SAKHALIN AND THE KURIL ISLANDS ARE PRIVATELY CONSIDERED TO BE THE HOMELAND OF RUSSIA’S MOST DELICIOUS SEAFOOD. WHERE ELSE COULD YOU ENJOY SUCH A VARIETY OF FRESH SEAFOOD? OUR CORRESPONDENT INNA ZOTOVA TELLS ALL ABOUT THE DISHES OF ISLAND CUISINE.
It’s worth a trip to Sakhalin just to try the masterpieces of the island’s cuisine. Local dishes perfectly combine the best traditions of their nearby neighbours Korea and Japan. It’s no wonder that the island’s cuisine took second place in the National Geographic Traveller Awards 2018 in the category “Gastronomic Tourism”.
The majority of the ingredients used in cooking are freshly-caught. Many of the ingredients grow underfoot, as the saying goes, or live in the sea, which is within a stone’s throw. They include ferns, ramson, burdock, seaweed, sea grapes, squids, crabs, and scallops.
When choosing Korean dishes, be ready for a hearty lunch or dinner — in Sakhalin restaurants, traditional Korean appetizers are served with the main meal, usually spicy radishes, starchy noodles, kimchi, or Korean carrot salad.
For lovers of Japanese cuisine, Sakhalin is truly a happy hunting ground. Sushi, sashimi, maki, and dozens of other world-famous dishes stand out thanks to the particular freshness of their ingredients and careful observance of traditional Japanese cooking technology. On Sakhalin, you’ll find no few chefs who have worked in Japan itself, and some representatives of the Land of the Rising Sun have even founded their own establishments here.
Some tourists specifically come to Sakhalin for the unparalleled taste of freshly-caught crab, prepared according to all traditional rules. As a matter of fact, freezing fresh crab is not recommended — after cooking it, you risk coming across “empty” limbs.
To cook a fresh Kamchatka crab, you need a large pot or saucepan with a capacity of 15-20 litres, in which you can cook several crabs at once. Fill the pan with sea water, bring it to the boil, and then place whole crabs within. The cooking process takes up to 20 minutes; there is no need to hurry. Boiled Kamchatka crab has a distinctive bright red colour. When they are ready, arm yourself with patience, and… to scissors! After breaking off an appetizing limb, cut along the sides and remove the juicy and tender meat from within.
Salmon caviar is still the most popular foodstuff among the island’s inhabitants and guests. In the summer, you can try “five-minute caviar” — which is almost raw. For export, on the other hand, choose
a more salted variety.
Sea urchin caviar is called uni in Japanese. It is considered a powerful aphrodisiac, and has rejuvenating properties. Uni has around 30% polyunsaturated fat content (Omega-3 and Omega-6),
a large number of vitamins (A, B, C, E, D, B3), and a high iodine content. Thanks to its healthy make-up, this caviar can cleanse your blood, and whole body, of toxins. Some believe that the regular consumption of uni in various dishes drives the record longevity of the Japanese.
Lovers of tender and juicy scallop meat prefer it raw. Often, natives of Sakhalin go to the coast in search of these shells for themselves. Unlike their European counterparts, oysters on Sakhalin reach gigantic sizes of up to 20 cm. Shrimp, especially the large ones known here as chilim, delight the island’s visitors. Of course, a plate of the island’s seafood wouldn’t be complete without trumpet-fish, octopus, squid, and other shellfish.
You can buy all these kinds of seafood at the fish market at any time of the year, where these valuable, delicious goods are expertly packaged to ensure the best possible preservation of their freshness. TLR
Sakhalin Tourist Information Centre
PHOTO: STATE BUDGETARY INSTITUTION “SAKHALIN TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER”