiga Yukaghirs ate mostly hares and partridges; tundra Yukaghirs ate geese and ducks. Goose and swan stomachs were eaten raw. Fish was boiled, sun-dried, soured in pits and stored in permafrost ground. It was served as stroganina (chakhaa), yukola (uikele), porsa (barga). Bellies and nalim liver were also eaten raw, bowels and caviar was usually fried. Fish meat and caviar was used to make cakes. In summer fish was rolled in osier-bed leaves for a day. Kuhlybakha was a delicatessen meal, along with fish flour boiled with reindeer blood or pine laburnum (anil kerile).

Sun-dried fish (yukola)

Yukaghirs drank tea made of hedge-rose and shelf-fungus. Berries and fish were stored in birch-bark containers (otcho). Baskets were made of osier-bed branches. Utensils were made of wooden and bark containers of square or round shape. For porsa and fumed fish and meat Yukaghirs made suede or fabric bags; women needlework was carried in bags made of bird paws of suede. (My home Arctic encyclopedia, 2001).


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Yukaghir Delicacies

After the reindeer was slaughtered, Yukaghirs collected its blood from its heart and bowels and took out undigested lichen out of stomach. Reindeer blood was stored in reindeer stomach and frozen. Fresh blood was boiler and whipped to make a thick soup called hasha. Yukaghirs did not boil blood or any other food before Russian colonization because they had no metal or ceramic utensils. Bark and wooden containers could be only used to boil water by warming it with hot stones. Kettle-rendered reindeer marrow was mixed with brain and melted. This mixture was called brain fat and was used to spice dried meat.


Verkhnekolymsk Yukaghirs ate mostly hares and partridges. In spring flooding season, hare meat was the only food available. Tundra Yukaghirs used to hunt geese and ducks in summertime. Bird tubular bones with marrow were considered a delicatessen. A. Argentov said that these marrow bones were the best Yukaghir cuisine ever had.


Fish was the most wide-spread food among Yukaghirs. In lower Indigirka and Kolyma fish was literarily a substitute for bread. Ever Russian sourdoughs forgot the taste of bread; some of the habitats have newer ate it. Sturgeon, sterled, chir, muksun, sheefish, peled and herring were the best fish in Kolyma and Indigirka rivers in the 1950s. It is hard to tell which one was the tastiest.


Argentov said that omul and chir, having “absolutely white and tasty caviar”, are the best local fish. According to Argentov, muksun and sheefish (nezna-hu, it was good for stroganina) were good fish too. Peled also was known as a tasty fish. Sterlet had tasty caviar and its meat was better than that of sturgeon. We haven’t mentioned herring, though it deserves special attention. In different regions of eastern Syberia it is called kondyovka, vendace or sldyatka. It is popular in Yenisei, Lena and Kolyma rivers regions. This small fat fish is very tasty and many. In Nyzhnekolymsk curacy there are 2000 parishioners. All these people eat almost only herring. (Argentov). Herring was also fed to sledge dogs. The amount of dogs exceeded people population in 1.5 times. That’s why everyone says: Herring is our manna.


Fish was boiled, fried, baked, soured, dried, fumed and frozen. Argentov mentions about Kolyma people that made “fish bread, fish pies and pancakes”. He also mentions such Yukaghir fish dishes as: “puzans, litaya, stroganina, caviar dish, varog, varka, barabany, povoroten, borcha, tela, kavardak, tolkusa, feathers, intestines, baked tail, stomachs, dumplings, kiplyushki, yukola, hahty, hachyrs, and bones”. Some of these dishes can be guessed by their names, but not all of them.


Some of the names are obviously of Tungus origin: tela (tala) – raw fish; telnoye-must be the same; yukola and yukolnitsa (from Evenk – “nyak”) – fumed fish. “White” fish (nelma, chir, omul) was eaten raw without spices. “Black” fish (luce, perch, nalim) was boiled due to its contamination with bloodworms.


