A display of bottarga (above)
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Name and etymology
Closely related names are used for it in various languages: bottarga (Italian), butàriga (Sardinian), botarga (Occitan, Spanish, and Catalan, poutargue or boutargue (French), butarga (Portuguese), batarekh or butarkhah (Arabic), and avgotaraho (Greek αυγοτάραχο).
The English name was borrowed from Italian. The word in Italian and the other Romance languages comes from the Arabic buṭarḫah, plural buṭariḫ بطارخ, which in turn comes from the Coptic outarakhon, from the Byzantine Greek ᾠοτάριχον < ᾠóν 'egg' + τάριχον 'pickled fish', mentioned (and denounced) by Simeon Seth in the 11th century. The modern Greek name comes from the Byzantine Greek, substituting the modern word αυγό for the ancient word ᾠóν.
Botargo is the roe pouch of grey mullet, or sometimes Atlantic bluefin tuna or swordfish. It is massaged by hand to eliminate air pockets, then dried and cured in sea salt for a few weeks. The result is a dry hard slab and is sometimes coated in beeswax for preservation purposes. Not all roe is coated in beeswax as some producers simply keep the natural casing of the roe intact. This contains the eggs securely once dried and salted. The curing time can vary depending on producer and the desired texture as well as the preference of the consumer which varies by country.
Sometimes called the caviar of the South, botargo it is usually used sliced thinly or grated.
In Italy, it is best known in Sicilian and Sardinian cuisine; its culinary properties can be compared to those of dry anchovies, though it is much more expensive. Botargo is often served with lemon juice as an appetizer or used in pasta dishes. In Lebanon it is served sliced, where each slice is covered with a piece of raw garlic and the whole is immersed in olive oil then eaten with flat bread.
In Italy, botargo is categorized as a Traditional food product (prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale) and is produced in particular in Sardinia from flathead mullet and in Sicily from Atlantic bluefin tuna.
In Greece, avgotaraho is produced primarily from the flathead mullet caught in Greek lagoons. The whole mature ovaries are removed from the fish, washed with water, salted with natural sea salt, dried under the sun, and sealed in melted beeswax.
In Turkey, botargo is known as tarama, also called haviar and is made from grey mullet roe. It is listed in the Ark of Taste. It is produced in Dalyan, on the southwestern coast of Turkey, from the mature fish migrating from Lake Köyceğiz.
Botargo is also produced in North Africa.
In the U.S. and elsewhere
- Karasumi, an East Asian dried mullet roe
- Myeongran, a Korean fermented seafood consisting of mullet roe
- Oxford English Dictionary, 1st edition
- Andrew Dalby, Siren Feasts, 1996, ISBN 0-415-11620-1, p.189
- Katselis G.,et al. (2005). Fisheries research 75:138-148
- Agriculture - Quality Policy - (PDO/PGI) Fresh fish, molluscs and crustaceans and products derived therefrom
- "Imraguen Women's Mullet Botargo", Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, full text
- "La Bottarga tra Sardegna e Senegal", Affrica, 1 June 2010, full text
- Chris Sherman, "Roe, Roe, Roe at Mote", Florida Trend, 10/4/2012 full text
- John T. Edge, "Bottarga, an Export That Stays at Home", New York Times July 22, 2013 full text