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Guide to Russia > Russian Culture



Black caviar
Black caviar

In all the countries of the world and among all the delicacies found in international cuisine, traditional Russian caviar remains one of the most popular. In Russia as well as everywhere else in the world black caviar is a symbol of luxury.

Black caviar is not only good for eating, but it can also be used for skin care, thanks to the useful vitamins it contains.

Another interesting fact about this expensive garnish is that more than a half of its official capacity is bought by corporate clients – international airlines and tourist liners, for example, buy mass quantities of caviar for their first classs passengers.

By taste and nutrition value, the four types of fish that are considered most valuable are white sturgeon, starlet, stellate sturgeon and sturgeon. Interestingly, the name which is used in Russia for this caviar is "black", which does not always correspond with its real color. On the contrary, the lighter the color of the fish eggs the better the quality.

If while in Russia people to try to tell you that black caviar was too luxurious for common folk and only the richest could afford to eat it, don't believe them. This is a common misconception. All the dukes and boyars loved to eat caviar and didn't consider it a special delicacy.

Until recently, Russia monopolised the production of black caviar on the world market, but today the delivery of this delicacy is not only Russia's priority. Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan all compete on the caviar market. However, caviar is considered a Russian tradition (along with the usual suspects, bliny, shashlik, borsch, and vodka).

You can count on most foreigners to order black caviar and the glass of Russian vodka on their first visit to a Russian restaurant! Besides the obvious reasons of caviar's exotic and delicious taste, there are also economic reasons for such a phenomenon – the cost of caviar in Russian restaurants is lower than in restaurants elsewhere in the world.

Red caviar

In Russia black caviar is not the only popular type of fish eggs. From the very early beginnings of development in Siberian lands and Far East countries the tradition of using salmon eggs from quickly took root. This type of caviar is called red caviar. Although it is cheaper then black caviar, red caviar is still quite tasty and nutritious. Its lower price is due to the fact that salmon is more accessible than black-caviar-producing fish.

Red caviar is taken from Siberian salmon, hunchback salmon and red salmon. As with black caviar, these various types of fish create differently-colored caviar. The best red caviar is considered to be the caviar from Siberian salmon. In Russia, red caviar is prepared in Sakhalin and Kamchatka, but you can find many different brands of caviar at markets.

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Where to Buy Caviar

You can find caviar just about anywhere in Russia; even if you are not up for trying it in a restaurant, you can easily buy it and eat at home. The markets are a good place to get food, but make sure it is fresh and looks appetizing. Be careful not to purchase spoiled or old fish eggs. The prices in markets are lower then the prices in stores, however perishable products are better purchased in stores since it is safer and you are guaranteed freshness. When you are buying caviar shake the product and make sure it's not too watery: the consistency should be thick and you will be able to tell before opening the can. There is not much to worry about though, because nowadays all the caviar in Russia, both at markets and in stores is good and fresh. There are some exceptions and sometimes the taste might not be the best, but this happens rarely. If you are concerned, buy the goods in a bigger and more respected store, (where the prices are consequently slightly higher). Also, it is a good idea to ask a salesperson for advice about the suppliers of the caviar. Try to buy brand names that are common and recommended by store clerks. If you do decide to take a chance, save some money and buy caviar at the market. Here you will have an opportunity to taste the product before buying it!

How to Serve Caviar

In respectable restaurants black caviar is served in special vases which have to be delivered on a plate filled with chipped ice. Chilled caviar is always more tasty and softer. The freshness of the caviar is easy to see from its appearance – the grains should be of an elastic texture and not stuck together. The taste and smell will vary depending on the type of fish. It is possible to store caviar in an already-opened can for only a few days, a week maximum.

Caviar looks very attractive if it is served on boiled eggs, but the most expensive way of serving it tends to be with oysters. It is considered a delicacy to drink chilled vodka with caviar and leave champagne for sweet dishes and desserts. This traditional Russian cuisine harmonizes well with the traditional Russian drink! It doesn't matter if the caviar is black or red, it needs to be eaten chilled and with small spoons, but without any bread. Traditional sandwiches with caviar are considered a very bad thing because the true taste of the caviar is lost in this combination.

It is believed that the famous Russian bass singer Feodor Shalyapin used to eat caviar before he drank vodka in order to wash down the caviar. This could be a very good way but we recommend one small amendment: eat caviar, drink vodka and eat caviar again!

For the truly discriminating…

The true connoisseurs worry a lot about the salt level in caviar. They say that the caviar sold at the store "Caviar House" in Cannes has a special process which measures the amount of salt in different samples of fish eggs. There is a ball on a chain and the ball is dipped into the caviar. If it goes inside immediately the correlation between fat and salt is ideal, but if the ball stays on the surface for a moment this means that the caviar is too salted and thus not ideal.

After that sobering aside, it remains only to say: enjoy.

Red caviar

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