What Is Bottarga

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What Is Bottarga? How Is It Made and What Does It Taste Like?

bottarga

Bottarga is among the delicacies that are savored all over the world for all the right reasons.

Another name for it is karasumi, and it’s served with sake or beer. If you ate it with anju (Korean drinking food) and a swig of soju, you might have heard people calling it eoran.

The Greeks call it avgotaraho, while the French refer to it as poutarge. It has several other names too, and if we start talking about them, this could take a while.

So, let’s just stick to Bottarga itself.

What Is Bottarga?

Bottarga is the roe sac of a fish, usually grey mullet, that has been salted, rubbed to remove air pockets, then pressed and dried.

This delicacy goes back to ancient times. Almost anyplace humans fished, it appears, they extracted fish roe sacs and salted and dried them to form a truly flavorful pantry staple that is resistant to rot after when the right preservation technique is used.

Bottarga has a dense, almost leathery texture, and after drying for a long period, it is as hard as hard cheese which is why it’s grated like one.

Depending on the stage of maturation of the roe at the time the mullet was taken, its color ranges from golden orange to deep ruby red.

Bottarga is cooked with vegetables, grated over practically any starch or grain, or just sliced paper-thin and seasoned with a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon, and a slick of fragrant oil.

Unlike other can-dried fruit, Bottarga is anything but sweet.

Why Use It?

Wondering why people from different cultures are so fond of Bottarga? Because it’s packed with nutritional benefits.

It’s a superfood packed with calcium, omega-3, zinc, Vitamin A&D, and protein. It’s also hailed a cancer fighter!

This must have made you must wonder what does bottarga taste like. Well, it’s influenced by a number of elements, including the type of fish used and the salinity.

Some of the flavors of this fish include delicately salty, Savory, umami, rich, funky, briny, and obviously, fishy. Bottarga’s flavor has been compared to dried anchovies, but the texture is silky.

How is Bottarga Made?

People from different locations prepare bottarga in different ways, but there are some things that are universal.

The egg/roe pouches are cautiously withdrawn from the fish’s belly in order to avoid damaging the membrane carrying the egg.

The eggs sacks are then cleaned in ice-cold water. If the fish is tuna, it has to be washed numerous times. They’re then massaged by hand to get rid of any air pockets.

Sea salt is used to clean the sacks, which are then stacked in overlapping layers and left for weeks. The number of weeks varies depending on the producer and the weather.

The slabs that are then produced must be washed again, and the brine and other liquids must be removed.

The slabs are either hung from the ceiling or spread out on wooden shelves in an aging chamber, which is a large, well-ventilated, and dry place.

The slabs must be turned regularly to achieve ensure both sides are dried equally. This is how Bottarga is made.

Benefits Of Using It

Now that we’re clear what is bottarga, let’s explore its benefits:

It’s Packed with Zinc

We all know Zinc is one of those minerals that come with a variety of health benefits.

 Bottarga, like oysters, is a good source of zinc, which is why it is also known as the “Viagra of the Sea.” Oysters, on the other hand, are called “aphrodisiac.”

The Best Source of Omega-3

When healthy fats such as Omega–3 fatty acids, are reduced in number, this has a direct impact on the hormone levels. The good news is Bottarga is a great source of Omega-3 because it’s a fish product.

It’s Full of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is beneficial because it boosts your mental health, hair growth, and testosterone levels.

Bottarga is a good source of Vitamin D, therefore if you don’t get enough sun throughout the week, you should add Bottarga to your diet.

Where to Buy Bottarga

Bottarga is a specialty food, so you’ll have to look for it in Italian specialty shops or online or offline. The Italian version does not need to be refrigerated because it contains less moisture.

The Asian equivalents can be found in the refrigerated and frozen departments of Japanese and other Asian supermarkets. You can even buy it on Amazon.

Bottarga is sold at $6 per ounce or $100 per pound, due to the labor-intensive nature of the production process. But don’t reject it because of its price.

Culinary Uses

Because of its flavor, a little bottarga goes a long way when it comes to not overwhelming a dish. While bottarga has a wide range of culinary applications, here are a few instances of how this unusual ingredient can be used:

With Spaghetti

One of the most popular bottarga uses in Sardinia is to grate it over spaghetti and combine it with noodles and olive oil.

Because of the olive oil, bottarga will adhere to the noodles, giving it a golden color that resembles curry. You will get to enjoy spurts of salty, fishy taste and this will truly “wake up” your palette.

With Toast

Slice some ciabatta on your favorite crusty bread. Brush on a thin layer of olive oil and grill until it’s a little toasted and grill marks appear. Place a small amount of bottarga on top, thinly sliced or grated.

With Pasta

Cook your favorite pasta with a little olive oil, a teaspoon of bottarga per person, and a pinch of red chili flakes. Toss in a few toasted bread crumbs to finish. There you go, bottarga pasta is ready. You may also grate some lemon zest on top.

With Vegetables

vegetables

Brush some asparagus with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Then grill until softened.

Alternatively, you can also sprinkle Bottarga over the grilled veggies or fried eggs instead of salt.

Simply Grate It

Bottarga can be grated on a variety of foods, including eggs, chickpeas, or any fish dish. Grate it over steamed veggies and baked potatoes. You can thank us later!

Experiment with grating Bottarga on your favorite food. You will most certainly like the flavor.

A note of caution when using Bottarga. Avoid cooking it. Since it’ has a delicate flavor, warm it gently. Grate it gently otherwise you will be wasting the flavor.

Storing Bottarga

Because bottarga is sensitive to ultraviolet light, it should be kept in a dry and dark place

To use it, open the packet and peel aside only as much as you think you’ll need. You can just leave it out if you plan to use it all in a few days. Otherwise, store it in the refrigerator in a Ziplock bag.

Some people don’t even do that. They prefer storing it in a cool environment such as a wine cellar.

A little container of powdered bottarga is occasionally available for purchase in a grocery shop. Pre-grating decreases the flavor, so it’s not recommended to buy grated one

Ideally, buy a whole piece and grate it yourself. When you’re not in a mood for grating, slice it or use it any other way.

Final Words

One of the best things about bottarga is how little you need this food item to significantly change the flavor and alter the quality of your dish. You can shred, crumble, or slice it as needed, then wrap and store the rest in the refrigerator for months.

Use this flavored packed food to give classic recipes a new lease on life and turn an average dish into a masterpiece! Invite your friends over and let them taste this premium delicacy.

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about Bottarga that might interest you:

Is It Possible to Freeze Bottarga?

When grated, a single piece of bottarga normally serves four people, so if there’s any leftover, wrap it tightly and store it in the refrigerator or freezer for months.

Bottarga can also be grated over eggs, added to risotto, slow cooked with beans, or tossed into a Caesar salad.

How Long Can Bottarga Be Stored?

Bottarga is available in two forms: one is vacuum-packed and the other is beeswax-sealed. After opening, use it within fifteen months.

However, it can last 2 or 3 years if it’s unopened.

Because it’s sensitive to UV rays, make sure you store it someplace dark and moisture-free.

How Much Does Bottarga Cost?

The average price of Bottarga ranges from $6 to $18 per ounce.

Why is Bottarga So Expensive?

Bottarga goes through a salting and curing procedure before being transformed into the finished product. A lot of effort goes into prepping and storing it.

This is a labor-intensive job, which is why this product is pricier than regular fish.

I Can’t Find Bottarga. What Do I Substitute It For?

When Bottarga is not available, try these substitutes: Halibut, flounder, herring, white seabass, mackerel, or weakfish.

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Andy Canter

Andy

Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.

This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best! 

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