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.
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.