From Russian caviar to Japanese tarako, fish roe has been revered in many cultures as a special addition to dishes. Sacs of roe are usually salted for preservation, and then either marinated with other ingredients or hung and dried.
Bottarga falls into the latter category. Grey mullet roe (or sometimes, bluefin tuna roe!) are cured and dried, till the sacs are stiff, which allows it to be sliced or grated. Add it to a simple buttered pasta, enjoy it simply on a good slice of bread with a squeeze of lemon and drizzle of olive oil, or even blend it into your Caesar salad dressing in place of anchovies - there's no question that this Italian ingredient can add a touch of the sea to whatever you enjoy eating.
So how did our judges do in the bottarga blind taste-test?
[Melissa] Ah, yep. I got this one.
[Dan] I got this one! I know exactly what this is.
[Melissa] Yep, same.
[Mark] Taste fishy.
[Mark] I'm just going to write 'fishy'. (Chews some more) Oh, that's horrible
[Melissa] It's delicious, I love it.
(Which cuisine week do you think it's from?)
(So you've had it before?)
[Melissa] Totally. Giovanni Pilu makes some of the best Australian bottarga, ever!
(What would you use it in?)
[Melissa] Microplaned over some pasta, LOTS OF BUTTER. Lots of olive oil!
[Dan] It's actually very common in Taiwan. Taiwan also...
[Melissa] Cured mullet roe!
[Dan] Yeah, and Japan. It's most commonly used on pasta...
[Melissa] Scrambled eggs...
[Dan] But you can pretty much put it on anything to add a bit of saltiness and fishiness and umami...
[Mark] It's got that spicy, fishy flavour.
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Giovanni uses New Zealand king salmon for this dish. He likes to serve the finished dish with broken pieces of pane carasau, a Sardinian flatbread, from selected delis.
Japanese pasta recipes are a wonder unto themselves. Using Japanese ingredients that cross over into Italian cuisine, such as dried mullet roe (karasumi in Japanese, bottarga in Italian) and sea urchin, these dishes are close to their Italian ancestors. This simple sea urchin pasta is Hokkaido in a nutshell, combining the taste of the cold weather sea urchin with famed Hokkaido cream.