Tuesday, 22 October 2013 21:42

Is Vobla wobbly? Of fishy Russian fish

Is Vobla wobbly? Of fishy Russian fish Photo:blog.flickr.net

Not at all - it’s pungent and salty! I just always think that the word as such sounds like it should wobble.

What is Vobla?

Vobla is actually really hard and chewy – hardened by salt. It is a species of fish that inhabits the Caspian Sea. Typically it is soaked in brine for some days and then air-dried. For some reason, in Russia (and ex-Soviet countries) Vobla is deemed to go well with beer and often served with drinks in a little bowl or plate or if  it’s tiny ones, even straight from the plastic bag.

I still remember how the idea of having fish with beer really threw me off when I first encountered it in Moscow - and it does to this day. In fact, I have decided I will never ever get used to the bitingly strong smell and almost scratchy texture of Vobla - with or without beer.

Having said that, one of my best and most vivid memories of my time in Moscow involves… Vobla. Yes, it also involved copious amounts of vodka, but that you'd expect. But smelly salty fish - not really. At least I didn’t.

Meeting Vobla

I had been spotting (and smelling) it all around… at markets, in restaurants, in people’s homes, at little kiosks that (illegally) sold and served beer ... and still, I wasn’t ready for it. I was invited to a Russian friend’s house along with some of her equally Russian friends and even though I am sure there was regular food being served as well, I can only remember the more advanced hours of that evening when the question came ‘So, have you tired Vobla?’ I knew by then that it did not wobble but that it did spell trouble. ‘No,’  I said, ‘But I don’t like it’ I added quickly.

There was a big outrage around the table and it was decided that I just hadto try it. Out came a little chips bag - except it really was a bag filled with… well yes, Vobla.

Getting to know Vobla inside out

What ensued can only be described as a careful dissection-inspection-dissection process. I was taught the process of getting the bones out. I’d try to get the bones out the way my friends had shown me, they’d inspect it, and not satisfied with my work would hand it back to me. So the poor fish would be passed around for a while and then… eaten. Thank goodness for vodka!

So if you haven’t had the pleasure - do go and meet Vobla!

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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