Want a cheap and eco-responsible caviar?

At his upscale Bangkok restaurant, star chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn pours black caviar onto a plate, adding the newly affordable Thai delicacy to his reinterpreted traditional family recipes.

Luxury food, best associated with cold northern nations, is entering the food scene in the Southeast Asian country, with the 37-year-old celebrity cook able to economically serve eggs thanks to an innovative farm outside of the capital.

Using high-tech harvesting methods, a Thai-Russian partnership offers a more ethical and affordable product, sparing the endangered fish that provide the delicacy from their usual fate of death.

“The price is more affordable, I would say, compared to the ones we imported,” Ton explained, as he sprinkled caviar on a Thai lhon pu dip at his restaurant Lahnyai Nusara.

The use of caviar also helps challenge perceptions that Thai cuisine should always be spicy with strong flavors, he added.

“I think it opened a lot of doors for a lot of chefs,” he said.

About 200 km away, in the famous resort town of Hua Hin, it’s time to harvest the ‘black gold’ at the Thai Sturgeon Farm, which supplies the local distributor Caviar House.

Ton is preparing a dish with caviar.

Hundreds of giant fish swim in tanks kept at a balmy 21°C – a world away from the cold Caspian Sea where the species live in the wild. “Nobody else has this kind of farm in a tropical climate,” the farm’s co-owner Alexey Tyutin said.

The fish – thought to be living dinosaurs – can survive for up to 100 years and typically reach 4m in length.

Traditionally, caviar producers kill the females to extract the eggs, but the Tyutin farm “processes” the sturgeon.

Using fish for as long as possible helps make the business sustainable and profitable, said Tyutin, 55.

During harvest, the fish are moved to the “winter chamber”, initially set at 6°C and brought to 15°C, before the extraction of their eggs.

“Let’s say if the fish weighs 25kg, we usually expect around 2.7kg of caviar,” Tyutin said, adding that the farm estimates it could produce up to two tonnes this year.

Farming sturgeons in a simulated environment requires large amounts of energy – despite the use of solar panels, the monthly electricity bill is nearly US$9,000 (RM38,110).

“We are cooling the water because the water temperature outside is 31°C. These fish cannot tolerate it and will die immediately,” Tyutin said.

Thailand’s tropical climate has given the company a competitive advantage as the higher water temperature helps sturgeons mature at six years compared to 11 in Russia. —AFP

About Lolita Plowman

Check Also

Canadian brand EQ3 launches a collection of eco-friendly fabrics

Breadcrumb Links Houses Design Decoration It includes three collections made up of 26 fabrics, such …