Now made in China: caviar and premium steak

2017-09-14 10:32Shanghai Daily Editor: Huang Mingrui ECNS App Download
Caviar and crispy duck (Photo/Shanghai Daily)

Caviar and crispy duck (Photo/Shanghai Daily)

Enjoying caviar with a mother of pearl spoon is almost a showcase of status and wealth in China.

Together with truffle and premium steak, it's among the staples of a luxury lifestyle.

But now, these Western foods are being produced in China and they symbolize quality and sustainability.

Some of the price tags have even beaten the expensive imported foods, while some have made the luxury food cheaper to reach more people.

Otto Goh, executive chef at Kerry Hotel, Pudong, has created a new menu for The MEAT grill featuring caviar and steaks that are all grown and produced in China.

In the past, these items were often perceived as imported luxury goods.

"I favor these local Chinese ingredients because not only is the quality fantastic, it's also safe and sustainable," said the Malaysian chef who has a passion for ingredients and vast knowledge of Chinese-sourced ingredients.

The various businesses have been developing for several decades, and recently the results have started to show in the market.

China's vast transportation network has also helped boost these industries.

The cold chain and logistics guarantee the freshest foods can be delivered promptly every day.

Cheaper caviar

Caviar is the processed and salted fish roe using the eggs of sturgeon, a prehistoric fish dating back to the Triassic period more than 2 million years ago. The "living fossil" can live to 100 years and weigh up to a ton.

It takes seven to 25 years for a sturgeon to mature and produce eggs. The fish roe itself has no taste and needs to be cured with salt.

Russian fishermen started to fish sturgeon along River Volga by the Caspian Sea in the 11th century, but the food didn't become popular in Europe until the 19th century.

Traditionally, the best caviar comes from the Caspian, bordered by Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Azerbaijan. It's the optimal habitat of sturgeon and the majority of the wild catch came from here.

But overfishing, habitat loss and pollution has made most of the 27 species of sturgeons highly threatened or vulnerable to extinction. In 2011, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora banned the wild caviar trade to protect the sturgeon.

To supply the world's growing taste for caviar and saving the wild sturgeons, caviar aquaculture has been developed in many countries as a sustainable solution over the past decades.

China is amongst the largest sturgeon farming regions in the world. Breeding farms in Sichuan, Yunnan and Zhejiang provinces have been operating for more than two decades, where the 100 percent freshwater habitats in unpolluted areas are similar to the sturgeon's natural habitat.

W3 Caviar, a company that supplies Chinese caviar to hotels and restaurants in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia, says no chemicals or growth hormones are used.

Regular and premium caviar is produced in China, including the Baerii caviar from Siberian sturgeon, the Amur Oscietra from Amur sturgeon, Royal Oscietra from the Russian sturgeon, Amur beluga, royal beluga and the rare golden caviar selected from albino sturgeon.

Yunnan Amur Caviar is one of the largest sturgeon breeders in China which produces sturgeon caviar, hybrid sturgeon caviar, Siberian sturgeon caviar and kaluga caviar. Its online shop retails the fish roes priced from 405-1800 yuan (US$62-277) for 30 grams.

Large scale caviar farming has made the world's most expensive food accessible not just for the rich and wealthy.

"In the past, I didn't quite agree with the use of caviar because it didn't feel right, but now I encourage the use of farmed products because I want to help the industry, if we are not buying, the vicious circle might go back to catching the wild sturgeon and they will eventually die out," said Goh.


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