One of the most notoriously expensive food in the fine-dining universe is caviar, edible black pearls that pop in your mouth. As with other fancy delicacies, caviar is reminiscent with the hefty price tag that is attached to it. So, what makes caviar so expensive? Read on to find out.  

First things first, what is caviar?

Put simply, caviar is merely cured fish roe. According to AM New York, caviar is loosely used to refer to fish eggs, but the source of real caviar is from sturgeon fish. Caviar has a distinctly salty, fishy taste that makes is unique unlike any other food item in the world. There’s nothing else in the world like the delicate pops of caviar in your mouth. 

The search for the “best-tasting” caviar in the market is a tricky one because lots have been preserved with an overwhelming amount of salt, annihilating its authentic flavor. Caviar is often enjoyed in small portions by itself, with blinis (traditional tiny Russian pancakes) or hors-d'oeuvres. It’s important for caviar to be chilled before eating to ensure its freshness and taste.

Caviar’s distant sisters, tobiko and red caviar, often confuse eaters to be the same type of food. The key point is that caviar has to come specifically from sturgeon fish. Tobiko is made from Japanese fish roes, and red caviar is made from salmon, trout or cod roe.

 The reason why caviar is insanely pricey 

There is a scarce supply of sturgeon fish that barely keeps up with the skyrocketing demand for caviar. In fact, all 27 of the sturgeon species were placed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Animals. Following the straightforward economic rule of supply and demand, what makes caviar so expensive is its decreasing availability for the world’s insatiable palate.

The myth that people believe is that the heftier the price of caviar is, the better it tastes. Actually, there are affordable options for decent-tasting caviar. Factors like the sturgeon species, the curing process of the eggs and the amount of salt affect its price.

The real deal: how you can get it for cheaper

If you’re in a tight budget but are curious about its distinct taste, head over to the refrigerated section of your neighborhood grocery store. You’ll find cans and bottles of caviar sitting among other smoked products.

Consider other types of fish roes to make up for the texture of caviar. The most popular substitutions for sturgeon caviar are the Louisiana bowfin, American paddlefish or bowfin roe according to caviar expert chef Guy Meikle.

Although it’s worth splurging on caviar once in a while to tame your guilty pleasure, it is undoubtedly a delicacy that’s expensive for a reason but one that you should try. Next time you’re thinking of indulging in caviar, don’t be intimidated by the prices of caviar when other options won’t break your bank.