Karasumi & Bottarga

I hate to spend too much time on researching products that I do not like. Each time I mention fish roe to chefs they are anxious to show off their own domestic products. In fact I have tried numerous types of bottarga around the world, more than I can remember.

Bottarga is made all over the globe, as long as there is mullet, there is bottarga. When I start to think about it, there are so many producers but few I like. French brand Koskas is used in Tokyo by some chefs. I dislike this brand, it is grainy and not consistent with what I am used to: http://www.koskas-fils.com

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Then you have the Greek bottarga, produced by the Trikalinos family. Their product is good but the roe is slightly too large and brittle, not what I am not used to: http://trikalinos.gr

Then you have the most famous, the Italian whole Bottarga di Muggine from Cabras in Sardinia, I like them selectively. In Sardinia in September, when the mullet swim up the gulf of Oristano into the “stagno”, the ponds off the coast, they are caught and prepared for their roe. In fact the mullets caught in Cabras are unanimously considered the best thanks to the quality of the seabed and purity of the water.

Then there is Seth Cripe, who was born 34 years ago in this coastal village an hour south of Tampa, he tries to capture some of that profit for the fishermen and artisans of Cortez and I never tried his fish roe so I have no comment: http://www.cortezbottarga.com.

Then there are the qualities that are considered the best in Asia. Those are the Taiwanese versions which are less expensive, so many Japanese tourists who visit Taiwan come back with a suitcase full of bottarga. The Taiwan fish roe is reputed to be excellent.

Then you have the Japanese domestic Karasumi, the roe is made once per year and kept until consumed, usually within the year. I am afraid but the quality of bottarga in Italy or Greece does not compare to Japan’s fish  roe. In Europe these use a flathead Mullet and in Japan they use Grey Mullet. The commercial brands are just good and not much better than the European brands but the small producers, the artisans who produce selected fish roe, they have the finest.

I often add some raw daikon to combine with the karasumi as it contrasts and highlights the taste. It is a good idea to use it when looking for a front sharp taste in the palate. The karasumi is dense and it helps it express itself better. The alternative is sake and this too works.

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