Food and Drink

The main Siberian product is meat, rich in protein and saturated fat. The locals eat a lot of meat in any form. No matter how cold the weather is, this kind of diet will make you handle the weather without any problems. Fish such as omul, endemic to Baikal, whitefish and grayling is popular as well. And, of course, the Siberian cuisine would not be the same without taiga herbs, berries and nuts.

This review will tell you how to taste Siberia. Some of these dishes can be easily prepared on your own, some you’ll want to take home and some will make you want to come back here again.

Saguday and omul on a stick

This famous fish from Baikal can be eaten in any way, as long as it’s freshly caught and prepared immediately. The best omul dish is saguday. Saguday is a dish made of raw omul with salt, pepper and oil. Sometimes lemon juice comes into the mix, too. In both cases, the fish becomes so tender that it gets hard to stop eating.

Saguday
Saguday (photo by Julianna Kirillova)

Omul on a stick is even more exotic. This is how it is prepared. Freshly caught fish is washed, salted and pierced with a wooden stick along its ridge. The piercing must be gentle, as to not damage the gallbladder. The sticks must be resin-free or the taste will be ruined. The sticks with fish are held over an open fire and constantly turned over. The finished dish is served either with scallions or without anything at all.

Where to get it?

Listvyanka market sells the best smoked omul. Saguday is better at Listvyanka and Irkutsk restaurants. Fishermen at the Olkhon Island prepare the most magnificent omul on a stick.

Poses (buuzy)

What are those “poses”? They are pure happiness, especially for those who enjoy substantial meaty food. Poses are properly called buuzy. They are a bit like pelmeni, khinkali and ravioli. However, the difference in form, size and recipes is obvious.

Poses (buuzy)
Poses (buuzy) (photo by Julianna Kirillova)

The stuffing for the poses is made from lamb meet, and sometimes beef, pork and horsemeat. Some say that the meat must be finely chopped, some use ground meat. Even the color of this fish is a subject for experiments, as some make black poses with cuttlefish ink.

Black poses
Black poses (photo by Julianna Kirillova)

There’s just one thing everybody agrees on. Poses should only be eaten hot and by hand. This is how you should eat them: take a pose in your hands without piercing or tilting it. Take a bite of its side and drink the broth. The broth is hot, so be careful. Then either eat the pose whole or leave a small piece of dough. Add sour cream, soy sauce or mustard, or put the condiments aside to enjoy the natural taste of the most famous Buryat dish.

Where to get it?

Try poses on Olkhon and at Arshan, at simple Irkutsk pose cafes or in an Irkutsk datsan. To try the black buuzy, visit the hipster poses cafe.

Buhler

This dish is attributed to Buryat and Mongolian cultures. Anyone who’d enjoy a large portion of meat in a bowl of steaming broth would love buhler. Rich soup with chopped mutton, onions and roots will keep you well-fed all day. The locals will assure you that buhler is also a hangover cure.

Buhler
Buhler (photo by Julia Zakharova)

Buhler is especially good when cooked in a pot over an open fire. Try cooking it when you go camping. For 12 people, you’ll need a 12-liter pot, 3 kg mutton with a bone, 6 onions, a sheaf or parsley, 5 bay leaves, salt and pepper. Wash and chop the meat, put it in cold water and wait for it to boil. Put 3 onions and cook the broth at a slow boil. After 40–50 minutes, throw away the boiled onions, cut the other 3 onions and put them into the pot along with parsley, bay leaves and pepper. Keep the pot at a high heat for a minute, and buhler is ready.

Where to get it?

Try it on Olkhon and at Arshan, at simple Irkutsk pose cafes or restaurants.

Game meat

This may be the meat of deer, elk, wild boar, partridge, quail or pheasant; roasted, smoked, stewed or boiled. The cooks of Irkutsk and Baikal can handle any kind of game.

Splints of red deer
Splints of red deer (photo by Julianna Kirillova)

The hunters love freshly frozen venison liver. Firstly, the raw meat is cut into woodchip-like thin slices. Then the still-frozen pieces are dipped into a saucer with salt and black pepper and chased with onions.

Where to get it?

ask a hunter acquaintance or visit an Irkutsk restaurant that serves game meat — this one, for example.

Gruzinchiki

Gruzinchiki are fish roll pieces, prepared at Baikal in a special way.

First, ravioli-like dough gets kneaded. Minced fish with onions is fried at the same time. Then, the stuffing is wrapped into dough and then fried again. When the roll is ready, it gets chopped into gruzinchiki and poured with hot oil.

Gruzinchiki
Gruzinchiki

Where to get it?

Try them in Bencharov Manor and at Olkhon island.

Fern and wild garlic snacks

Tourists usually avoid them – their loss! Wild garlic is an awesomely healthy thing, and it has 15 times more Vitamin C than lemons. Wild garlic tastes a bit like ordinary garlic, and so it goes well with other things in most salads. Wild garlic in fried, boiled, stewed, salted, pickled, added to pie stuffing and eaten raw, just like scallions.

