I know this is an acquired taste, but YUCK. Yes, I have tried Caviar several times...still YUCK.
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First I'm an avid fisherman who has enjoyed catching and eating many species of fish including sturgeon and paddlefish. I've never eaten caviar but would not be critical of what others consume. I live close to the Mississippi and have witnessed the devastation to the populations of the sturgeon and paddlefish. Because of the over harvest of the sturgeon in Europe and Asia, caviar has become very expensive. As a result man has looked for a substitute and found it in American paddlefish and sturgeon. In the Spring paddlefish collect in places where the current is fast to spawn. There they are easily snagged by waiting legitimate fisherman (fishing for food or catch and release) and poachers. Since most people have not the skill to tell male from female paddlefish, each paddlefish and sturgeon caught have their abdomens sliced open, the roe if there is any torn out and the now dead fish tossed up on the bank in huge, stinking piles. There are not enough conservation agents to control the slaughter.
Paddlefish and sturgeon require several years (about 10 years I believe to reach spawning size even more for he larger species) and of course the larger the paddlefish and sturgeon the more eggs the fish produces. Of course the larger the fish the easier to snag. Today there are very few lake sturgeon left in the Mississippi basin and besides overfishing the dams we've built for navigation also have played their part The smaller long nose and short nose sturgeon's populations are crashing. As for the hapless paddlefish, well I bet you can guess what is happening. In my observations very few people consume the flesh of these ancient species they are killed just for the roe. I've witnessed and smelled the slaughter and waste and it is something that I'll never forget.
Another factor that many people fail to consider is the introduction of the big mouth and silver carp from China that multiply like rabbits and consume the plankton like food that the paddlefish eat as well.
Again I'm not a PETA nut, but please think twice and consider the consequences of your appetites. If the illegal harvest (I see no way to prevent this) continues at the current rate these species populations will crash and they will be swimming to extinction. And guess what, no more caviar . . .
My favorite roe purveyor:(http://paramountcaviar.com/ContactUs.aspx) Actually, I am a PETA fanatic(People for the Eating of Tasty Animals), BUT- NOT a fan of the wanton destruction of any species. BTW- Salmon roe has one of the highest Omega 3 contents, of any food. Very healthy(though the cream cheese I like with it; probably- not so much). (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091211131518.htm)
There are several types I tried:
- Sturgeon Asetra Russia
- Beluga Russia
- Iranian Asetra
All of them are excellent ( I believe Iranian were the best quality ) with their own flavor and if you want to try, just do it, cos soon it will be over and the price will be such high that it will become an real Black Gold.
Polution and illegal fishing are two huge problems that will kill the last Beluga from the Caspian Sea. Personally, I have some problems with this fishy business, cos I read somewhere that illegal caviar takes the most world market and close to 80% of total, sad. In fact, its almost impossible to detect what ever caviar was/is legal or not, cos even in Iran they have some illegal practices.
Above all, the most important is the fact that sturgeon is one of the oldest species with no future, sad again.
My experience is fairly typical: First time I tried caviar, I was disgusted; second time I ate caviar, capped with a little bubbly, I fell into a swoon. I have been in love ever since.
However, because of the reasons above (over-fishing, extinction), I have not enjoyed the roe for these last many years.
But there is a story...
Long ago, I got a deal on Iranian roe. My plan was for a few friends getting together for a five-course meal, designed by myself, using caviar in each course, a chef's Thanksgiving. (I will not go into the menu, here, but to say that I have tossed food for serious establishments.) I was as impressed with myself and my designs as my friends were looking forward to our dinner.
At the time, I was no longer a professional chef, but a professional salesman, one who often came home late. My four-year-old son shoved me awake the morning after one of these late nights, wanting breakfast. I asked him for another hour or two of sleep; "Dad needs just a little more rest, honey. You know how to make breakfast. Just wake me up in a little while..."
Once and always being a chef, I had tried to develop his palate: strange vegetables, cheap cuts of meat dressed well, sauces and sautes, slow roast and quick fire... Everything...
He only nodded his head, a good boy, trained in responsible cookery...When I woke a couple of hours later, I went out to meet him. He was watching The Lion King, of course, had all the empty tins of caviar opened before him, with a rack of soda crackers almost gone. He had black stains over his face and hands, black stains of roe going up his arms and down his neck. The Lion King roared...
He was scooping up the last of the expensive delicacy when I asked him if he knew what it was he ate. When I told him Fish Eggs, he shrugged his shoulders and ate the last bite. "Great," he said, going back to his movie.
My friends were surprised and disappointed when caviar failed to make it to the menu that night, until they heard the story (while listening to a Sansui G-5000 with a set of Heresy III's). Then, the chicken was fine, the rice sublime, and my boy a culinary hero...