Vobla – A Russian delicacy enjoyed with beer

What is Vobla?

Vobla is a type of salt-dried fish or commonly known as the Caspian roach. There is a Russian saying that goes something like this: “If you are Russian and don´t like Vobla and beer, then you are not Russian”. I have never tried Vobla before until we met with my brother-in-law in Moscow in 2008. He carried a peculiar package underneath one arm and we settled in a bar not very far from the old KGB-building.

We ordered beer and he started to unwrap the package. The fish, wrapped in newspaper, was laid out on the table. At first I did not know what to think. The whole fish was staring at me. I was really not sure if I wanted to eat that. It reminded me of a salt-dried fish in South Africa, called Bokkoms, which was very, very salty and did not appeal to me at all. The beer came and the Misha started to prepare the fish to eat.

Vobla, Caspian Rock, Fish, Russian salt-dried fish, Russian food

Vobla wrapped in newspaper in a market.

How to eat Vobla?

This is a process in itself. First you break off a piece and take of the skin. Small pieces are then handed to the people around the table. I got handed the first piece and I was honestly thinking of swallowing it whole, without chewing. Andrey and Misha was waiting for me to give my verdict. I started to chew it and guess what? It wasn´t bad at all! Don´t be in a hurry when eating Vobla with friends. It can take up to an hour!

What does Vobla taste like?

Imagine a salty chewing gum with a fish flavour and then you will know what it tastes like. But this is not where your Vobla experience stops. You need to swallow it down with beer. When the beer and fish mixes it gives a distinct flavour and you cannot wait for the next piece.

It is definitely a taste that you have to get used to and will not appeal to everybody. When we get visitors from Russia they always bring us Vobla. It is already prepared and are sold in Russia in sealed bags. We never eat it immediately and always wait for a special occasion. Vobla can be found all over Russia. You often see old Babushki selling Vobla close to markets.

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  1. I think I'd probably enjoy the beer the most! I love how brave you are about trying new things!I had never heard of that kind of fish before…not sure I like the sound of eating anything that has "roach" in its nickname..but your description of it makes it sound like i'd survive the experience, maybe even enjoy it! 😉 A great post. I always learn something new when I come here!

  2. hmmm…hand me the next piece nelieta… yummy… but i'll pass from taking the beer :P…i'm not sure if it's similar to the salty dried fishes that we eat here for breakfast, but i never tried to mix it with beer…oh and the smell when we cook it makes my foreigner friends want to puke :P… oh but it's truly delicious… you just "have to get used to it"…;)

  3. HI Jessica, I guess if I knew before the time it was part of a "roach" group, I would have had serious second thoughts as well..lol! But after tasting it a couple of times I am hooked. The Russian beer is also good!So happy that you enjoy coming to my blog and that you learn something new. It is a great compliment, thank you!

  4. Hi Mary, yes I would also give it a pass so early in the morning..lol! But late afternoon is perfect 🙂

  5. i dont drink beer.but whenever i travel i=and see tourists try the local beers and enjoy them, makes me wanna try it too. but maybe in the future when I have a company to take me to my hostel back bec I easily get tipsy bec I have low tolerance for alcohol. thank you for sharing another informative post! =)

  6. Now I got curious of this Vobla, I grew up eating many kinds of salt dried fish and I'm sure I will love this one as well. I wonder if it's available at the imported section of our supermarkets 🙂

  7. I used to eat salted-dried fish in the Philippines Nelieta… It's salty but usually we washed it with water first to clear away some of the salty taste before frying it or grilling it perhaps… Well, this is our cheapest version of local delicacies….lol But I never get challenged in eating them..:)

  8. That sounds like fun. I am a fish lover too and never had a chance to try vobla. I never been to Russia and that could be the reason.

  9. Hi Claire, I am so you would like it. You can have a look at the supermarkets that keeps imported goods. Maybe you are lucky! They don´t sell it here in Argentina 🙁

  10. Gi Gail, I must say I do like beer but not all kinds. In any case if you are not a alcohol drinker then you are not missing too much 🙂

  11. Hi Jorie, you are having my mouth water now just thinking about grilled fish! Njam! My dad used to make it for us in foil with garlick and jam! You have no idea how good that was!

  12. Hi Alpana, I really miss the fish here where we live. If you do find it then it is incredibly expensive! Russian beer is really nice 🙂

  13. Hi Alfandi, I honestly cannot stomach caviar! I have tried but unfortunately caviar and I are not friends..lol!

  14. Hi "A girl who dreams", thank you for stopping by and reading my travelling adventures. I stopped by at your blog only to see that you are now part of the Peace Corps! Wow that is incredibly exciting! I will be popping in regularly to see what you are up to!

  15. Hi Mary, yes I would also give it a pass so early in the morning..lol! But late afternoon is perfect 🙂

  16. I just bought. Vobla dried salt fish and it looks raw and stink very had. Do I need too cook it first. Or eat it right after I open it. Please let me know because I order a lot of it.

    • Hi Timothy, thank you for stopping by. Dried Vobla doesn´t have to be cooked. You need to take the skin off before you eat it. Unfortunately it is a little smelly when you take it out of the packet but fish is like that. Enjoy the Vobla!