Since the USSR fell and the state’s monopoly on the sturgeon egg delicacy ended experts estimate that 90% of the dwindling reserves of wild caviar that end up on Limoges china across the world has been poached or passed through the hands of ‘entrepreneurs’ ie the Russian Mafia. Some Russian caviar tastes criminal, too. Decades of environmental pollution and new factory builds around the Caspian Sea have contaminated that essential luxury saltiness. When the New York Times held blind tastings of Russian, Iranian and Chinese roe for aficionados last year, Chinese romped ahead. Sebastion Lepinoy, top chef at Hong Kong’s Michelin-starred Cépage restaurant is adamant, “It’s better than Beluga.” He claims the superior quality of farmed is down to the pristine condition of the waters in which the sturgeon mature for eight years. China’s artificial Qiandaohu Lake is especially renowned for its clean, clear product.
Chinese caviar is also sustainable and ecologically responsible. Despite frequent Russian moratoria – mostly ignored – stocks in Russia are nearing extinction and Russians have begun buying back sturgeon descended from the prehistoric fish they sold abroad a decade ago at $10,000 a female.
And the Chinese product is cheaper. After a tonnage dump in April which drove world caviar prices down by two thirds in a single day, Chinese caviar currently costs around US$1,300 a kilogram, about one-tenth the price of its counterpart. What once was an indulgence is now officially a treat.
The Fashionable Truth recommends Holland & Wilde, who supply caviar to some of the finest chefs in Shanghai and Beijing. Try Black Pearl Caviar, a local brand of the finest caviars including Russian Osetra and the world-famous Kaluga.