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Even the dictionary definition of caviar doesn't do it any justice. Described simply as "the pickled roe of sturgeon or other large fish" these words fail to capture the exuberance and luxury behind this world-renown delicacy. Salty, grainy and flavorful, proper caviar, which is harvested from sturgeon found in the Caspian Sea, melts in your mouth like butter with a lingering flavor of ocean water, according to experts. So what's the history behind this beloved and expensive delicacy? Here are some fun facts about caviar we unearthed with the help of Caviar Guide and KnowFood:
1. Did you know the word caviar did not originate from Russia? Russians call it ikra but caviar itself hails from the Turkish havyar which comes from khayah, the Persian word for egg.
2. The oldest written account of caviar dates back to the 1240s during the epoch of Mongol ruler Batu Khan, Genghis Khan’s grandson.
3. Most of the world's caviar is produced in the Caspian Sea, which is bordered by Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran.
4. The people who make caviar are called Ikrjanschik. Before making caviar they must undergo an apprenticeship that lasts anywhere from 10 to 15 years.
5. The world's best caviar is produced from three varieties of sturgeon: Beluga sturgeon (Beluga caviar), Russian sturgeon (Osetra caviar), and stellate sturgeon (Sevruga caviar). The fish thrive in saltwater but spawn in freshwater.
6. Real caviar ranges in color from light to dark gray and yellow-gray to brown-black. Red 'caviar' doesn't come from sturgeon, it is actually salmon roe.
7. Serving caviar with silver utensils is a sin, as the metal adversely affects the flavor of this delicacy, Instead, use spoons made with mother of pearl.
8. The highest quality of Beluga caviar is called Almas, which means “diamond” in Russian. It is sold only by London’s Caviar House and is packaged in a round, 24 karat gold box, costing around 40,000 euros per kilo.
9. Although it is high in sodium and cholesterol, caviar is rich in calcium and phosphorus, as well as protein, selenium, iron, magnesium, and Vitamins B12 and B6.
10. Caviar should never be frozen, as it will end up mushy. It is best served in a crystal or glass bowl over ice.