©Istock/zhaubasar
©Istock/zhaubasar

Omul Festival, how to celebrate the most famous fish in Siberia

2 minutes to read

Siberians living on the shores of Lake Baikal always adored treating their guests with dishes made of an endemic fish that only lives in this lake. The fish's name is omul. Siberians not only love to eat it but, curiously enough, they even celebrate festivals in its name. The Omul Festival is a relatively young gastronomic feast, dedicated to this special fish,  even though Siberians never paid special attention to it in the past. However, nowadays it is forbidden to fish for omul without a special permit. People started to realize that they miss omul and all the delicious dishes that could be cooked from it. That is the main reason why Siberians organize the yearly Omul Festival and show how to celebrate the most famous fish in Siberia!

©Istock/chelovek
©Istock/chelovek

What is Siberian omul

Omul (Latin: Coregonus migratorius) is a kind of whitefish. It mainly lives in Baikal waters, but, in the past, the fish inhabited other rivers and lakes of the Urals. Scientists believe that omul first appeared in Baikal during the Ice Age. The native dwellers of this Siberian territory soon found out that the fish meat is rich in vitamin B, zinc, and many minerals. Locals love salted fish or raw frozen fish meat, but the most popular omul dish is definitely the smoked fish

©Istock/unikatdesign
©Istock/unikatdesign

A legend connected to omul

Like most things in Siberia, there are certain mysteries and local legends surrounding this delicious fish. The Buryat people used to animate rivers and other natural things, so for them, Barguzin and Kultuk rivers were living “giants” that played, got married, and occasionally had fights. Thus, the legend has it that Kultuk and Barguzin giants had a toy – a barrel full of omul. Once, when they were playing, they both fell in love with another river. Sarma River was its name, and it wasn't in a hurry to tie the knot with either of the other giant rivers. She presented them with a challenge. She asked for the omul barrel. The two giants quarreled and fought over the barrel, and soon, it disappeared in the waters of Baikal. Since the barrel was not available, the Sarma River refused to marry either of the giants. But, Lake Baikal took the barrel and had been swarming with fish ever since. 

©Istock/Hoatzinexp
©Istock/Hoatzinexp

Join the festivities, celebrate the Omul Festival

Once a year, Siberians gather in Lystvyanka to celebrate the Omul Festival. It is a gastronomic day during which many Siberian restaurants compete in preparing the best omul dishes. You can not only taste them but attend workshops where you will learn how to cook omul! There are various culinary contests and, what is more important, the scientists take small omul fish that they have been growing in their laboratories to the lake to make omul population bigger! Anyone can attend the Omul Festival too and learn how to celebrate the most famous fish in Siberia!

Omul Festival in Listvyanka
Omul Festival in Listvyanka
Listvyanka, Irkutsk Oblast, Russia, 664520

The author

Oksana Vasilieva

Oksana Vasilieva

Hi, I am Oksana from Irkutsk, Siberia. I am a linguist and passionate traveler. Being born in the deep Siberian forest, also known as taiga, I thought I would be happier if living in a warmer place. So, I traveled the world, but I always came back to my Siberia. I am excited to share its unique culture with you. Whether you fancy a ride on a dog sled or a dive in winter Baikal waters, follow my stories.

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