Did you know you don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars to have caviar? Granted, it won’t be the best of the best, but there are affordable options if you feel like indulging or are just curious.
Purists will tell you that in order to be properly called caviar, it must be from the Caspian Sea or the Black Sea, otherwise it is just fish eggs. As with champagne (which must be from the Champagne region of France to bear that moniker) I’m not a fan of that attitude. To me, if it is fish eggs, it is caviar.
And no, fish are not killed for caviar. The eggs can be extracted without hurting the fish.
Be forewarned, some are mild, but others taste very fishy so I wouldn’t recommend trying any kind of caviar if you don’t like fish (or are allergic).
Where to Get it
- Your local Japanese/sushi restaurant. If you see “roe” on the menu, that’s fish eggs – caviar. One of my local restaurants sells them by the roll as a type of nigiri.
- Your local Asian market – They often sell salmon and trout roe as well as masago and tobiko.
- Your local grocery store – Many larger chains sell the cheaper brands of caviar in the Asian food or canned fish section. I have also seen articles that say Sam’s and Costco sell it as well in large batches.
- Buy it online from Amazon, which has a huge selection.
- Have it delivered.
- Fancy restaurants – High ticket restaurants sometimes have it on their menu, but remember that they will overcharge you.
True caviar comes from sturgeon, but today there are other types. The grand-daddy of caviar is Beluga from the Caspian Sea. It’s illegal to import into the U.S. and is super expensive anyway.
Here’s a handy guide to some of the most common types of caviar. They will cost you anywhere from $8-$100+ depending on your choice.
These are only the ones I’ve tried. I’ll add more as I get the chance to sample them.
- Flying fish roe/black tobiko– These tiny eggs (see left four images at top) are often infused with wasabi (and therefore green) or soy sauce (black) and I’ve also seen orange/red. This is the mildest type I’ve tried. You’ll often see it on top of sushi. It doesn’t really taste like much to me, but it is crunchy and makes me feel fancy.
- Capelin/masago – This smelt roe is smaller than tobiko, but honestly I can’t tell the two apart. Experts say masago is milder in taste and scent and not as crunchy. It also comes in a variety of colors.
- Salmon roe – These larger orange eggs (see middle and far right of photo at top) are not for the faint of heart. Salmon is my all-time favorite fish and these are almost too fishy for me.
- Romanoff caviar – This is black lumpfish and is available from my local grocery store for $8/2 oz. It is very crunchy and VERY salty. Not my personal favorite by itself, but really good on top of sushi.
How to Store/Serve/Eat
Storing caviar properly is essential to avoiding food-borne illness. According to this website, unopened caviar should be stored in the bottom of your refrigerator and kept as cold as possible, with ice if you can. You can keep it for up to six weeks. Once it is opened, do not let it sit out for more than an hour or two. Opened jars or cans will stay good for two to three days in the refrigerator.
You are supposed to serve caviar well chilled (you’ll often see it placed on ice) in either a plastic, glass, bone or mother of pearl bowl with a spoon of the same material. DO NOT USE METAL (even silver) or it can negatively affect the taste.
Sprinkle your roe on buttery hors d’oeuvres or sushi or place caviar on a water cracker, white bread, or a toast point. Sometimes it is served with creme fraiche, chives, lemon wedges, hard boiled egg or minced onion. Others like to serve it with smoked salmon or trout.
I like a cold (as in frozen) vodka martini with my caviar, but brut champagne is also an excellent pairing. If you are a wine lover, try a dry white or if you must have a beer porter or amber ale is recommended.