Friday, June 02, 2006

Some Words about bottarga

"Sa Bottariga", as we call it in Sardinia, is a delicacy in our island, made from dried salted roe sacs of the tuna or the grey mullet. We think that both types are lovely provided they are suitably dried.

It is also known as the Mediterranian Caviar and sometimes called ‘poor man’s caviar’, but we think that this is a demeaning name, as bottarga is bottarga!
The best is made in coastal areas of eastern Sardinia and comes in two varieties: Bottarga di Muggine (Grey Mullet Bottarga) to differentiate it from Bottarga di Tonno (Tuna Bottarga).
In Mediterranean France, it is known as Poutargue.
In Egypt, grey mullet was the original roe used for Battarikh.

As overfishing depleted the stocks of large female mullets, smaller sized fish are used, and other species as well (grouper, sea bass, and others)... so if you want the best bottarga you have to search for sardinian one!!!

The roe sacs are expertly removed from the fish and sprinkled with sea salt for about a week before being pressed and then hung to be air dried for about a month. (In fact the length of drying is important: make sure you buy the product that has been dried for a long time as we feel this is superior).
They are hand pressed to get any air out of them. Then they are put in special presses to squeeze the moisture out of them.
At the first sight, Bottarga appears quite unique, odorless, and may look like a flat waxed sausage. But once the wax is removed, your taste buds will discover one of the most flavorful marine products.

The origin seems to be Phoenician (present day Lebanon) and in Sardinia we can found a lot of phoenician cities: Sulki (S.Antioco), Tharros, Nora...
In a 1386 document, a Catalonian-Aragonese ship captured another corsair ship from Oristano loaded with "eel and bottarga".
In 1400, one Batrolomeo Platina says that he has "no memory of eating anything more exquisite", and it being an "honest pleasure and for good health".

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