How to eat caviar

Caviar: Consumption and Etiquette

By: Austin Pejman Chehrazi and Wael Abu Zaid

This is the most exciting part of any Caviar experience, at least to us at King Caviar: Consumption! Although on the face of it Caviar does not seem like a very user-friendly food item, it is rather versatile as an ingredient. Yet, Caviar buffs know that the best roes are enjoyed with the least of other impediments rolling around on the tongue.

Historical Consumption Methods

Historically, we have the consumption experience of the peoples of the littoral Caspian and Black Sea territories to fall back on. The Persians were the first to have consumed, preserved and named this delicacy, which has been passed down to us to this day. To them, it was also a very powerful medicine and they managed to find such uses for it. They ate it whole as fresh and lightly salted, medium salted (8%; Salted Caviar/Semi-preserved Caviar), or deep fried or breaded deep-fried while whole in the ovary sac. From the Alborz to the Caucasus, a number of local dishes have been handed down through the generations, in which Caviar is a key ingredient.

The Russian Tsars, who popularized its consumption at European courts and mystified its exclusivity, preferred it fresh unsalted but also lightly salted (Ru: Malossol; “Little Salt”; 3-5%) and highly salted (10%) as well. Today, Russians still enjoy Caviar as their tsars did, but you could also find them consuming it in other manners, some old-traditional and some not-as-old, but still traditional. One old popular way is spooning Caviar on special Russian blinis, thin buckwheat/wheat pancakes that look much like French crepes. Latkes, another Russian favourite, just as simple and rather bland, are thicker pancakes made from grated potatoes. The Malossol type of preserving Caviar uses the least amount of salt and is considered to be the highest quality product available on the market, with a refrigeration life of around 100 days. Russians also brine and preserve Caviar to consume with boiled eggs. Another favorite of theirs boils the roes while in the ovary sac, served cold with sauces. Caviar blocks with vegetables is another old-fashioned way the Russians enjoy this delicacy.

Modern Consumption Methods

In modern times, world-renowned chefs have been known to apply Caviar as garnish in their creations and even formed pastes out of it for use in different dishes. They have also taken advantage of the spectrum of colours of variant Caviars, as artists expend colours on a canvass. Just as Caviar has a spectrum of colors and types, salting, ageing and preserving it varies according to species as well. In addition, when serving Caviar as a complementary portion of a dish, care has to be taken that the roes are added at the last possible moment in order to keep their consistency and keep from spoilage.

Today, Caviar is further used as an ingredient in soups (esp. chowders and cream soups), sushi, and finger foods (hors d’oeuvres). Boiled eggs or baked potatoes (with sour cream), and even steamed or sautéed vegetables, are other modern complements as well. Moreover, crushed (unmarketable) Caviar roes are turned into thin sheets used on foods in an easier manner and manners impossible otherwise, making the product more versatile for unique uses. The nomenclature for this is “Pressed Caviar”, which can also be a salty paste. Likewise, sometimes “jelly” is inadvertently produced when the eggs are treated improperly. While losing some of its quality in the process, yet due to the high value of Caviar, this jelly is also turned into or used as a “paste”, as well.

In France, Caviar has found itself in classic fish sauces and even paired with Chocolates. In East Asia, some have dabbled in using Caviar as an ice cream ingredient as well, which has gotten good reviews. Caviar has also been known for being infused with some hard liquors.

Caviar has also been finding its way into even more unconventional cuisines in recent years, such as a number of fast-foods, like burgers, pastas, pizzas and crepes.  Even more radical, recently plant-based (imitation) Caviar has been produced for vegetarians.

Due to its high mineral, antioxidant and omega content, Caviar has also found its way into health supplements and cosmetics, and expanding. These include iron, iodine, magnesium, zinc, retinol and peptides.

Caviar Etiquette

Before serving Caviar, some matters to be considered, first of which is the quality of the roes at hand, and consequently, the best ways to serve those eggs, are vital. Caviar which may be too salty, too fishy, bitter or in general not of highest quality, is usually masked with other strong flavors by garnishes such as chopped herbs, onion, chives, dill and/or lemon juice. Yet, Caviar of questionable quality must be avoided at all costs, even if you have paid a lot of money for it.

However, the right quality Caviar is always enjoyed as pure as possible without any garnishes, or most bland garnishes, such as plain white toast centers. Caviar aficionados prefer the smaller containers of the eggs so they can have it directly out of the tin or jar, or served in a two-piece service set, with the Caviar placed in a ceramic or glass bowl, sitting atop a metal bowl of shaved/crushed ice. Some prefer eating the Caviar straight out of the refrigerator at a temperature of 4 to 6°C, but it is actually best to wait 10-12 minutes to assure that the eggs keep their firmness and do not turn slush-like, ensuring of quality and natural curing methods. Furthermore, Caviar at 10°C would allow the flavors to develop, in the same manner that time and air improve a wine before drinking it.

Care must also be taken that no metal surface touches the Caviar and therefore mother of pearl spoons are the ultimate way to dig out the good stuff. Stone, glass, bone, ivory, horn, hardwood or porcelain spoons would also work. Knives and forks should be avoided, no matter what the material, to keep the roes from being damaged before consumption. What to keep in mind from the start to the end is that serving or cooking with Caviar is just as much an art form as it is a culinary delight.

Caviar and Beverages

The most popular alcoholic beverage in the world to consume with Caviar has been chilled semi-dry/dry champagne. In Russia, and since the 1960s in the West as well, ice-chilled dry vodka has been the drink of choice. In some places like California, dry white wines are also preferred. Clean crisp mineral water, especially carbonated, is used to clean the palate between the eggs and liquors.

No matter what your drink of choice, King Caviar toasts you to your health with the following Caviar serving size suggestions:

Caviar Serving Size Suggestions  
Size of Tin(Can)/JarNumber of Persons it Serves (Medium hors d’oeuvres)Number of Persons it Serves (Small hors d’oeuvres)
20 grams1 2
30 grams1-2 3
50 grams2-3 4
125 grams6-810
250 grams12-1620
500 grams25-3340
1000 grams50-6780

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