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5 Caviar Questions and Answers from Caspian Caviar

  1. What does caviar taste like?

On the face of it, this seems such a simple question, but it is really rather a tricky one to answer. The simple, if rather facetious, answer is “Like caviar”. The problem is that it really tastes like nothing else so it is very hard to describe.

In our efforts to convey the taste, we in the trade often resort to using descriptions such as “buttery”, “creamy”, “with hints of the sea”, “whiffs of walnuts” etc etc. All may well be true to varying degrees, but none fully convey the glorious flavour of good caviar.

It is almost easier to say what it should not taste of: fishy, overly salty, bitterness, blandness, ammonia, mud, soap, fizz. I have come across although these undesirable flavours in caviar and they should be avoided, particularly the last as it will make you ill.

Good caviar should fill the mouth with flavour, some hitting the front of the mouth, some at the back, and it should linger. You know when you have had really good caviar when it lingers in your mind long after eating it. Go on, give it a try and let me know how you can describe it!

 

  1. Do different caviars from different fish/regions taste different?

Yes, very much so. There is an incredible variety of caviar on the market, which can be a bit confusing. There are the traditional species of Beluga, Oscietra and Sevruga. Then I can think of five more readily available in Europe, more species specific to China and then there are the hybrids….

But species is far from the only consideration. The original source of the stock can have an impact. For example, Oscietra from Black Sea stock will tend to produce much darker caviar than that from Caspian Sea stock, which tends to be better.

Further variation can occur in how the fish are farmed: the water quality, temperature, feed, harvest method and method of processing can all affect the final taste. Producing caviar is an art rather than an exact science, so there can still be differences in caviar from individual fish from the same farm.

A good supplier should provide you with plenty of information, such as species, country of origin, harvest method, salt content etc to enable you to make an informed decision.

 

  1. What is the ideal way to eat caviar?

That is simple: with friends, family and loved ones. Eating caviar should be an event and it will be all the more enjoyable if you have the right people to share it with.

I guess that I eat more caviar than most, but I still get excited at the thought of a good tasting session in good company. My favourite is to have three or four caviars and about as many good friends, with plenty to go around. This is not only exciting and fun, but very informative as their opinions will help shape what we stock.

The best way of really tasting caviar is to eat it entirely on its own. This can be interspersed with having it on blinis with varying amounts of chopped egg, chopped onion and sour cream. Then every mouthful is a different taste adventure, with the palate cleansed between.

  1. What more unusual ways can caviar be served?

Why bother trying to seek out some unusual way? The caviar should be the star of the show. If you want to try something a little different, but still within the bounds of normality, it can go very well with new potatoes.

If you find blinis too stodgy, do try a neutral biscuit or French toast. I do like it the Russian way: lightly toasted chewy bread, generously spread with good butter with a large dollop of caviar on top. Just keep chewing and the flavours keep coming. Simple, but perhaps not very elegant!

  1. Do you cook caviar or eat it raw?

Do not try to cook caviar as it does not take heat and will spoil. You will sometimes see pasteurised caviar for sale, although it is thankfully rare in the UK. The cooking process of pasteurisation hardens the individual eggs and it is not my favourite form of sturgeon caviar, even if it does extend the shelf life.

Don’t forget that caviar is not really “raw” fish eggs – it is cured and preserved with salt. I have tested proper raw roe straight from the fish. An interesting experience but not exactly a delicacy and far from caviar!

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