Salad with wild garlic
Salad with wild garlic

Fern is amazing, too. Fried fern tastes like mushrooms. However, raw fern is hardly edible and can be dangerous. If you don’t like fried food, buy salted fern, put it in cold water for 12-15 hours, and, when the excess salt leaves, boil it for a while. Add a potato or an egg with soy sauce or sour cream, and you’ll get yourself a nice salad.

Where to get it?

Salted fern and wild garlic are sold at the Central Market in Irkutsk. Stewed and fried fern is a popular dish at Chinese restaurants.

Siberian berries

Frozen cranberries and sea buckthorn jam are no oddity at any large grocery store of any city. But fresh berries, juicy and ripe, are different. Fresh cranberries, sea buckthorn, bogberries, blackberries and blueberries can be bought from July to September. During the rest of the year, you’ll only find jams and frozen berries.

Tea with sea buckthorn
Tea with sea buckthorn (photo by Julianna Kirillova)

Siberian berries are a bit bitter, so eat then with sugar or honey. Cranberries and bogberries make a delicious meat sauce. All Siberian berries can be made into delicious lemonades, soft drinks or tea.

Where to get it?

Fresh berries can be found at Irkutsk, Listvyanka and Arshan markets from July to September. Soft drinks and tea are available at Irkutsk coffee shops and restaurants.

Pine nuts

Siberians have loved them ever since the XVII century. Pine nuts soothe the nerves, improve heart function and overall health. Moreover, they are tasty and incredibly addictive. However, keep in mind that pine nuts are high in calories.

If you have a choice between shelled and unshelled nuts, pick the latter. Unshelled nuts are cheaper and more fun to crack. For full authenticity, buy pine cones and enjoy that smell of pine resin.

Pine cones
Pine cones (photo by Julianna Kirillova)

Remember these two ways to make pine nut cracking easy. First, fry them on a dry pan for a bit before consumption. Second, crack them across the shell, not along.

Where to get it?

Pine cones are sold at Irkutsk, Listvyanka and Arshan markets. Shelled nuts are an ingredient for some dishes found in the menu of most restaurants and cafes in Irkutsk.

Tea with Baikal herbs

Fragrant teas with thyme, Golden Root and Sagan Dailami are a popular Siberian beverage. All those herbs have a lot or useful properties.

Thyme is used for the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis. It also relieves stress and lowers cholesterol levels. Golden Root helps with nervous and physical exhaustion, insomnia, fatigue, edema and hangovers. Sagan Dailami is an extremely strong natural energy drink, so drink it carefully.

Tea with Baikal herbs
Tea with Baikal herbs (photo by Julianna Kirillova)

The taste of Baikal herbs is amazing as well. Their scent provoked an unconscious urge to sit down, drink tea and talk about life and travels.

Where to get it?

The herbs are sold at Irkutsk, Olkhon, Arshan and Listvyanka markets. Properly brewed beverages are served at turbazas and guest houses of Baikal during the evening picnics by the fire.

Travelers love Irkutsk coffee houses for their coziness, free Wi-Fi and decent coffee sold for reasonable prices. Each place has its own atmosphere. Meet some of the most interesting coffee houses and choose a favorite to come back to again and again.

Traveller’s Coffee

Traveler’s Coffee is a chain of coffee houses, which exist in five countries. Irkutsk has three of them: on Kievskaya str., Zhelyabov str. and Lenin str.

This place is great for an informal meeting with your friends. Correctly roasted coffee beans, delicious breakfast and European deserts are the things that make Traveler’s Coffee so popular. The menu is updated each season. During winter, mulled wine and ginger ale will help you warm up. Lemonade and ices mojitos will help you survive the heat of Siberian summer.

Along with time well-spent, you’ll be able to purchase Specialty coffee, rare sorts of tea and a variety of syrups and cookies.

Contacts

7, Kievskaya str.
8 (39-52) 24-38-38

Average check

400 roubles

Working hours

08:00 — 23:00

3, Zhelyabov str.
8 (39-52) 20-31-93
400 roubles 08:00 — 00:00
25, Lenin str.
8 (39-52) 20-54-60travelerscoffee.ru
Facebook page
VK page
400 roubles 08:00 — 00:00

 

«The White Raven» coffee’n’book

This is a perfect place for people who take their coffee with books. «The White Raven» has a whole bookshelf to choose from, and not one person will dare tell you that reading while eating is wrong. Try the pasta, smoked salmon crepes and state-of-the-art desserts, and combine them with prose and poetry.

This coffee shop often hosts poetry readings and musical performances. Watch out for the announcements on Facebook or VK if you don’t want to miss the fun. If you want to take a token of your good memories of «The White Raven», stop by the giftshop on the first floor to find something to your liking.

