Beluga Caviar Imitations
Knowing Your Beluga and Your Imitations
With the wild Beluga Sturgeon (Huso Huso) now listed as a critically endangered species by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), today 80% of the world market in caviar is farmed.
Under the auspices of CITES, caviar containers must bear special labels that identify the country of origin, the fish species from which the product is derived, the year of preparation and the type of caviar. However, over the years, beluga knock-offs have come on to the market.
Caviar imitations range in species and price. They are often farmed in the USA, China, Romania and Bulgaria. Generally, Caspian caviar imitations, especially when it comes to Beluga, have a less distinct flavour, lacking the complex buttery notes and those beautifully blended aromas.
Caviar from the Amur and Amur Kaluga Sturgeons, native to the Russian Far East and China, is an imitation to the Beluga, usually retailing anywhere between £10 to £1000 and upwards. Similar in look and texture to its Caspian cousin, but unlike Beluga farmed from the Huso Huso of the Caspian Sea, it is worlds apart, with a pronounced shell and a more salty aroma with a wax like texture.
Tobikko and Red Roe can easily be described as the biggest imitation to Beluga in restaurants, ranging from gold to reddish orange in colour, the roe varies from medium sizes to sizes larger than the Beluga’s. Possessing the mildest taste yet has an intense "fishy" aroma. Tobikko and Red Caviar ranges in prices from £10 to £800.
The American caviar of the Bowfin is also considered a imitation to Beluga, with a firm sturgeon like roe, mild, indistinguishable flavour and black beads. It’s priced anywhere between £25 to £100.
Whitefish caviar is regarded as an ingredient meant for infusion, such as with saffron and truffles, it’s famous for its bright golden color and crunchy texture, with a sea like taste that is mild. Prices usually go from £5 to a maximum of £50.
Over the years a number of hybrid caviars have emerged, such as the Kaluga Huso Hybrid, which create confusion in terms of people experiencing the true taste of age old Beluga sturgeon caviar. Hybridization also has a detrimental effect on the nutritional value and taste of the sturgeon. These can range anywhere in price from £100 to £1000 upwards.