For the past decade in Asia, gin has been the poster child for the localisation of an overseas food invention—today, there are hundreds of gin brands across the continent, from Malaysia to India and South Korea. Much less known and arguably just as much of a success story, however, is the Asian caviar boom that has been underway since at least the late 2000s.
While the number of caviar producers in the region comes nowhere near that of gin—largely due to the massive investment of time and money, and high degree of uncertainty that budding sturgeon farmers must contend with before reaching profitability—the flourishing of a distinctly Asian caviar landscape is a feat unto itself, considering the region's vastly different environment to that of the sturgeon's traditional home in Siberia and the Caspian Sea.
In doing so, they have created a product that not only equals Russian or Iranian caviar in quality, but in some cases even surpasses that—all the while achieving a lower price point that has made caviar more accessible than it has ever been.
That China today is unequivocally considered the world's largest producer of high-quality caviar today (farming one-third of global caviar production) is a resounding testament to the role that Asia will play in the future of the luxury delicacy. Below, we round up the most prominent Asian caviar producers to look out for.
The man-made Qiandao Lake in Zhejiang Province is the epicentre of China's—and the world's—caviar production, a stunning feat that in the past decade and a half has upended Russia and Central Asia's traditional stranglehold on the global caviar trade. The lake is the home of Kaluga Queen, which produces 60 tons of caviar each year—giving it the title of the world's largest producer of sturgeon roe. Despite this mass production, the brand has won plaudits from trade connoisseurs for its premium quality, often rivalling that of its Western counterparts.
Today, Kaluga Queen employs 300 people and contains 200,000 sturgeon, some of which can grow up to four metres in length and weigh 300 kilograms. The fish stock can be divided into five breeds, including the Huso Hybrid, a cross-breed of the Kaluga and Amur sturgeon. Despite the difficulty that remains with marketing Kaluga Queen's Chinese origins, the brand's portfolio is second to none, and includes the likes of the famed House of Petrossian, Lufthansa's first-class cabins, and 21 of the 26 three-Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris.