food / travel

How Caviar Is Conquering China With Both Supply & Demand

The new Super rich of China are indulging in another world classic: Caviar from wild sturgeon in the Caspian sea comes in at hundreds of dollars a spoonful. But China has also quietly become a new source of farmed caviar, which experts say can compete wit

A global delicacy (Amadeusz Leonardo Juskowiak)
A global delicacy (Amadeusz Leonardo Juskowiak)
Shi Jianzi

BEIJING - The "Lipstick effect" is an economic theory that says women are more likely to buy expensive lipstick when facing an economic crisis. Lipstick is after all a relatively cheap luxury good. Then there's a very different barometer of the state of the economy: consumption of the "3C's: champagne, cigars, and caviar.

After an increasingly wealthy China found its taste for champagne and cigars, it's now apparently time to scoop up the caviar.

The Chinese in the know (and dough) will explain to you that only sturgeon roe is eligible to be called caviar, traditionally coming from the wild sturgeon species of the Caspian Sea, where there exists a special variety of algae that the fish feed on.

However, because of the growing global demand of caviar, as well as overfishing and pollution, the production of wild sturgeon caviar is dwindling. Among all the sturgeon, the Beluga that produces the most expensive caviar risks becoming as scarce as endangered species like the rhinoceros and panda.

This raises the issue of the eater's ethic. Like consuming shark fins, whale meat or bear bile, the human appetite is touching Nature's bottom line.

Moral choices are largely a personal matter. There are still those who pursue the wild sturgeon roe for their top taste – others are after the status. The smuggling market for wild caviar is booming because of the international ban on wild sturgeon fishing: prices can reach $10,000 a pound, which means several hundred dollars a spoonful.

Yangtze caviar?

How the chefs of China's high-end restaurants get their caviar depends on their contacts. Some are obliged to turn to the roe coming from aquaculture, which has been in existence for over 20 years, mainly in Russia, North America and Europe.

Indeed, like numerous other industries, the artificial raising of sturgeon has also relocated to China in the past few years. Caviar farms are found throughout certain valleys of the Yangtze River basin, as well as on the Heilongjiang River in China.

The Kaluga Queen is one of the most successful examples of a Chinese product that was first aimed for export, but now actually has conquered an even bigger market inside of China. The Kaluga roe comes from the Thousand Island Lake of Zhejiang Province. It was originally produced for Petrossian, France's most high-end caviar brand, to supply top restaurants in Europe.

Nevertheless, the Far East origin of Kaluga Queen is a topic the company tries to avoid. On the company's site, one does not find any information about where this product comes from. It's quite understandable. Just like the luxury brands Burberry and Louis Vuitton, unless caught in flagrante delicto, they all try to deny that their goods are mostly manufactured these days in China to take advantage of the cheap labor.

For those Chinese consumers not familiar with the difference between the wild and the farmed caviar, Kaluga Queen does not wish to scare anyone off by reading the product's origin.

According to Ni Hao, the marketing manager for Kaluga Queen, 90% of China's Western restaurants offer the roe of this native brand. "Just like the strict appellation for French wine, the fact that Kaluga Queen can meet the French clients' standard implies a demanding system from the raising through distribution".

Interestingly, the foreign chefs seem to put much more confidence in the Chinese product. It's said that in the "Atelier of Joel Robuchon", the three-star French chef's Hong Kong restaurant, he also uses China caviar for his cuisine.

Sebastian Lepinoy, the French chef of Cépage, another Hong Kong one-star restaurant, even reckons that "The Chinese caviars are better than those of the Caspian Sea which is seriously polluted. Also, because the caviar from the Thousand Island Lake is farmed every two months, it's particularly fresh."

At popular Shanghai restaurant Madison, the chef works directly with the Chinese caviar brand to prepare a "Caviar Wednesday" menu. The caviar starts at 10 euros every 10 grams. It's a marketing skill to encourage the young diners' interest in this pricy ingredient.

The Chinese caviar companies are happy no matter how the customers eat the caviar. "Of course we advocate the direct taste. But caviar has a particularly strong taste, so we don't mind that people eat it with other food to get used to it first," says Ni Hao. "Just like when wine first came to China, people accepted it gradually only by drinking it along with Sprite."

Read the original article in Chinese

photo - Amadeusz Leonardo Juskowiak

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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