June 4, 2023

Vladivostok is a city where you can have breakfast in Russian, dine in Chinese, and end the evening in a Korean, Japanese or Singaporean restaurant. Fresh seafood and taiga, as well as the proximity of Asian countries, turn Far Eastern cuisine into a special creative fusion that combines elements of various culinary traditions. And the colorful taste of indigenous dishes will turn any gastronomic voyage into an original quest.

Project “Traveling with the Russian Geographical Society” and tour operator “New Age” invite you to go explore the Far East region and try, what does the sea taste like? We understand what interesting things can be tasted in Primorsky Krai.

The sea is worried

The gastronomic culture of the Pacific coast of Russia can be compared to an impressionist canvas, on which sometimes the most incredible products are mixed with different strokes. Any, even the most traditional dish, is prepared here in an exotic way. Do you want dumplings? Do not be surprised if they are black, stuffed with trumpeter (this is a shellfish that is caught in the Sea of ​​Okhotsk). Decide to order khinkali? Here they are served with scallops. Rich borscht is made from seaweed, cutlets are blinded from crab for the second, and the entire Pacific Ocean seems to fit in the Far Eastern ear. We go to restaurants to taste sea delights Zuma, “Millionka”, “Shell”.

Seaside cuisine is incredibly eclectic, but you can almost always see the inhabitants of the sea at its core. It is very difficult to find a dish that does not contain one or another shell – mussels, spizula, corbicula, abalone. Almost everything that can be found under water is eaten. Although, perhaps, the main culinary symbol of Vladivostok can rightly be considered trepang – sea cucumber.

Two centuries ago, even before the arrival of the Russians in these parts, Manchurian fishermen were engaged in catching these animals in the sea harbor, which they called Haishenwei (“sea cucumber bay”). Until now, this name can be found on some Asian maps, although the modern name of this area is Vladivostok. To get trepangs, in the old days it was enough to dive with a mask near the shore, but now they are grown on special marine farms. First, the clams mature in large pools, after which they are released into the sea. Scallops and oysters are also grown in such equipped sea gardens.

By itself, trepang is almost tasteless, so it is almost never used in its pure form: it gives the dish an interesting texture, and the taste is created by vegetables and sauces. Fresh trepang can be scalded with boiling water and seasoned with fish vinegar – you get the most popular dish “Five Minute”. But most often, sea cucumber can be found as part of hot dishes with stewed vegetables, meat or other seafood. For example, a couple of trepangs can be crushed into a traditional Russian skoblyanka (thinly sliced ​​meat). In addition to the exotic taste, this product is incredibly useful: it contains a third of the periodic table, and in dried form it can be used all year round to boost immunity. For the same purpose, the locals came up with the idea of ​​infusing trepang with honey.

As for taste, crabs should definitely be called the gastronomic kings of Primorye. Kamchatka, blue, prickly – there are quite a few species (although from a scientific point of view, these are not crabs at all, but craboids – hermit crabs). Now it is hard to imagine that even 50 years ago this expensive delicacy, the presence of which on the menu does honor to any fish restaurant, was not considered food. In the Far East, canned crab was fed to cats, and in the novel “Era of Mercy” by the Weiner brothers, based on which the film “The meeting place cannot be changed”, Gleb Zheglov dismissively calls the crab a sea cockroach (and this is 1975!).

Today, almost all dishes are prepared on the basis of crabs – from simple snacks and soups to real gastronomic masterpieces. As with oysters, it is believed that the most delicious crabs are those caught in those months, in the name of which there is the letter “r”: the colder the water, the richer the meat of its inhabitants.

The most exotic inhabitant of the Pacific Ocean, which migrated to the dining table, can be called anadara – the only shell that has a circulatory system. It is usually served raw, along with a glass of blood, which is considered even more useful than trepang. Of course, this is not exactly blood, but a kind of lymph, which other mollusks also have, only in those it is transparent, and in the anadara it is red, with a characteristic taste of iron. By the way, in the restaurants of Vladivostok you can even find shark steaks: in order for the meat to become tender, it is soaked in milk for more than 10 hours.

Taiga romance

Salted fern and fragrant wild garlic, ginseng and eleutherococcus, Chinese magnolia vine and Manchurian walnut (a Far Eastern relative of walnut) – the gifts of the Ussuri taiga are no less exotic and useful than sea ones. The real masters of this branch of Far Eastern cuisine should be called the indigenous peoples, who have honed their skills for centuries. Many interesting dishes have been preserved by the Udege, whose home is in the foothills of the Sikhote-Alin.

The farther from the sea, the more meat on the menu – dishes from wild boar and red deer, Amur deer, whose meat here is something like beef for a European. The variety is brought only by river fish. Everything else is a “snack”, in our opinion – a side dish. In the summer – a variety of wild plants, in the winter (if you can not catch the beast) – prepared dried meat. Today in Vladivostok, you can try traditional Udege dishes adapted to modern reality — dumplings with red deer, lenok stroganina with wild garlic sauce, fern salad with wild goat. And to taste the taiga, first go to neighboring Ussuriysk, and then to the Bikin National Park, located on the territory of the original residence of the Udege.

A moment of hedonism

A special place on the gastronomic map of Primorye is occupied by street food – an important component of urban culture. Flatbread stuffed with crab, pian-se steam pies (our version of a Korean dish), wrappers (a Far Eastern analogue of shawarma with a variety of fillings, more often with shrimp and scallop) – everyone is sure to find something to their taste.

Can’t miss the sweets. Far Eastern sea gelatin agar-agar, which is obtained from algae, has been used not only in the sensational “Bird” (candy “Bird’s milk” recipe of the Vladivostok confectionery factory). Today, agar is used to make jelly, marmalade, soufflé, marshmallow and confiture, as well as various pharmaceutical preparations. And as a souvenir from the Pacific coast, you can bring salted chocolate with a sea urchin or a bottle of captain’s rum from the collection of Ussuri balms.

Those travelers who want to not only enjoy the variety of Far Eastern cuisine, but also pick up a few recipes for themselves, should visit several culinary master classes. Learning how to properly salt fern and open Pacific oysters, learn a dozen ways to cook octopus and squid, as well as write down a few secret tricks and create your own author’s set is an indispensable component of a proper gastronomic journey. So it will turn out to open the region from a new side and taste the Pacific Ocean, and this is definitely the Far East!

Traveling with the Russian Geographical Society“is a collection of fascinating author’s tours in Russia from Russian tour operators that have passed the voluntary certification system – an expert assessment by the Society’s specialists – and received the distinctive quality mark “Recommended by the Russian Geographical Society”.

The system of voluntary certification of tours means that the route meets all the requirements for quality and safety, and is also an authentic, unique and educational product.

Julia Gopius

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