Caviar was once considered the food of the aristocracy and Russia’s true black gold.
However, I can assure you that these days caviar is well in the reach of the “common” men (or women). Some brands are still only reserved for the most upper class, but luckily not all.
Let me ask you, are you right now in Russia and want to buy caviar there?
Most likely you are not, but I will cover that option just in case.
Chances are, you are sitting in the comfort of your home or maybe on a bench somewhere in the park, or you are right now in a bar with friends. You want to taste and experience the true wonder of Russian caviar, get a hold of it and enjoy its delight?
Here is what you need to know:
First, you need to know which caviar is Russian; you want to know what you are looking for.
There is only a couple of fish out there whose roe classifies as “black caviar” and that is what you are seeking for. You are looking for Beluga, Osetra, Sevruga, and Sterlet. These are the most known varieties, but look also for Siberian Sturgeon and Russian Sturgeon.
The first 4 that I mentioned belong to a group more commonly referred to as Caspian caviar. This is “the” Russian caviar, most sought out and praised for its creamy and buttery flavor. However, these fish are critically endangered so don’t expect to find any wild sturgeons. This especially applies to Beluga (Huso Huso) whose caviar is banned from import.
Now, have in mind that the only option is the farmed raised sturgeon. That is a better option, trust me, and here is why: quality control. Many chefs and restaurant owners have started to understand the high quality and taste that comes with sturgeon farming. Of course, the manufacturer must be certified. One other reason is the freshness. The quality of caviar is very much determined by how fresh it is. This is unquestionably very important.
Today, the sturgeon are raised in aqua farms centers all around the world. Russian caviar doesn’t have to come from Russia to be qualified as Russian. They are normally kept in pristine conditions, tanks filled with artisan waters, fed on a natural diet and when ready for harvesting, handled by professionals.
One other thing that the Russians got right is the light salt treatment of fish eggs, also called Malossol – “little salt”. Because the roe tastes best when it’s lightly salted: keep an eye on the wording malossol on the tin/jar.
Traditionally beluga caviar is packed in jars with a blue lid; a yellow lid represents Osetra caviar, and a red one stands for Sevruga caviar.
Now that you know what to buy the only remaining question is where.
You can take a walk in the town and visit fish markets, gourmets’ stores and Russian stores alike. No doubt you will find there what you are seeking for. This method has one advantage; you can ask to try the caviar before you buy it.
The second option, a more comfortable one, would be to order it online. No doubt if you searched for caviar a couple of times, you found numerous offers.
Try checking OLMA – it has very good caviar if you ask me, and also a great variety of it.
You can also find good quality caviar at Bond Caviar. My advice, begin with the Siberian Osetra, the price starts from $35. Next, I would recommend trying Russian Osetra and then finishing it with Beluga. Build the taste towards the prestigious Beluga. This would be my personal choice, but of course it’s a free world and you can choose among the many alternatives out there.
But be careful, there are some scammers out there that will just dye some other fish roe in black and sell it as caviar. It is important to know who you can trust. Consistency in today’s caviar business means the same level of quality and taste from the same producer.
What to expect?
The taste of caviar is a story for itself. That’s what I usually say. The predominant taste will have to be a perfect mix of freshness and saltiness. The eggs must be firm, there has to be consistency among them, glossy and shiny.
Always order enough, but not too much as caviar is perishable and after opening, a can lasts only a day or two in the fridge.
When eating always use a non-metallic spoon, preferable of mother-of-pearl. Since you will be eating Russian Caviar, I would recommend doing it just as the Russians would do, pair it with buckwheat blini and some vodka. After you spread it over the blini and take that first bite, wait for 20 seconds and then take a sip of vodka.
Traditionally, in Russia, caviar was served with other food. Decades ago it was readily available, and served with boiled eggs, in particular egg white, and sour cream. They all contributed to less saltiness, as caviar is at its best when with as little salt as it can. This combo is than served on blini.
One other way of serving caviar would be to eat it right off the back of your hand. This is a little bit strange, but since caviar is served in tins/jars surrounded by ice, the warm skin raises its temperature just before the bite. This in turn releases the full aroma.
Speaking of caviar in Russia, here is the present situation.
More than 80% of all caviar in Russia in 2013 came from poaching. Decades ago caviar was a lot cheaper, these days the common folk eat it only during big events, such are winter holidays, during Maslenitza, and big events.
It can be found everywhere, in every corner of the country, even if you are not up for trying it in a restaurant, you can easily buy it and eat at home.
The Caviar Bar & Restaurant is a hotel in St. Petersburg that serves the most extensive range of black caviars. Every year, over 200 pounds of caviar is consumed. Russian Caviar House is Russia’s largest aquaculture company which cultivates and grows sturgeons for future caviar production and there is also DIANA Fish Trading, LLC, manufacturing over 80% of Russia’s black gold.