Caviar Guide by Marky's
Bowfin Caviar profile
- USA, Mississippi lakes and rivers
- Dark chestnut brown to black in color
- Small individual beads
- Sea salt, rich sturdy flavor
- Hint of smokiness
- Best served with crème fraiche and a blini or lemon wedges.
- The least expensive “black” caviar.
- Drinks: Ice cold vodka or dry white wine
Suggested use: Bowfin Caviar makes an excellent and inexpensive substitute for sturgeon roe. It can be added to any hors d’oeuvres, served as an appetizer on a blini and crème fraiche, used as a garnish or in spreads or dips. It is normally used by chefs to cater large parties and events. However, Bowfin Caviar should only be served cold and is not suitable for cooking or garnishing hot dishes. High temperatures will alter the color of Bowfin caviar from its natural black to coral.
These days, most of the caviar on the world market is supplied by fish raised on aquafarms due to the diminishing wild populations of most caviar-producing species, which are unable to meet the high level of demand. Environmental damage to the fishes' habitat has made the position of these wild populations even more precarious, the damming and pollution of waterways making it difficult for the fish to spawn and thrive. Aquafarms are a far less damaging alternative, equipped to furnish the same high quality of caviar that connoisseurs demand without further harm to already vulnerable species.
However, some species of fish still thrive in the wild and yield caviar. One such species is the Bowfin (Amia calva). Bowfin caviar is a domestically sourced American black caviar; though not harvested from the famed sturgeon family, the source of the world's most expensive roe, the caviar produced by this bony fish native to the southern United States is nonetheless comparable. The grains of Bowfin roe are quite small, as is the fish itself, and vary in color from brownish to jet black.
The American Bowfin caviaris famous and highly regarded by connoisseurs for its intense flavor, with its mild tang and hints of spice. Bowfin roe is a traditional part of the Cajun cuisine of Louisiana, where it features under the better known name of Choupique caviar. In appearance, Bowfin caviar closely resembles sturgeon caviar, and its lower price makes it a sound, affordable substitute, suitable not just for including in salads and pastas or garnishing hot and cold dishes, but also for canapes and blini at large cocktail parties. A comparison of the Bowfin caviar price with the more expensive options demonstrates how affordable this caviar is.
The greater part of Bowfin black caviar is harvested from wild-caught fish, guaranteeing its fantastic taste; in response to the recent ban on the import of Caspian caviar, however, the focus on farmed Bowfin has increased to protect the wild population against the increased demand.
About the Bowfin
Bowfin is commonly known by a variety of names, including "Choupique," as noted above, and "Mudfish," "Mud pike," "Dogfish," "Griddle," "Grinnel," or "Cypress trout." Like the sturgeons, it is a primitive species of fish, which has changed hardly at all over the last several million years. It lives in the still waters of lakes and rivers in the eastern United States, from the swamps of Louisiana to the Great Lakes. This fish is quite small, measuring 50-70 cm long and weighing about 6 kg. It has an elongated cylinder-shaped body with a prominent dorsal fin, to which it owes its name.
As it is a primitive fish, it displays many of the features of its prehistoric ancestors, such as a roundish caudal fin, a bony gular plate, and a highly vascularized gas bladder lung. One interesting point about this species is that it can breathe both through its gills and through the vascularized gas bladder, which takes in air from above the water's surface through the tunnel-like nostrils in the head. There is evidence that Bowfins can survive and even stay active after several days on dry land.
With its long, sharp teeth, the Bowfin is an unmistakable predator, one that prefers to ambush its prey. Adults feed on smaller fish and crustaceans while young Bowfins feed mostly on small crustaceans. Bowfins have a voracious appetite and can move very quickly in the water. The fish's dorsal fin makes its passage silent as it stalks its prey. Once it springs, its attack lasts less than a tenth of a second.
American Bowfin (Amia Calva) is the last surviving member of the order Amiiformes that have been roaming the earth since the Jurassic period. Bowfin can reach up to 39-43 inches and weigh up to 21.5 lb. Their normal life span is 10-12 years. Females and males reach sexual maturity at the age of 3-5 years. Bowfin is a predator that feeds on anything from insects and crawfish to other small fish and frogs.