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Place of origin
Place of origin
Closely related names are used for it in various languages: bottarga (English), bottarga (Italian), butàriga (Sardinian), botarga (Occitan, Spanish, and Catalan, poutargue or boutargue (French), butarga (Portuguese), batarekh or butarkhah (Arabic), and avgotaraho (Greek αυγοτάραχο).
The English name was borrowed from Italian. The Italian form is thought to have been introduced from the Arabic buṭarḫah بطارخة (plural buṭariḫ بطارخ), but ultimately derives from Byzantine Greek ᾠοτάριχον (oiotárikhon) < ᾠόν 'egg' + τάριχον 'pickled fish'.
The Italian form can be dated to at least ca. 1500, since the Greek form transliterated into Latin as ova tarycha occurs in Bartolomeo Platina's De Honesta Voluptate (ca. 1474), the earliest printed cookbook, and an Italian MS dating shortly afterwards which "closely parallels" this cookbook attests to botarghe in the corresponding passage. The first mention of the Greek form (oiotárikhon) occurs in the writings of Simeon Seth in the 11th century who denounced the food as something to be "avoided totally", though a similar phrase may have been in use since antiquity in the same denotation.
It has been suggested that the Coptic outarakhon might be the intermediate form between Greek and Arabic, but this does not satisfactory explain how the "B" sound was introduced into the Arabic term buṭarḫah, whereas examination of dialectical variants of Greek ᾠόν 'egg' include, Pontic Greek ὠβόν (traditionally where the mullets are caught) and ὀβό or βό in parts of Asia Minor, suggesting the Arabic was borrowed directly from these dialect forms. The modern Greek name comes from the Byzantine Greek, substituting the modern word αυγό for the ancient word ᾠóν.
Botargo is made from the roe pouch of grey mullet, or sometimes from Atlantic bluefin tuna (bottarga di tonno), or even swordfish. It is massaged by hand to eliminate air pockets, then dried and cured in sea salt for a few weeks. The result is a dry hard slab and is sometimes coated in beeswax for preservation purposes. Not all roe is coated in beeswax as some producers simply keep the natural casing of the roe intact. This contains the eggs securely once dried and salted. The curing time can vary depending on producer and the desired texture as well as the preference of the consumer which varies by country.
Sometimes called the caviar of the South, botargo is usually used sliced thinly or grated.
In Italy, it is best known in Sicilian and Sardinian cuisine; its culinary properties can be compared to those of dry anchovies, though it is much more expensive. Botargo is often served with olive oil or lemon juice as an appetizer accompanied by bread or crostini, or used in pasta dishes. In Lebanon it is served sliced, where each slice is covered with a piece of raw garlic and the whole is immersed in olive oil then eaten with flat bread.
In Italy, botargo is categorized as a Traditional food product (prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale) and is produced in particular in Sardinia from flathead mullet and in Sicily from Atlantic bluefin tuna.
In Greece, avgotaraho is produced primarily from the flathead mullet caught in Greek lagoons. The whole mature ovaries are removed from the fish, washed with water, salted with natural sea salt, dried under the sun, and sealed in melted beeswax.
In Turkey, botargo is known as tarama, also called haviar and is made from grey mullet roe. It is listed in the Ark of Taste. It is produced in Dalyan, on the southwestern coast of Turkey, from the mature fish migrating from Lake Köyceğiz.
Botargo is also produced in North Africa.