Wednesday word: bottarga

The singular feminine noun bottarga (pronounced bot-TAR-ga) sounds a lot like bottega, but refers to something completely different. Nicknamed il caviale del Mediterraneo [the caviar of the Mediterranean], la bottarga is salted and dried roe (fish eggs).

Especially in Sardegna [Sardinia], where about 150 tons are consumed every year, Italian bottarga is a delicacy that can get quite pricey, at an average cost of 12 Euro per 100 grams (upwards of $50 a pound) within Italy.

Bottarga is usually sold as dry, elongated amber-colored sacs, containing the eggs of either mullet or tuna. A mullet can grow to 30 inches long, so the ovarian sacs extracted from the fish are often 4-8 inches long. After they are removed, the sacs are salted, pressed and dried, then packaged for sale.

Many believe that the Phoenicians were the first to start the bottarga trend about 3,000 years ago. The origins of the word bottarga have been traced to بطارخ, an Arabic word pronounced more or less as “batahrikh“. Historical records from Medieval times stow that bottarga appeared on the dinner tables of France, Spain, Egypt and Italy. Today, this same delicacy is prepared and eaten in other European and Asian countries where mullet are caught: in Greece it’s called avgotaraho, in Taiwain it’s called wuyutsu, and in Turkey it’s called haviar.

20170413_164012
internationally popular

This ingredient is used in spaghetti alla bottarga, a recipe which calls for the roe to be grated and then sprinkled over the noodles. La bottarga can also be eaten alone, cut into slices and dressed with olive oil. If you’re interested in further exploring this unique product, a summer sagra [food festival] devoted to la bottarga recently began in Castiadas, Sardegna.

If this is the kind of learning you like to do, pick up a copy of Italian Through Food!

© 2017

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s