Assorted Far Eastern Cuisine
Crab, caviar, colt meat, sea and river fish - usual food for the regions of the Far East
It is difficult to imagine a more diverse gastronomic region than the Far East. There is no single cuisine, and there cannot be – as there are extremely strong differences between the various regions. However, no matter where you find yourself in the Far East, the food will be delicious, and above all else – unique and healthy.
Far Eastern Cuisine cannot be separated into various segments. Having their influence are the vastness of the territory, the diversity of climatic zones – from arctic deserts to subtropics, and the national traditions of almost a hundred different indigenous communities inhabiting the region. At the same time, on the associative thinking level, the Far East is firmly connected with the variety of gastronomic delights, thus, it is simply impossible not to unify them all. Kamchatka crab, red caviar, sea scallops, shrimps, colt meat, sea and river fish – with dietitians considering Far Eastern cuisine as one of the healthiest and most delicious cuisines in the world.
Marine areas along the Sea of Japan and Sea of Okhotsk coastline are incredibly abundant with culinary delicacies. The most valuable species of fish, such as salmon, cod, halibut, flatfish and smelt are caught here. There is an abundance of bivalve mollusks (scallops, mussels, oysters), echinoderms (sea urchins, sea cucumbers), crustaceans (crabs, shrimps), and cephalopods (squid, octopus). Various algae are also obtained – the famous sea cabbage (laminaria) and ahnfeltia (the raw material used for the production of agar-agar). The rivers are rich in other species of fish – such as the Siberian sturgeon, whitefish and omul. In the forests of the Far East, wild herbs in large numbers are gathered: actinidia, magnolia-vine, pine nuts, ferns, wild garlic, mushrooms and berries. Meat products are an integral part of Far Eastern cuisine. Reindeer meat, colt meat and also wild game – boars, elks, and various kinds of fowl. There are also the delights, such as meat of marine animals – seals and whales.
Pacific Salmon is the calling card of the Far East. Rivers, seas and oceans do not just feed residents, but also the entire countryside, along with bears, guarding their salmon trophies in spawning area. In the Far Eastern rivers there are pink, sockeye, chum, coho, chinook and other species of salmon. There are a lot of recipes for preparing red fish. It can be consumed raw, smoked, dried, salted, grilled – everybody chooses his/her favorite method of preparation.
The inhabitants of the Far East cannot be surprised with caviar that is sold in metal cans. There this delicacy is sold by weight: 0.5–1 kg. The fresh, amber preservative-free caviar of coho, sockeye, chum, pink salmon and chinook found on the markets – will make it difficult for you to decide which one to buy. Do not worry, everywhere they’ll let you try before you buy. Apart from the red caviar, there is the caviar of sea urchins, echinoderms, mainly from the Kuril Islands. This delicacy is highly valued in Japan, but it is gradually gaining its share of enthusiasts in Russia as well.
To be in the Far East and not to try crab means you have wasted your time going there. There is no shame in adjusting your trip to coincide with the season when these arthropods are being caught: it is well known that they are eaten, as are oysters, in those months of the year, which have the letter “r”in their name. Here are some more secrets: it is better to buy crabs over-the-counter, and do not forget to feel the phalanges – not to end up with an empty one. And after that, everything depends on your fantasy – crabs are cooked, steamed or grilled, added to an inexhaustible variety of salads, snacks, or simply eaten boiled.
Yakut horse meat is a traditional dish, which is considered as a gourmet dish. Contrary to all expectations, colt meat is not prepared dried and tough, in contrast to venison. It is consumed either raw or after heat treatment.
Stroganina is a national, and one of the main dishes of the indigenous northern people. There is nothing difficult in the preparation of this dish, with the crucial thing being speed. Fresh-frozen fish should be cut quickly – shaved into long thin slices 2 mm wide, sprinkled with salt and pepper and eaten quickly, before the dish has had time to melt. This is very convenient under conditions of eternal frost, and besides this, it is tasty and nutritious. Stroganina is also prepared from meat – colt meat or venison.
An echinoderm, elongated, slightly flattened trepang – is also a sea cucumber – which at first sight it does not seem to be a gourmet dish. However, do not be deceived. Not only does the meat of this mollusk have a nice and unique taste, it also goes well with sea salads, soups and stews, as well as being used in folk medicine. In Asia, the sea cucumber is valued along with ginseng, and its infusion with honey is a sure way to strengthen one’s immune system. Two spoonfuls a day – and you can fear no cold.
Sakhalin Oysters are harvested in the open sea, they are not grown on the farm, and thus, it is difficult to encounter them in the European part of Russia – where they are delivered rarely. It is worth visiting the Far East to savor this marvelous gourmet dish. The most striking thing about Sakhalin Oysters is their size: some of them are especially big species – palm-sized, weighing up to 800 grams.