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Why is caviar so expensive in 2020

 

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Twenty years ago, I lived in the Caucasus and often visited Azerbaijan’s capital Baku on the Caspian shore. In those chaotic post-Soviet years — ethnic wars, flatline economies, not much electricity — you could buy half a kilo of unctuous grey-black caviar for 50 bucks in the market.

There was an American-style diner that served an all-you-can-eat buffet brunch at the weekend: eggs, bacon, sausages, pancakes, and a large bowl of communal caviar.

Once, I brought back a whole kilo to London to make caviar sandwiches. We munched them — somewhat sheepishly, I remember — at half-time at Villa Park, watching Arsenal lose to Manchester United in an FA Cup semi-final replay. It must have been 1999.

Basically, I ate the last of the world’s wild caviar. (The real stuff: the black-grey roe of the sturgeon, harvested from fish caught in the sea and not farmed in river pens or artificial ponds.) After the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, poaching and pollution destroyed sturgeon stocks in the Caspian.

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In the mid-1990s, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species began to impose steadily constricting quotas; in 2006, it recommended a complete ban on commercial fishing for sturgeon in the Caspian. Prices skyrocketed.

Since then, sturgeon farms have been established in the US, France, Bulgaria, Italy, Israel, Madagascar, and even Saudi Arabia. Perhaps unsurprisingly, China now produces most of the world’s caviar and estimates of the value of the global caviar market vary between.

Caviar prices have always been slippery but before the Soviet Union broke up, the price for osetra (good quality caviar, but not the premium beluga) was about $1,000 a kilo. Today, it’s between $2,500 and.

While it’s true that the global tonnage of caviar now produced — about 350 tonnes — is far less than was hauled out of the Caspian 30 years ago when it was virtually the only source, the Soviets’ command economy, their virtual monopoly on caviar exports and desire for hard currency meant the price had little to do with supply and demand. So, as the supply of farmed caviar keeps on rising, I’m wondering: why is the price still so high?

Last autumn, I met Armen Petrossian for lunch at his eponymous restaurant in Paris. He is a dapper gentleman, who speaks English, French, and Russian. He wore a bow tie and sported a waxed mustache. His father and his uncle, Armenian émigrés, did more than anyone to create the mystique of caviar as the food of emperors and kings when they established the first great caviar emporium in Paris in the 1920s.

Today, Petrossian is one of the largest buyers and retailers of caviar in the world. “I like to think of myself as Mr 10 percent,” he laughed, referring to another famous Armenian, Calouste Gulbenkian, who was known as Mr 5 percent for the share he took of the Caspian’s other great black resource, oil when he brokered for the Nobel brothers during Baku’s oil boom in the early 20th century.

 

 

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HOMEMADE SUSHI: TIPS, TRICKS, AND TOPPINGS!

 

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Let’s dive right in!  It may seem like a lot to buy at first, but most of the ingredients turn into staples [like sriracha + sesame seeds] and nonperishables like nori, sushi rice, and vinegar will last a ridiculously long time in your pantry.  You’ll end up with 4-6 sushi dinners for the price of one at a restaurant.  But above all else, it’s really fun!  Invite a few friends over and go nuts.

As a bonus, this is one of the few times it’s socially acceptable to say “Here’s everything you need, now make your own dinner!”  Set out all your ingredients and let your friends & family create their own rolls!

I’ll walk you through each step in the post and then include a printable cheat sheet at the end to make your new sushi adventure even easier!

Homemade Sushi Tutorial: easy-to-follow Tips, Tricks, and Toppings!

Don’t get intimidated – rolling sushi is 100x easier than it looks! Your rolls might not come out 5-star restaurant-worthy on the first try but it won’t be long before you’re creations are so pretty you’ll want to Instagram them!

HOMEMADE SUSHI STAPLES:

sushi rice (Nishiki is my brand of choice!)

a bamboo mat (example)

plastic wrap

nori (seaweed sheets)

low-sodium soy sauce

toasted sesame seeds and/or chia seeds

sriracha chili sauce

wasabi + pickled ginger (optional but yummy!)

You can pick up your staples at your local Asian food market or in your grocery store’s international food aisle. Nearly every store I’ve been to carries all the above ingredients and some even arrange them next to the store-made sushi for easy stock-up! Sweet!

Once you have your pantry staples, all you’ll need is some fresh produce!

SOME OF MY FAVORITE VEGGIES FOR HOMEMADE SUSHI ROLLS:

cucumber

avocado

asparagus

jalapeño

green onion

carrots

yuca

sprouts

lettuce

bell peppers

red onion

radish

sweet potato

Fruit-wise, pineapple, mango, apple, and pear are all insanely good.

As for protein options? Anything you’d like! I typically use shrimp tempura and/or sashimi-grade tuna, since that’s what’s available near me. When I lived in Virginia I was able to get fresh salmon from local Asian markets, but here in coastal NC, my options are limited. You can also add tofu or cream cheese to the rolls if you’d like!

Be creative and add anything that floats your sushi boat.

An easy-to-follow homemade sushi tutorial with lots of tips, tricks, and photos to help you roll like a pro along with sushi roll and sauce recipes galore!

STEP 1 – MAKE THE RICE:

Combine 1+1/2 cups of rice with 2 cups of water in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil.  Once the water begins to boil, reduce heat to low and cover.  Let the rice simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.  Remove from heat after 20 minutes but let the rice stand, covered, for 10 minutes or so to ensure that the rice is fully cooked.  The best way to ruin the sushi is to roll it in crunchy rice. I have TOTALLY done this before — whoops!  A taste test will ensure that your rice is perfectly fluffy.

Feel free to use a rice cooker or (click here) for shortcut sushi in under 2 minutes; quinoa also makes an excellent substitute for rice!

Cooking the rice is the only time-consuming part of the entire process.  While it cooks, save time by prepping your fish, veggies, and sauces!

STEP 2 – SEASON THE RICE:

If you don’t already own rice vinegar, feel free to opt for the pre-seasoned variety to save yourself a step.  If you already have a bottle of rice vinegar or have white vinegar on hand, simply season with salt and vinegar to taste.  For the rice measurements above you’ll need 1/3 cup of seasoned rice vinegar or 1/3 cup of vinegar seasoned with one teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Pour over your rice, fluff with a fork, and taste.  Adjust salt/sugar as desired.  Remove rice from heat, add to a bowl and cover with a paper towel.

STEP 3 – JULIENNE YOUR VEGGIES:

While the rice cooks + cools – prep your veggies! Slice vertically into matchsticks and set aside. Once the rice is done you’ll be ready to roll!

STEP 4 – WRAP IT UP:

To avoid messy clean-up and scrubbing, wrap your bamboo mat in plastic wrap.  Lay a sheet of nori on top and grab your rice!

STEP 5 – INSIDE-OUT OR OUTSIDE-IN:

The two most popular techniques are inside-out rolls with rice on the outside or rolls wrapped with nori on the outside and rice on the inside.

Since it’s easiest to make rolls with seaweed on the outside, that’s what we’ll start with for this homemade sushi tutorial! Grab a spoon and spread a thin layer of rice on the seaweed sheet. For large rolls, add an extra layer. I like my pieces bite-sized, so I add a thin layer and leave a little extra space at the end.  Totally up to you!

Homemade Sushi Tutorial: easy-to-follow Tips, Tricks, and Toppings!

STEP 6 – LINE IT UP:

Place your toppings in the center, very close to one another.  If you have large slices or an abundance of ingredients you may want to pile some on top of each other.

For rice on the inside: line your veggies