The increasing scarcity of wild sturgeon means that many chefs are turning to farmed varieties for both traditional presentation and incorporating in their cuisine, writes Daniel Creffield

Dominique Bugnand, director of culinary operations and F&B at Mandarin Oriental, Macau, is a caviar fan.
“I love its shape, colour and taste,” he enthuses. “To me, caviar is elegant. It can give a dish a very nice touch and enticing flavours.”
Bugnand says he prefers to use the caviar ‘raw’, i.e. in its unadulterated form, not mixed with any other ingredient. “At the moment I prefer caviar Sturia from Aquitaine, France,” he adds.
And while he concedes he would love to use wild Iranian caviar, “it’s protected, and we at Mandarin Oriental, Macau, have always been aware of protecting our natural marine and ecosystems. We do our best to source top-quality farmed caviar.”
Abby Cholene Yuen, marketing director at Swiss Caviar House (Asia), stresses that sustainability is the way ahead for the caviar industry.
“Our ’Swiss made’ guarantee ensures quality and responsibility. Ten years of research and ideal conditions, including purified Alps mountain water and stable organic food, has enabled us to grow healthy sturgeon, which produce delicious, fresh and creamy caviar, in much shorter times than in the wild.”
Swiss Oona caviar from Tropenhaus Frutigen in Switzerland, which runs the first ‘Alpine Siberian Sturgeon Programme’ are raised in pure Swiss alpine water. The caviar is hand harvested and processed according to the international CITES convention and qualified by SGS headquarters in Switzerland.
Swiss Caviar House sells in Greater China, Japan, Korea and other Asia countries, in six sizes: 30g, 50g, 125g, 250g, 500g and 1kg.
Yuen says that Asian restaurants often use caviar, pairing it with seafood, steak, pork, snacks and even dumplings.
“We have worked with cooking schools, chefs’ kitchens and premium hotels and restaurants.”

China to show the way
Jason Wong, director of JA Fine Foods in Hong Kong, sells caviar in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and Malaysia. He says China is expected to become a huge market in the future.
“Demand in China doubled in 2013 and will continue to grow strongly … I estimate that alongside the EU and the US, China will become a top-three caviar market within two years.
“Demand in Singapore increased rapidly after the open of two casinos there, around 200-300% growth over the past two years. Hong Kong has shown stable growth, around 15% in 2013, the same as Thailand and Taiwan. Now the total amount for Asia excluding Japan, airlines and cruiselines is around 10 tons in 2013.
“My best selling product is oscietra which is Chinese Amur sturgeon. People like it because it has a very strong, nutty aroma with firm texture, which is easy for chefs to work with.”
And while he agrees that some fine dining Chinese restaurants are using caviar – mainly for seafood dishes – he says the majority is still western restaurants, which account for over 90% of the market.
“However, the caviar demand from Asian restaurants is growing very fast. I assume that within three years caviar consumption in China will be mainly
from Chinese fine dining restaurants
and clubs.”
Olivier Besson, CEO at Caviar Azovka, says the company is selling mostly to high-end restaurants and hotels in Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Shanghai.
“Our best selling product is Azovka beluga royal. Beluga is the most famous caviar among the four main types – beluga, ossetra, sterlet and sevruga –and possesses great quality and an indulgent taste.”
He agrees that while many chefs are still incorporating caviar in their dishes, it is mostly western restaurants doing this.
“I guess it’s due to the culinary and cultural tradition. Chefs use caviar mainly for the entrée dishes, and pair them with fine champagne.”

Swiss connection
Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, Planet Caviar is a specialist offering a selection of 17 caviars to both Europe and Asia, wild and farmed. Planet Caviar HK was formed in 2006 and supplies both wild and farmed caviar to five-stars hotels and fine dining restaurants mainly in Hong Kong, Macau and China, including Four Season Hotel, Mandarin Oriental
and others.
Company director Edmond Leung says its best-selling product is schrencki from China and black ossetra from Italy and Uruguay.
“The quality for schrencki and hybrids from China are very stable; the egg size and taste are perfect for chefs, so most of them love to use it. For black ossetra, chefs love to use it because it is well known in the market and the quality is also stable.”
He says that over the past two years Asian restaurants have started to incorporate more caviar, with Chinese and Japanese restaurants using it as a decoration for cold dishes.