From grown, reared, roasted to smoked, the UAE’s locally produced food scene has expanded and become dynamic and varied. But beyond the market for organic hen’s eggs, our tastes in this region tend to be a little more luxurious, so perhaps it is no surprise that the local food scene now also covers locally (and sustainably) farmed caviar. Emirates AquaTech (EAT) in the UAE is the largest indoor caviar farm in the world, and it now harvests and sells Yasa, a brand of caviar and sturgeon meat available in Dubai as well as internationally.
Caviar traditionally refers to roe – the ripe eggs of wild sturgeon from the Caspian and Black Sea – although the term is sometimes used to refer to roe from other fish as well. There are four main types of caviar and each comes from a different sturgeon: beluga, sterlet, ossetra and sevruga.
Beluga is known for its soft, large eggs, which range from pale silver to black. Sterlets produce small, dark grey eggs with a strong flavour. Ossetra eggs, on the other hand, are medium with a grey to brownish colour, while sevruga caviar, which is the most common, is typically identified as being smaller than the other kinds of caviar.
The word ‘caviar’ is a Persian term that means cake of strength. It’s a common assumption that the Russians began extracting and consuming caviar, when actually it was the Persians in the 16th century. They believed it had curative properties. In the 18th century, caviar was regarded as the food of the poor until royal chefs introduced Russian Tsars and nobility to it. This set in motion the demand for caviar as a delicacy – until 2008, when wild sturgeon fishing was banned under the Bern Convention, an international agreement to protect animals and the environment. Since then, all legally produced caviar has come from sturgeon farms such as EAT. We spoke to Sara Morales, general manager of Garamond International, the Spanish company that represents EAT, to learn more.
How is the caviar harvested?
Our sturgeons grow and live in what we call a sturgeon spa, which is monitored at all times. When the sturgeons have matured, we scan them to make sure that the roes are perfectly formed, then extract the eggs and use the meat for fillets.
You say the farm is sustainable. Can you explain how?
Yes, the farm is fully sustainable and nothing goes to waste. We sell the caviar and sturgeon meat; use the head, tail and bones for fertiliser, and treat the skin so it can be used in leather goods. We purify the water that the sturgeon live in and use the remaining, de-purified water for irrigation.
How do you eat caviar correctly?
To really taste the quality of caviar, you should try it alone because adding bread or toast disguises its flavour. Of course, if you simply want to enjoy caviar, it can be eaten with blinis, potato or cooked eggs, or added to pasta or fish dishes. To eat caviar correctly, you should avoid using a metal spoon as this affects the taste. Traditionally, you use a mother of pearl spoon as it is neutral material to have in contact with caviar.
From Dhs350 for 50g (Yasa pressed caviar). EAT deliver Yasa caviar and sturgeon meat to Dubai, email email@example.com, www.emiratesaquatech.ae
Where to buy caviar in Dubai
The stall stocks a variety of caviar sourced from Russia, including royal beluga, beluga, imperial, ossetra and sevruga.
Sevruga: Dhs150 for 50g. Beluga: Dhs300 for 50g. Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah Beach Road, Umm Suqeim (04 348 6259).
Caviar House & Prunier
Based in Dubai International Airport, this raw bar serves and sells caviar and smoked salmon. This caviar is farmed in France from Caspian sturgeon and prepared according to Iranian, Russian and by using a range of traditional techniques.
From Dhs290 for 30g (traditional preparation). Terminal 3, Dubai International Airport, Garhoud (04 220 3522).
Petrossian Boutique & Café
The store sells varieties of caviar farmed from Caspian sturgeon (beluga, ossetra), US sturgeon (Alberta) and Siberian sturgeon (baeri). Staff here have a good knowledge of the caviar and can offer guidance.
From Dhs165 for 12g (baeri royal). Beluga imperial: Dhs3,350 for 50g. Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 325 3204).