From caviar to truffles – here is all you need to know about luxury ingredients and where to find them
Ian Purkayastha is a 24-year-old college drop out living in New York, USA. His prospects didn’t exactly sounds positive, however, he has made it his career to source the most luxurious ingredients for America’s Michelin star chefs, and now he is the go to guy, supplying nearly 90% of all these ingredients. Finding sought after truffles, foie gras, pure saffron and a multitude of other foodstuffs. He knows how to locate some of the most rare and inaccessible items from across the globe, and sometimes his work puts him in danger sourcing pure black truffles from fields in Serbia riddled with land mines. But what a job and what a story!
When paying Michelin star prices you do expect the absolute best, however, for most of us it is difficult to understand exactly why something is worth that enormous price tag. So here is Keep Dining’s guide to luxury ingredients and where to dine out on them in the UAE.
Of course most of us have eaten caviar at brunches in Dubai, those little orange orbs, salty and tasty, however, this is not caviar, this is just salmon roe. What you need to try is beluga caviar, and it is one of the most luxurious and sought after foods in the world. Beluga caviar is fish roe (eggs) taken from the Beluga Sturgeon, which takes 20 years to reach maturity and is found primarily in the Caspian Sea, and can reach 25,000AED for 1kg.
Also known as black diamonds these salty little eggs are a deep black and should be eaten with a bone or mother of pearl spoon, as metal risks oxidizing the fish eggs and ruining the taste.
How to eat caviar:
Nowadays caviar tends to come from sustainable-farmed fish as the beluga Sturgeon is now on the endangered fish list. However, this doesn’t detract from the high quality and taste. The perfect accompaniments to caviar are ice-cold vodka or champagne, the ultimate luxury snack. Caviar should be enjoyed slowly, savouring the taste, rolling them around your palate before crushing them against the roof of your mouth with your tongue, releasing the fishy, salty flavour. Absolutely divine.
Where to find:
For the best caviar experience in Abu Dhabi head over to Pearls and Caviar by Sergi Arola in the Shangri La Hotel. Vesna in the Conrad Hotel, Dubai serves excellent Sturgeon Caviar with vodka, or the stunning Pierchic in Al Qasr Hotel.
One of the more controversial luxury foods is Foie Gras, a French delicacy revered by many and at the same time rejected. Made from the liver of an over fattened goose, by using the process known as gavage, or force-feeding with corn. It is a delicacy, with its creamy and slightly metallic taste; rich and delicious it is easy to see why over all patés this one still reigns supreme.
Costing up to 200AED per pound this luxury food item is well worth the price, the flavours and textures are unique, try and find a brand with the A.O.C stamp from France to ensure its quality and purity.
How to eat Foie Gras:
Foie Gras is a rustic food and is best enjoyed in its simplest form, so either eaten by itself or with thin lightly toasted bread. This should be paired with champagne, for a more decadent meal, or a sweet white wine to complement to rich flavour.
Where to find:
Truffles have become a massive food trend with every restaurant touting truffle fries, truffle risotto or truffle hamburgers, however tasty these truffles aren’t the super expensive, super rare high end truffles used by Michelin star chefs around the world. So what exactly are black truffles and why are they so sought after? What you tend to find in restaurants is truffle oil, which is why you are not paying through the nose for your meal, however, a black truffle in its original form will cost you about 250AED for only around 50 grams, this is because they are hard to find and seasonal.
Truffles grow wild and it is not possible to grow them commercially, dogs are now used to hunt for truffles, digging through the undergrowth to find these superb and valuable morsels.
How to eat truffles:
Truffle preparation and eating is an art, you must gently brush off any dirt, making sure you do not cause damage or bruising, it is then thinly sliced into the dish, whether this is slightly seared scallops or a decadent risotto. The truffles will add a heady, nutty and subtle flavour to enhance and elevate your dish.
Where to find:
Kobe beef became a culinary buzzword about 10 years ago; if you were looking to have the best steak experience then this was the way to go. So what exactly is Kobe Beef? Hailing from Japan this beef is from the Tajima-Gyu type of Wagyu cattle, it is famous for its perfect marbling, high quality production and intense flavour.
The cattle are apparently played classical music, massaged with sake and fed beer during summer months, basically these cows are treated like royalty…well before ending up on your plate. There are very specific rules and regulations about Kobe beef, so before you pay the extraordinary price tag just do a little homework and make sure that the restaurant is serving you the genuine article.
How to eat Kobe Beef:
In order to fully experience this delicacy we recommend that you go with simplicity over extravagance. It should be lightly cooked, more rare on the medium to rare scale, with some butter and a bit of garlic, mouth watering and the perfect steak.
Where to find:
The UAE has an abundance of Wagyu beef restaurants, which can be classed as Kobe beef, but much cheaper. However, head over to The Rib Room at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray for certified Kobe steaks.
One of the more unusual luxury food items, Kopi Luwak is an absolute must try for hardened coffee drinkers. Basically this is coffee made with beans that have passed through the digestive system of the Asian Palm Civet cat, they are then collected and brewed into one of the rarest and most expensive coffees in the world.
The farmers claim that the amino acids and fermentation give this coffee a truly unique taste and drinking experience. Some may find the idea ridiculous however, for Kopi Luwak connoisseurs out there they are completely sold. And when a cup runs between 130AED to 300AED you do hope you are in for something special.
How to drink Kopi Luwak:
It is important to ensure that your Kopi Luwak purveyor knows exactly what they are doing, or they run the risk of spoiling this expensive product. It should be made with the purest of water and lovingly pressed and slowly brewed to make sure that you are getting the full whack of flavours. Enjoy this drink neat, no sugar or milk to detract from the taste.
Where to find:
You can grab a cup of Kopi Luwak at the exclusive ICONS Coffee Couture in the World Trade Centre, Dubai.