Taste Symphony of Lake Baikal: How to Make Sagudai
© Photo: Key To Baikal
January, 29

Taste Symphony of Lake Baikal: How to Make Sagudai

Locals say that Sagudai is a creative dish. We have a habit of saying that those who never tasted sagudai cannot truly say that they have visited Baikal. We will tell you how to make this unique dish, to be able to return to our beloved Baikal with your soul (and body).

Special tours have been organized recently for those who want to get acquainted with special features of various culinary traditions: such tours have already become a trend. This trend has not yet reached Lake Baikal, but the tasty dishes made on its coast and bringing pleasure to people will allow no one to stay indifferent.

Traditional Buryat cuisine is one of the most ancient in Siberia. Its features were inevitably influenced by the natural conditions under which the Buryat ethnic group was actually formed. The majority of Buryats live in the steppe and have long engaged in cattle breeding. Their diet includes mostly dairy and meat products: they are the basis of tasty, high-energy and, most importantly, nutritious dishes.

However, a part of the local population was connected with the coast of Lake Baikal. The waters of the lake and coastal taiga brought some variety to the cuisine of Buryats. Fish dishes were added to the meat diet: the favorite fish species were Arctic cisco, grayling and whitefish. It is fair enough to speak about the existence of a separate “Baikal” cuisine characterized by pure taste, naturalness, environmental friendliness and simplicity.

Those Who Never Tasted Sagudai Have not Really Been to Baikal.

Baikal hunters and fishermen know a huge number of recipes that were elaborated during many centuries – each of these dishes has a unique taste and can be made quite simply. Cooking process does not require special skills: only some fantasy. One of these dishes, sagudai, is the most ancient dish of Baikal Buryats, an indispensable attribute of the festive table, first of all, on New Year's Eve.

There is no single way to write the word “sagudai”. You can see such examples as sugudai, suugudai, and zagudai... But it's not about spelling, but about the meaning of this word. One of the languages of northern nations has the verb “sugudat” – meaning “to eat raw fish”. In reality, everything is simple. For the residents of Baikal region, sagudai is a delicious fish appetizer, preferably made of freshly caught whitefish. Of course, sagudai made of Arctic cisco is the “classics of the genre”. But Arctic cisco is endemic. Moreover, its catch from the lake has been strictly limited in recent years. Therefore, whitefish, grayling, and any other fish from cold northern rivers, such as muksun and broad whitefish, are also widely used.

Those who have been lucky enough to try real sagudai will never forget its gentle, delicate taste, different from all other fish dishes. One can hardly agree that the sagudai is one of the types of fresh marinated fish, such as ceviche in South American cuisine.

Sagudai was originally a dish made of freshly caught fish that was cut into thin pieces, slightly salted. In the olden days, Buryats did not grow onions, knew nothing about pepper and lemon - for objective reasons. They still do not indulge in spices and onions, preserving the original taste of food.

A Recipe for Every Taste

There are many options of recipes of sagudai. If we are talking about the Baikal dish, then fresh whitefish is welcome: the flesh is cut into pieces, salted, slightly marinated, and the dish is consumed by the people at the table in 10-25 minutes

Now we move to the specifics, below we give you the simplest recipe, hoping that you managed to obtain fresh Arctic cisco.


- Arctic cisco (about 0.5 kg);
- onions (about 30 g);
- lemon juice (20 ml);
- vegetable oil (25 ml);
- a pinch of black pepper.


Preparation: remove the skin from the fish and separate the flesh from the bones. Cut the fillet into small pieces. Cut peeled onions into rings, pour them over with boiling water to remove bitterness. Join the fish with onions, mix them and let infuse for a couple of minutes. Season the dish with oil, lemon juice and pepper, and mix it.

Sagudai Is a Creative Dish

Nowadays there isn’t any single way to make sagudai. There are no bad or good recipes, there are only your taste and imagination, which are mostly determined by your preferences and amount of money.

The dish is made of the following products: fish, salt, vegetable oil, vinegar (or some other acid). Then you create as you wish!

First, you need to determine the way of cutting fish. Decide it for yourself, whether you want to remove the skin from the carcass or not. This does not change the taste of the dish, but the skin can preserve the integrity of each piece. The same can be said about the bones. Fish can be cut into pieces of fillet, but you can also leave the carcass. However, you should know that this way of cooking will take more time for the fish to absorb the marinade.

You also decide what “toppings” you want to add to sagudai. If you prefer onions, we advise you to cut it into rings, although some people cut it into smaller pieces, some even use a meat grinder. But the onions should not “"kill” the taste of the fish. As a substitute of vinegar, you can pour the dish over with lemon juice, season it with garlic, dill, parsley, bay leaf, even grated apple.

Some people always mix the fish and the marinade with their hands, believing that they pass to give their energy to the dish this way, they consider this to be extremely important because cooking sagudai is an ancient rite. Many people constantly shake the future delicacy (fish and marinade) in a closed saucepan, believing that this will accelerate the “ripening” process, fermentation of the dish.

Useful tips

- cut the fish into small pieces, looking like bars, 1.5 to 3 cm wide;
- use glass utensils with a wide flat bottom, or enamelware;
- preferably use coarse-ground salt, it will take some time for the marinade to dissolve it;|
- place the container with sagudai that is being marinated in a cold place. As the time passes, the taste of the dish is constantly changing;
-  ready marinated sagudai should not “wait for too long”, be kept at room temperature or be left in the refrigerator until it is eaten. Its freshness is the most valuable thing;
- it is important to harmonize salty and sour flavors. The taste should be gentle - a little salty, a little spicy, and the fish itself should be just slightly salted!

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