Black Caviar is one of the world’s most exquisite and exotic foods. Fish roe that is from a sturgeon is considered black caviar because the eggs are commonly darker in color. True caviar comes from wild sturgeon, which belong to the Acipenseridae family. While the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea produced much of the world’s caviar for a long time, farm-produced caviar has now become popular, as wild sturgeon populations have been depleted from overfishing.
Expat Life was invited by Dr. Alexey Tyutin, Managing Director from Thai Sturgeon Farm Company Limited to visit their Hua Hin operation to learn more about this exotic delicacy. In Thailand, consumption of black caviar is popular among the upper middle class. The company supplies black caviar to luxury restaurants and hotels around the country. Reviews from the customers are very positive and highly rated.
Caviar as a delicacy
Caviar comes from the Persian word “khaviar”, which means, “egg carrier.” Traditional caviar is the roe from wild sturgeon raised in the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea and has historically been called “black gold”; it is harvested from beluga, osetra, and sevruga sturgeon. In 1240, black caviar has been mentioned the first time in the historical records by the office of Mongolian Khan Batyi with the word “khaviar”; that later turned into “caviar” that we are using nowadays. In 1552 Russian Tsar Ivan IV The Terrible sieged Kazan and Astrahkan that used to be a part of Kazan Khanate and that started a true Russian caviar era. In 1629 Alexey Mikhailovich Romanov became Russian Tsar, over a decade over 300 tons of caviar produced in Russia were exported to Europe. The latest report on the caviar market from the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA) shows that in 2018, global production of caviar was 380 MT.
In caviar, it is possible to affirm that its high cost is due to the scarcity of sturgeon fish, where the unique delicacy is extracted. This type of fish does not reproduce like other maritime species that multiply exponentially throughout all the world’s seas. Given this situation, prices are usually high.
Alexey explained, “Around the world, demand for the black caviar is high as before and even more, after all the sturgeon population has decreased and it is getting harder to get it. Caviar has been a Russian black gold long before the oil trade. Potential solution of the problem is aqua cultural fish breeding. Now the highest quality and the most expensive caviar comes from Iran, including the highest prized golden caviar Almas can fetch a price of over 20,000 Euros (USD 25,000) for a kilogram.”
New healthy way of production
Dr. Alexey described, “Five years ago, we built a sturgeon-breeding farm in Hua Hin, with a capacity of 1,5 tons of black caviar a year. Our aim is to sell black caviar in Thailand as well as other Asian markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau. The new technology not only took pressure off the natural ecosystems but even helped increase the endangered sturgeon population. Unfortunately, it is not as easy to breed sturgeon in simulated conditions as, for instance, salmon. The fact is that sturgeon species are extremely sensitive to the water pollution level, and above all they do not spawn in captivity. They need a special pool and female fertilization is managed with an operation.”
He further elaborated, “There is a risk of females dying while extracting caviar, but the loss of fish is only 1-2 % per year with our production method. Sturgeon breeding in aqua-farms presents an opportunity to get black caviar without killing the fish. Russia invented the method of extracting the caviar from the fish’s body with a cesarean-like surgical procedure. Fish females are not getting killed anymore in order to extract the caviar but can be used for another fertilization. A great advantage of this procedure is that the extracted caviar does not become overripe and deteriorate, and its quality remains extra high. Now the cycle from fertilization to caviar extraction can be repeated several times in a row.”
Tips of consuming black caviar
Dr. Alexey shared, “China now is the biggest caviar producer in the world covering more than 35% of the total market production. Europe is probably the biggest caviar consumer however a recent research has shown that 17 of 22 top restaurants in Paris are using Chinese caviar through the French brands. A few times, I met the Chinese farm representatives of Kaviari, Petrossian and CaviarHouse & Prunier that came to purchase caviar and control its quality before shipments. However, Europe and Arabic countries still allow usage of E285 (sodium tetraborate) firstly to prolong expiration date to 8-9 months and also to give caviar that popping effect. Europe allows using 0.4% of Borax though only 0.1% is recommended and their salt percentage is very high – 4.5%. Recent studies warned that E285 could be dangerous to a human body but still widely used by the European brands. E285 is forbidden in South East Asia and the United States; Russia uses sorbic acid instead, which is much less dangerous. Literally saying if you see any French or Italian caviar being sold in the supermarkets, it means that possibly they do not have FDA approval or avoid showing E285 on the tin.”
Readily pack for consumption
According to Dr. Alexey, “We produce only true Fresh Malossol caviar in Russian style with no preservatives added, no pasteurization and our products have from 2.8% to 3.2% of salt maximum. That limits us with expiration time but we prefer to deliver the best taste of caviar to our customers. We reduce salt percentage dramatically because most Thai people do not like caviar being too salty and come with a fishy smell. We are working in Thailand for the past years launching promotions, events, and educating customers. We aim to create a bigger demand in caviar, as our farm annual production is 1.5 tons a year. Thai market for caviar is growing and we are taking a serious part in directing this process; I believe that in 3 -4 years caviar consumption will double and for that we lowered the prices on all items including fine Beluga caviar to stimulate more sales. In 2018 we opened a restaurant next to the farm serving mostly dishes of sturgeon and caviar in the menu.”
Benefits of black caviar
Aside from being as a luxurious seafood delicacy for culinary enjoyment, black caviar has been backed by science to have beneficial health properties due to its unique balanced composition. Besides the perfect proteins, it contains vitamins A, B, C, D and E as well as micronutrients such as iodine, zinc, potassium, sodium and magnesium. Black caviar helps to improve the cardiovascular system and gastrointestinal tract.
Dr. Alexey enlightened, “Scientists have proved that people who regularly eat black caviar live for about 4-9 years longer than the others. The tiny eggs prevent the formation of cancer. Black caviar is recommended to those whose hemoglobin level is low because it compensates the deficiency of iron in the body. In addition, black caviar contains phosphorus, which is also needed for bone formation. Regular consumption of phosphorus helps to cope with insomnia and mental fatigue. It is also rich in lecithin and omega fatty acids that has beneficial effects on the brain and improves memory. Another benefit of black caviar is its richness in iodine, which serves as a good prevention for diseases of the thyroid gland.”
Informed further, “The miraculous beneficial characteristics of the black caviar began to be used for cosmetic purposes. It has been proven that nutritional characteristics of eggs are extremely useful for the maintenance of youthful skin as well as gloss and density of hair. Black caviar can be easily used for low-carbohydrate diets. It goes perfectly delicious on a simple boiled egg. New research proves that constant consumption of this wonder food is a way to extend youth, strength and potency due to its content of collagen. Another interesting benefit of black caviar is its content of acetylcholine, which increases human tolerance to alcohol. Enjoying this delicacy during a party will make you feel fresh and full of energy after a long cheerful night.”
Black caviar is considered as a culinary delicacy, after learning their potential nutrimental benefits, all the more reason to savor by frequent consumption or use new cosmetic products that contain black caviar essence!