Greek Caviar, Bottarga or Avgotaraho from Messolongi
What on earth is Avgotaraho and where the heck is Messolongi?
Avgo..what from Messo..where? Ok, I certainly can't blame you for not knowing what avgotaraho is or where Messolongi is or what it stands for. If you did know, I would have no reason to write this article for you. So let me explain.
Avgotaraho is Greek Bottarga or Greek caviar produced from grey mullet roe. It is considered a unique delicacy by connoisseurs and one out of only five fish products in the world to be awarded a Greek and European PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status.
Messolongi on the other hand, is a historical city in Western Greece which produces the best avgotaraho in the world. Come with me on a guided tour of this great city and let me introduce you to the secrets of avgotaraho and offer you a free gourmet avgotaraho recipe for your visit.
All photos on this page have been taken by me and are not free to use!
Traditional fishing boat in the Messolongi lagoon
A few historical facts
Messolongi is a city in Western Greece which was founded in the 16th century and was one of the first inhabited regions of Greece. It is very famous, among other things, for the siege held against it by the Turks in the 19th century, during the Turkish occupation of Greece and the "heroic exodus of Messolongi" which followed and which is considered one of the most significant events in World Military History.
According to historical records, in April 1825, during the Greek revolution of 1821, the Turks circled and besieged the city. By February 1826, nearly one year later, the people of Messolongi were starving to death, because the Greek navy was no longer able to provide them with food and other supplies as a consequence of the ongoing siege. Surrendering the city to the Turks was out of the question, so given the circumstances, they decided to attempt an armed exit on the night of April 10 1826. Somehow however, the Turks surrounding the city were informed of these plans, and as the people of Messolongi attempted to fight their way to safety, most of them were slaughtered, while it is estimated that not more than 1500 survived.
Messolongi is built around a large inland lagoon which is the natural habitat of the flathead grey mullet which produces avgotaraho. Apart from its long and glorious history and the fact that it is the main producer of this world renown delicacy known as Avgotaraho, or Bottarga or Caviar of the Mediterranean South, Messolongi is a very unusual place absolutely worth visiting. The shallow lagoon surrounding it gives it a magical, dreamy, almost surreal quality as you may see from my pictures.
Did you know?
The word avgotaraho originates in a combination of the Greek words "avgo" which means "egg" and "tarihevo" which means to "embalm" or "mummify". So in essence "avgotaraho" means "mummified (fish) eggs"!!!!!
How is avgotaraho made?
Avgotaraho is the roe of the female flathead grey mullet living in the Messolongi lagoon. During the ovulation season in late August and September, the whole twin ovary pouches are removed from the fish as soon as it is captured, with great care so as not to rupture them. The ovary sacks are then washed down with water, cured for a few hours in natural sea salt and left to dry in the sun. They are finally dipped in melted natural beeswax which dries to form a protective coating around the avgotaraho, sealing in its moisture and nutrients and preventing oxidation.
Avgotaraho is honey -gold in color and has a unique taste, unlike anything you have ever eaten. Slightly salty and briny and very very delicate, it feels like tasting the Mediterranean with each mouthful! It is considered a very high quality product with great nutritional value and a very healthy food as a major source of omega-3 fatty acids which provide a natural immunization of the human organism.
It does not come cheap as it is a rare product and this is probably the reason, along with its golden color, why it is often also known as "Lagoon Gold"
Your best buying choice on Amazon
Where can you buy Avgotaraho or Bottarga? - Bottarga on Amazon
Avgotaraho looks exactly like this! Unfortunately, Amazon does not sell Greek Avgotaraho from Messolongi but Italian Bottarga, mainly produced in Sardinia. As I have already mentioned, Avgotaraho or Bottarga is produced in other regions of the Mediterranean South besides Messolongi. The taste is very very similar although avgotaraho produced in Messolonghi is considered higher quality and a little tastier. Another difference is that Italian Bottarga often lacks the protective wax cover which is a trademark of avgotaraho. talian Bottarga is a very high quality product as well though, and certainly worth buying if you want to see what this gourmet food tastes like.
On Amazon you have a choice of whole Bottarga pieces (whole grey mullet ovary pouches) which is obviously the most expensive option, but you can also find grated bottarga which is considerably cheaper and fine to use in recipes. There is also a choice of bottarga powder which gives an exquisite taste to any fish based dish. Just sprinkle it over a simple boiled or grilled fish, or over a seafood pasta recipe and you will see what I mean!
How do you eat avgotaraho?
In order to eat avgotaraho you must first slice it into thin slices and remove the protective beeswax coat and the skin under it. Only remove the wax and skin from the part you are going to consume immediately. The rest can be stored for a long while in a cool dry place.
Avgotaraho is a great appetizer on slices of toasted bread or crostini accompanied with a glass of ouzo. I prefer it on its own, with perhaps a drop of lemon juice on top, because its taste is really unique, but if you like you may use it to prepare some very distinguished canapes for a special dinner party. Here is how:
What you will need for 20 canapes
20 thin slices of avgotaraho
10 thin toasted slices of French baguette
5 dried apricots or figs
2-3 tbs cream cheese
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbs honey
Spread the cream cheese on the slices of bread and place half a fig or apricot on top. Add two slices of avgotaraho. Mix the vinegar and honey together and place 1-2 drops of the mixture on top of the avgotaraho.
Have you ever eaten avgotaraho or bottarga?
Do you like avgotaraho?
My special spaghetti and avgotaraho recipe
I really don't like to cook avgotaraho. I think it is too exquisite and expensive to mix with other ingredients. However, this spaghetti and avgotaraho recipe is absolutely delicious. I ate it in a restaurant in Messolongi and the chef was kind enough (and tortured enough!) to give me the recipe. It is very easy to make and it will certainly monopolize the conversation and attention of your guests at any dinner party.
Ingredients you will need
1 packet of spaghetti
1/2 of a whole avgotaraho
2 tbs lemon zest
1 tbs chopped parsley
1 garlic clove finely chopped
1 tsp hot paprika pepper
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2 tbs olive oil
How to prepare spaghetti with avgotaraho
Boil the spaghetti in salted water and drain. Put 1 tbs olive oil in a pan, add the spaghetti and toss. Keep them warm.
Slice the avgotaraho into thin slices. Put 1 tbs olive oil in another pan and add the chopped garlic clove and the paprika pepper. Cook for a few minutes while stirring and remove from the heat. When the garlic and paprika mixture has slightly cooled, add the lemon zest and the avgotaraho slices. Add the spaghetti and mix. Before serving, sprinkle with a bit of parsley and ground white pepper.
Avgotaraho from Messolongi on ebay - Buy genuine Greek Avgotaraho
You may not be able to get genuine Greek avgotaraho produced in Messolongi on Amazon, but you can certainly buy it on ebay!
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