There are so many advantages to the expanding global marketplace and the conveniences of the internet. We have access to so many wonderful products from around the world, and with the click of a button, they can be shipped right to your door.
Unfortunately, there are downsides as well, and fake caviar is a prime example of what to avoid when shopping online – and in stores, for that matter.
Fake caviar is nothing new, and considering the high prices and demand for authentic sturgeon caviar, it’s not too surprising that the fake stuff is flooding marketplaces online and beyond.
You might have come across fake caviar before, or perhaps you don’t even know the signs. Is buying fake caviar worth it, or should you just save up your cash until you can get the real thing?
In this article, we’ll give you the scoop on fake caviar and explain why it doesn’t hold a candle to the best, authentic caviar that the modern market has to offer. Let’s get to it.
What Is Fake Caviar?
There is no one type of fake caviar that should be on your radar. Many imposters can be found out there, so a better approach is to remind ourselves what defines real caviar, first and foremost.
Remember, the only true caviar is authentic, salted roe from the sturgeon fish, an ancient class of animal known for its size, strength, resilience, and unique appearance. It’s Acipenseridae or nothing!
Our suggestion is that you get up close and personal with real caviar, learn the key species, know what makes it special, and then you’ll be better prepared to dodge fakes when shopping around.
With that said, let’s list a few common counterfeits, so you don’t get scammed.
Standard Fish Roe
It happens to everyone at some point – we see a jar with a prestigious-looking label sitting in a case at the gourmet grocer, and we pick it up for close examination. Maybe it says Bowfin caviar, Salmon caviar, or something like this. The price is right, so why not buy it?
This isn’t to say that these types of fish roe aren’t tasty or useful in the kitchen, but remind yourself that unless it’s sturgeon, it’s not caviar!
Here are a few classic imposters that might be marketed as caviar, so beware:
While these products have their own virtues and applications, they are not from sturgeon, and therefore are not real caviar – simple as that!
Now that technology is improving, and companies are getting creative with marketing, we’re seeing more artificial caviar products being introduced.
These products are not fish roe, nor are they sturgeon caviar by any means. Instead, they are typically derived from fruits, vegetables, and sometimes even fungi like mushrooms or truffles to add more interesting flavors.
These products are usually made through a scientific process known as spherification, which involves compounds such as sodium alginate and reactors like sodium chloride to create small beads from base ingredients.
Spherification is how we end up with products like sweet coffee caviar, savory kelp caviar, fancy black truffle caviar, and other items that mimic the shape and texture of real roe and sturgeon caviar.
Even a casual caviar enjoyer should know that these products are not the real deal, and they are more of a novelty garnish than anything else. Still, they can serve a purpose with creative dishes; just call them what they are.
Don’t Be Fooled
In most cases, a bit of detective work can clarify whether you’re dealing with real sturgeon caviar or a product that is caviar in name only.
We’re giving you the knowledge you need to navigate the marketplace and avoid being duped, but there are certainly some untrustworthy vendors out there that will label their products inaccurately in hopes of pulling bigger profits.
Use your best judgment and intuition when shopping online especially, and do the necessary groundwork to make sure you’re really getting what you pay for. That extra time and effort are worth it when putting down money for something like caviar; trust us on that!
Why Real Caviar is Unmatched
Now that you have a better idea of what constitutes real vs. fake caviar, let’s talk about what makes authentic caviar such a prized ingredient in the culinary scene.
Taste and Texture
When tasting roe from fish like Capelin, Flying Fish, or Paddlefish, you can quickly tell that the flavors are somewhat flat and “one-dimensional” – offering little beyond a basic sweet or salty sensation on the tongue.
The texture of these roes also tends to be rather basic, usually providing a brief pop or crunch and not much else.
Alternatively, real caviar from a mature sturgeon has so much more in terms of both taste and texture, especially when compared side by side to the roes we’ve described.
Caviar has a distinctive texture on the palate and a much more delicate bursting quality compared to the pop or crunch of standard roe.
Furthermore, the flavors are far more varied and deep, ranging from earthy and herbal to nutty, buttery, rich, and fatty. The key factor when tasting caviar is the finish – how long it stays on the palate and reveals more characteristics over time.
Each bite of real caviar is like taking a mini-adventure, and you’ll never have the exact same experience twice, even from the same producer or species of sturgeon.
Whether you’re enjoying a Kaluga River Hybrid, some fresh Royal Ossetra, or you somehow manage to get your hands on the rare Sevruga or Beluga caviar, it’s a thrill to know that some of the world’s most luxurious and desirable pearls are on your plate.
Opening a jar of caviar is like flipping the switch for an instant celebration, and it’s the perfect way to kick off an exciting event or toast a major achievement.
Part of it is the price of real caviar, but there is just some intangible magic when you bite into the real thing – the experience can’t be replicated with any sort of artificial alternative!
How to Shop Smart
We’ve offered a fair warning to those shopping for caviar in the modern market, but here are a few tips to make sure you get exactly what you’re after.
Do Your Research
Research is key when making a major purchase of any type, and caviar is no exception.
Investigate and discover exactly where your caviar is coming from – not only the type of fish itself, but also details like the farm or natural source, as well as the aquaculture practices used.
There are also many hybrid variations of caviar available now, so keep track of how brands are marketing their products versus the actual genetics of the fish that produce the eggs.
With so many vendors competing for your dollar online, you’ll need to hold them to higher standards than ever before.
That means reading reviews, communicating with service reps, messaging contacts in the industry – whatever needs to be done to build that trust.
Once you find a reputable caviar vendor that gives you great products for solid prices, stick with them and tell your friends!
Fake caviar is more common than you might think, but you can save yourself a lot of headache and hassle by following the tips we’ve offered today. Enjoy real caviar to the fullest and accept nothing less than the best.