Poutargue or bottarga or Karasumi, is salt preserved roe of mullet, a Mediterranean specialty, of which variations exist in France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Japan. The swollen egg sacs are removed in-tact from the fish, and conditioned for long conservation in salt, pressed between wood planks.
Poutargue is sometimes referred in France as “caviar provençal” (caviar from Provence.) Mullet Poutargue is such a delicious marvel to make the famous Piccata de Veau à la Poutargue.
Shaved in thin slices and sprinkled with olive oil, it is delicious as an appetizer, can be grated on pasta or melted with mozzarella cheese in a gourmet sandwich or on salads, the salty flavor marrying beautifully with the bitter herbs and greens like arugula, wild chicory, frisee, and endives when they are in season. The trinity of Poutargue, potatoes and green olive oil is sublime. Use your Poutargue little by little, in shavings, slices, crumbled, anywhere you might envision the use of anchovies as well. The flavor goes a long way!
Some French food writers try to trace Poutargue’s origin to Spain, while it’s having origins in Italy (Bottarga) would be just as plausible. Given though that the Romans dried salted fish eggs, it may have been a shared heritage at various parts of what had been the Roman colonies on the Mediterranean. The Romans themselves got a taste for this from the Greeks.
Poutargue, or Karasumi in Japanese, is very popular and well known in Japan, but few Americans know about it. In slices on bread, pizza or blinis its powerful and iodized taste will liven up your appetizers and will shake up your dishes.