Contacts

37, Karl Marx str.
8 (39-52) 97-52-77
Facebook page
VK page

Average check

500 roubles

Working hours

09:00 — 22:00 (weekdays)
10:00 — 23:00 (weekends)

 

Shokoladnitsa

Those who live in Moscow remember Shokoladnitsa chain of coffee houses from the previous century. Irkutsk got one in 2014.

This is a place for a family visit, for planning routes, talking and eating delicious snacks.

Shokoladnitsa has a kid menu and a playroom. The little ones won’t get bored while their parents choose what to order. Ordering food, by the way, might take a while — the menu has that many options of food and beverages. We recommend a halva latte, hot chocolate and fruit desserts, which are the top-sellers in Shokoladnitsa.

Contacts

109, Dekabrski Sobytiy str.
8 (39-52) 97-52-77
shoko.ru

Average check

600 roubles

Working hours

8:00 — 23:00 (weekdays)
10:00 — 23:00 (weekends)

 

Castro Café

This coffee shop chain can be found in four different locations: in Jam Mall and Karamel malls, in the 130th district and in the airport. The airport coffee house works 24/7. While waiting for your plane to depart, you can chat with your friends over a cup of coffee for as long as you want to. All Castro cafes have a youthful relaxed atmosphere. Good music plays in the background, and bartenders and waiters greet you like an old friend.

Visit a Castro café for an original recipe sandwiches, smoothies, good coffee and green tea latte, made of Japanese tea topped with delicate milk foam.

Contacts

Airport
13B, Shiryamov str.

Average check

200 roubles

Working hours

around the clock

«Karamel» mall, 36, Partizanskaya str. 200 roubles 10.00 — 22.00
«Jam Mall», 3, Sergeev str. 200 roubles 10.00 — 22.00
130th district, 7, 3rd July str.

Facebook page
Instagram page
VK page

200 roubles 9.00 — 23.00

 

Double coffee

Double coffee is located in the heart of the city. Visitors examine the unusual interior and take pictures of the coffee shop. Camera, laptops and smartphones work tirelessly as all tables have built-in charging devices.

Even if you stop by for a minute, try the coffee made in a sand-heated Turkish jug or in a siphon. Not many other places have these options.

Contacts

36, Lenin str.
8 (39-52) 65-65-99

Average check

300 roubles

Working hours

9:00 — 0:00

 

Studio Сoffee

If you enjoy quiet and harmonious atmosphere, come to any of Studio Coffee shops. The morning is the best time for a visit as Studio Coffee offers a wide variety of breakfast options. Try the invigorating specialty drinks, original recipe teas made in French presses and don’t forget about the coffee. If you want to try making the same type of coffee at home, buy the espresso mix or a microlot sort. Microlots are rare sorts of coffee that grow only in specific small plantations.

Contacts

1A, Zhelyabov str.
8 (39-52) 33-26-83

Average check

700 roubles

Working hours

8:30 — 23:00 (weekdays)
10:00 — 23:00 (weekends)

12, Stepan Razin str.
8 (39-52) 20-12-95
700 roubles 8:30 — 23:00 (weekdays)
10:00 — 23:00 (weekends)
3rd July str., 25

studio-coffee.ru
VK page

500 roubles 10.00 — 22.00

Irkutsk doesn’t have many vegetarian-only establishments. Two cafes are all that the city has to offer. But if you don’t mind people eating steaks at the next table, the number of options increases. Many places are able to feed vegetarians heartily. If you want to know more about the options and their prices, this article is just what you need.

Option #1: strictly vegetarian

Govinda café, found on Furye and 2nd Zheleznodorojnaya streets, prepares food without animal proteins, eggs or gelatin. Even hardcore vegans will like Govinda’s options. A hearty and healthy meal at the cost of 200–300 rubles is the norm in this place.

Start with a gauranga baked potatoes or a vegetable stew with cheese. If you like pastry, try a samosa with carrots, potatoes, cheese, apples or raisins. If you can’t live without sweets, finish the meal with a local dessert — and you’re guaranteed to start singing in joy.

Contacts

2nd Zheleznodorojnaya str., 66V
(behind the nerpinarium under the «Rada» center at the «Chaika» bus stop)

Average check

250 rubles

Working hours

11:00 — 19:00 (daily)

Furye str., 4cafegovinda.com
VK page
250 rubles 11.00 — 20.00 (daily)

 

Option #2: compromise

Many dining places serve fresh salads and vegetable soups or stews. Almost all canteens, snack bars, cafes and restaurants in Irkutsk count as a compromise solution. During Orthodox fast, most of them offer a special menu option that looks like a vegetarian menu.

So if you can tolerate the smell of meat from the tables near you, don’t stop at trying out just 2–3 cafes in the whole city. Try the food everywhere. To avoid unpleasant surprises, don’t hesistate to ask about the ingredients, preparation process. You can also ask whether the chef can cook the dish without the ingredient you don’t want.

Enjoy your options!