After 1918, following the death of the tsar family, this culinary delight sank into oblivion. But 30 years ago, the secret recipe was rediscovered, and today the world’s most noble smoked salmon comes from the Toggenburg.
In the Balik smoked salmon manufactory high up in Ebersol, a small village nestled snugly in the midst of an unspoilt hilly landscape, the “King of Fish” is smoked by hand and exported to countries around the world. Numerous royal families in Europe – from Denmark to England and Spain – are regular and loyal clients.
Today, Balik is synonymous with the traditional salmon smoking method as practised at the court of the Russian tsars. The manufactory smokes and refines selected salmon cuts according to the secret recipe of the last purveyor of the imperial court. The recipe was entrusted to Hans Gerd Kübel in 1978 by Israel Kaplan, the grandson of the purveyor to the imperial court.
In the 19th century, in Russia’s cultural heydey, repasts at the tsar’s court were more sumptuous than commonly known in France. St. Petersburg was the cultural centre of Europe long before Paris. Thus, it was the Russian ambassador who in 1840 introduced the sequence of menu courses in Paris that we still know today.
In 1918, after the death of the last Russian tsarist family, the ancient tradition of smoking the noblest cut of the salmon – the back fillet called “balik” – sank into oblivion.
The success story of the Balik company started in 1978, 60 years after the extinction of the Romanov dynasty. It was then that Hans Gerd Kübel, a stage actor and stage director at the Zurich Municipal Theatre, bought a 300-year-old farmhouse in Ebersol in hilly Toggenburg, which he rehabilitated. On one of his theatre trips, he had a fateful meeting in Berlin: Hans Gerd Kübel got to know Israel Kaplan, a Russian from Riga who was the grandson of the last smokery master. Kaplan initiated Kübel into the world of smoking salmon and finally unveiled the secret of the smoking method of the imperial court. Balik has remained the sole custodian of this secret formula to this day.