The Yukaghirs made Yukola slicing fish skin with fat and meat (about 2 cm). Slices were dried outside or in fumitory. Spine bones with remains of meat were dried too. Yukola could be stored for about a year without spoiling. Barcha (or porsa) could be stored for a longer period. Barcha was made of dried fish without bones and boiled in cod-liver oil. Then it was placed in small barell or bag. Maidel mentioned that barcha was a good preserve to be taken in journey.


Fish salting was not a popular method of fish preserving until the beginning of the previous century. Maidel disliked lazy people who dried fish instead of salting it, because dried fish was sometimes spoiled due to humid weather. We suppose these people weren’t lazy. The thing is about salt: it was unfamiliar or uncustomary to locals. Moreover, salted fish could not be stored for a year.

Summer fish take

The only way to preserve fish together with its nutrition value is freezing. Maidel has once tried frozen nelma that was stored in the ice-cellar for three years. Neither he nor his companions could make a difference between this nelma and a fresh-caught one. It was a quick-frozen fish, stored in an ice-envelope. It may be formed in winter when a caught fish is twice sopped in water. This method was unfamiliar to Yukaghirs. Moreover, Yukaghirs caught most of the stored fish in autumn: it could not be frozen. Summer-caught fish was sun-dried, autumn-caught fish was soured in pits in the permafrost. Autumn warm weather caused fish souring.


A note I have found in Allayhovsky district executive committee archive I read about a person that traveled in Lower Indigirka area in 1920s. He mentioned that locals used to eat rank, spoiled fish. The author considered this type of preservation to be harmful and unhealthy. He suggested to “assume measures”, but he did not say what exact measures should be assumed.


We should say that Yukaghirs have eaten sour fish for centuries, and this had no negative effects on their health. Tastes differ. Be the way, a bear prefers fish to be a bit rank. Herbs and berries storage was up to women and children. They collected thyme roots and other herbs. These herbs were eaten raw, added in soups, pies and were served as dessert with tea. Thyme was not only a palatable herb, but it substituted tobacco. Ling roots, washed in warm water and milled with fresh herring caviar were used to make pancakes – barabans.


Hunter’s kill

Pulkhi was often taken from storage of field mice. According to A.E. Dyachkov, in October, women look for mouse holes, dig them up and collect roots from these “mouse barns”. F.P. Wrangel mentioned that women possess a unique gift of finding mouse holes and taking away these storages from poor animals. Sometimes it was mouse storages that saved Yukaghirs from starvation. Pulkhi is a very valuable product. In AS USSR report (1928) it is said that dried piled pulkhi if milled may be used for bread making as it resembles white sweet flour. Like the Tungus, Yukaghir did not eat mushrooms, though Anadyr Yukaghirs have adopted from Chukchi and Koryaks the tradition of eating toadstools as a stimulant. Dyachkov described a toadstool – drunken person: “A toadstool-addicted man after sobering was like a man that came back from another world. It was like the mushroom had shown him hell and heaven…A toadstool-addicted man does not need communication because he is talking to himself, or to his mushrooms or mocking other’s words”.


Anadyr shamans used toadstools in their rites as a stimulator. A shaman that was asked to heal someone or solve a mystery case ate a toadstool to “reveal his shaman powers”. If tea was not available, Yukaghirs boiled chaga with “black mushrooms” and hedge rose stems. The Yukaghirs storage blueberry, cowberry and bird cherry. In winter dried berries were eaten with fish, including yukola. The Yukaghirs preferred blueberry and called it Yukaghir berry (odun-leveydy). They didn’t like raspberry though and called it a dog-berry. They also did not eat currant. After collective farms formation Yukaghirs ration began changing. In the end of 1930s in the period of developing agriculture the Yukaghirs adopted potatoes, cabbages, carrots, turnip and onion. Cattle breeding made milk available. Due to regular food delivery the Yukaghirs now had a chance to buy preserver fruits, vegetables and milk. But meat and fish is still their favorite food.

Tugolukov V.A.
Yukaghirs, who are you?, 1979

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