Heavy Salting: Bottarga

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Fish eggs are more frequently consumed salted than they are fresh. Originally, salting was simply a means of preserving the eggs. For millennia in the Mediterranean, whole mullet and tuna ovaries have been dry-salted, pressed, and dried to make what’s now best known as bottarga (there are almost identical Asian versions). The salting and drying cause a concentration of amino acids, fatty materials, and sugars, which react with each other in the complex browning reactions to darken the color to a deep red-brown and generate rich, fascinating flavors reminiscent of parmesan cheese and even tropical fruits! Bottarga is now a delicacy, sliced paper-thin and served as an antipasto, or grated onto plain hot pasta.