I am in St. Petersburg again. It's warm here, in the 60s, but there's still a sense of everything waking up after a long winter. The trees are still budding, the fragile green leaves are slowly unraveling, turning towards the sun. The grass is coming up from under the ground in uneven patches. Lots of sand dust in the air. Pale yellow and beige buildings look like they need a new coat of paint. The good weather feels tentative.
In St. Petersburg, it's koriushka season. Koriushka, "European smelt," is a small white fish, traditionally fried with some breading. They say, fresh koriushka smells strongly like cucumbers -- not sure if that's the most accurate analogy, but it certainly has a peculiar smell. They also say that in the old days, in the spring, the whole city of Leningrad would smell of koriushka. The fish is found in all the northern seas, including the Baltic. It also lives in the lakes and rivers, including the Ladoga lake near st. Petersburg. It spawns in the spring, when ice melts and water warms up to +4C. This is also the fishing season. The traditional recipe is as simple as can be: clean off the scales, take out the guts (leaving the roe and the head), coat with flour and salt, and fry in butter or oil. Some people add eggs and breadcrumbs to the flour before frying.
Last night, my parents treated me to some koriushka that they bought already cooked. To warm it up, my mom fried it again. "You can never fry koriushka too much, that's the best part."
Here's a picture of koriushka from a blog that also has step-by-step cooking instructions: