Finding great fish roe doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive if you know where to look.
Authentic sturgeon caviar has no match in terms of taste and texture, but more adventurous eaters are seeking out products like bowfin caviar to get familiar with roe in general.
If you are curious about the fundamentals of fish roe and its many culinary applications, bowfin eggs are a great place to begin without having to break the bank.
Let’s talk about the basics of bowfin caviar, including the species itself, the characteristics of the roe, and how it stacks up to sturgeon caviar that we know and love.
What Is Bowfin Caviar?
Before we talk about the experience of eating bowfin caviar, let’s begin by learning more about the species and how the product is made.
Bowfin Amia Calva
The bowfin fish (Amia calva) is not the most attractive or celebrated species in North America but maintains cult status among the fishing community for its size and fierce nature.
Bowfins are long, bony, and ferocious, with a signature dorsal fin that extends over most of its back. It is also muscular with sharp teeth and can grow over two feet long and more than 20 pounds in some cases.
Fossils indicate that bowfins were once found in saltwater and freshwater locales around the world. However, in our modern world, populations are now found only in the eastern half of North America. Bowfins are mainly in sluggish and highly vegetated waters, like slow-moving rivers and channels.
Bowfin Caviar Production
Since bowfin are abundant throughout the American east, there is more than enough bowfin roe to go around, and production methods vary slightly between producers.
Bowfin caviar is salted with a moderately high saline solution, compared to finer sturgeon caviar products that focus more on the naturally occurring flavors of the roe.
Companies that sell bowfin caviar may also use terms like “dogfish” or the Cajun “choupique” to add some New Orleans flair to their marketing.
Packaging will also vary between producers, with smaller quantities made available in flat sealed tins. Larger amounts of bowfin caviar can be found in jars or classic tall tins.
The roe itself is rather small and beady, without much color variation beyond black and some grey. When heated or improperly stored, some bowfin caviar can turn slightly red in color and lighten up, which is a good indication to avoid it.
Bowfin may not be the fisherman’s choice for eating (its flesh is mushy, grey, and flavorless) but its roe brings a lot more to the table, making it one of the more popular products in this category on the North American Continent.
Bowfin Caviar Taste
The taste of bowfin caviar is distinctive and enjoyable, even for those with minimal experience with roe in the past.
Take a bite of bowfin caviar. You’ll experience some herbal, earthy flavors with plenty of brine and some subtle fishiness—the right amount.
Note that many critics point out that bowfin caviar is rather one-dimensional compared to some of the more complex fish roe products available. You will not experience a great depth of flavor with bowfin. Additionally, some find the salt to be rather overwhelming if consumed in large quantities.
What matters more with bowfin caviar is texture, and there is plenty of that to be had with this type of roe.
When fresh, bowfin caviar pops on the palette and also offers a smooth, oily finish that complements a wide range of other ingredients on your plate.
How To Use Bowfin Caviar
There is no right or wrong way to use bowfin caviar, but if you’re just starting out, we’ve got some recommendations from culinary traditions and forward-thinking chefs from our generation.
Step one should be obvious: try bowfin caviar on its own with no flourishes or additions.
This means scooping a small mound of bowfin caviar directly from the container to the tongue, giving yourself time to work over each pearl and experience the flavors full-on.
From there, you can explore other ways to enjoy bowfin caviar and test out many different recipes that feature roe as the main event or a nice add-on ingredient.
For example, this is your chance to experiment with making buckwheat blini pancakes, homemade crème fraiche, roasted potato coins, or deviled eggs. Just top these creations with as much bowfin caviar as you like.
Bowfin caviar is best suited for fun and inventive appetizers, but you can also get some mileage from this ingredient when whipping up entrees and main courses.
Want to add a dash of luxury to a creamy pasta dish, rustic pizza, or cut of grass-fed beef? Bowfin caviar is the perfect way to elevate nearly culinary creation, as long as you use it tastefully and don’t go overboard with the serving size.
Storing and Serving Bowfin Caviar
Bowfin caviar should be served below room temperature but not so cold that the flavors and textures are masked by freezing temps.
This is made tricky by the fact that bowfin roe must be stored near freezing point in the coldest section of your refrigerator, ensuring that flavors and textures are locked in for weeks at a time.
Remember that freshness is everything when dealing with roe or all types of seafood, for that matter. The sooner you enjoy bowfin caviar after purchasing, the better.
Also, be sure to consume all of your bowfin caviar within a few days of opening the container to avoid loss of flavor or texture.
Bowfin Caviar Price
Aside from its delightful crunchy and salty flavor, the most appealing aspect of bowfin caviar is its price. Top-tier bowfin caviar can be found for low prices throughout the United States and abroad, averaging less than $10 an ounce.
This means that newcomers can dive right into the world of roe without sweating the price tag, and aspiring chefs can safely experiment with this ingredient in the kitchen with no worries.
Some bowfin caviar can be found at higher prices and claim “premium” status, but if you’re planning to spend more money on roe, we suggest jumping to salmon or another fish.
Bowfin vs. Real Sturgeon Caviar
It’s something we needed to mention eventually – bowfin caviar is not technically caviar, even though it is marketed as such. The more accurate term for this product is bowfin roe since only salted sturgeon roe can truly earn the title of caviar.
Is it a huge faux pas to say bowfin caviar instead of bowfin roe? Probably not, but it’s something worth remembering.
Of course, there is no comparison between bowfin roe and authentic sturgeon caviar. The two products are in separate leagues altogether, with true caviar existing on another level of quality, taste, and luxury.
No Bones About It
Bowfin caviar has its time and place, and for the price, it’s hard to beat as a basic form of fish roe.
Try out the roe from this bony fish, but when you’re ready to experience real caviar in all its glory, be sure to go with trusted vendors, direct from the source.