Saturday, July 24, 2010

Beluga Caviar

While on our recent trip, I was able to taste caviar for the first time. I had it twice. First was in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It was Iranian beluga.
One of the stalls where we were stranded for 30 minutes or so, tasting and checking out and buying various things, from Turkish Delight to Iranian saffron, had some caviar that they let me taste. It was salty and the eggs were very distinct.
I liked it much more than I thought I would. Next, while we were in Yalta, Ukraine, I bought a small jar of Russian caviar which I was told was beluga, but have no idea if it really was. I paid 20 Euro for the small jar. It says "Malossol" on it which is Russian for "little salt" and indicates it is minimally salted which apparently makes it better.
It says Astrakhan on it which is in the Volga River delta of Russia and apparently where it is processed. From what I can tell it is probably Caspian Sea caviar. A member of our cruise told me the best way to eat it is to put it on a cracker with butter. The butter holds it in place. She said to squeeze the caviar against the roof of my mouth and I would be able to feel the individual eggs bursting. I tried the caviar on a cracker with butter and it was quite salty, saltier than I recall the Iranian caviar to have been, although quite some time was between my trying them.
It also had more liquid in it. I think the Russian caviar was also smaller. Next I tried it plain on a piece of bread and it was better: just the caviar without competing with the taste of the butter and cracker. 
It is good, but not something I would crave, and a little goes a long way. Then, for this post, I looked it up on the internet. I find that there are three types of sturgeon in the Caspian Sea. Beluga, the most rare, can live 100 years, reach 30 feet in length and weigh as much as 1,800 pounds. The female requires 20 years to mature and begin producing roe (eggs). It produces the largest grained of the sturgeon caviars. The beluga is also found in the Black and Adriatic Seas and the Danube River. Ossetra sturgeon have a smaller grained egg, is noted for its nutty flavor and a color that varies from golden yellow to light brown. Sevruga sturgeon has the smallest grained caviar of the Caspian Sea caviars. The Caspian Sea is bordered by Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Russia. The beluga sturgeon is endangered and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has banned the importation of beluga caviar since 2005, although it does appear that limited quantities are now being allowed. Countries from which importation of beluga is banned include Turkey, Iran and Russia. Oops, I had no idea. I feel a little bad about it as I do highly support conservation efforts to protect all species of endangered animals.   

2 comments:

  1. Glad you were able to try out some Beluga. It's getting harder and harder to find it in the US.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It is also surrounded by Turkmenistan

    ReplyDelete