Does vegan caviar live up to its hype?

If you want to make your own vegan caviar, there are homemade recipes on the web using nori as the base, chia seeds or agar-agar as the thickener, and a syringe to make the bubbles.Jens Moller / Handout

It has been popping up on TikTok as a luxurious, plant-based food you can make at home. TikTok, though, is a late adapter because the vegan caviar has been around for a long time. According to Canadian chef Amanda Cohen, who owns Dirt Candy, a popular vegetarian restaurant in New York, vegan caviar can “remind people that vegetables and seaweeds and plant-based food are just as delicious, if not more so, than non-vegan food . ”

Vegan caviar has gone by different monikers, including “seawood pearls.” We’ve also seen a version from Ikea in its Sjorapport line. This new version to the Canadian public, called Cavi-art, is a sustainable plant-based product and has no animal ingredients.

“It’s the caviar of the future,” says Blair Bullus, president of the Canadian company Wamame Inc., a food technology firm and the product’s distributor. “The caviar has excellent minerality, is gluten-free, inexpensive in comparison to caviar, a perfect vegan or vegetarian treat.”

Bullus has been using the caviar in food-service vegan sushi and now, for the first time, is marketing it to the public. It is produced in Denmark and comes in two colors – black like Sevruga caviar and an orange tobiko-like version, called tosako, to mimic flying fish roe, so popular in sushi rolls.

Vegan caviar has gone by different monikers, including ‘seawood pearls.’Jens Moller / Handout

Although the tiny spheres look like caviar, they are made with sustainable kelp seaweed. Sea kelp is among the largest species of seaweed and often grows in “forests” under the sea.

Using the same technique for making bubbles for bubble tea, the seaweed is liquified then mixed with gelling compounds such as agar-agar, a vegetarian gelatin substitute made from red algae. It is then extruded through a machine that produces the tiny bubbles. They are salty, briny and have a bit of that caviar pop, although they lack the creaminess and mouth feel of real caviar.

But the product has its place in vegan and vegetarian eating. It gives a sense of indulgence and elegance. Try mixing in a bit of grapeseed oil and a sprinkling of extra salt when serving, which gives it more creaminess and mouth feel. The price is attractive, too – $ 39.95 for a 500 millilitre jar for the black, and $ 29.95 for the orange.

To serve: For vegetarians, serve it in the traditional manner with blinis, sour cream, chopped onions and grated egg. If vegan, serve on cucumber slices or Belgian endive leaves with chopped onion and vegan yogurt. It is wonderful in sushi rolls and as a topping for nigiri. Add as a garnish to pasta dishes, such as pappardelle with a creamy mushroom sauce or a simple olive oil, garlic, lemon and parsley pasta. It is a luxurious, eye-appealing sandwich addition and can be scattered over vegetables for a stylish finish. You can heat it and the color never runs.

Find it online at mikuniharvest.ca. The caviar lasts up to three months when refrigerated after opening.

For those of you who cannot conceive of a caviar replacement, the endangered wild sturgeon from which real caviar (unfertilized fish eggs) is extracted are overfished. We farm it in Canada and do make an excellent caviar with the added benefit of not killing the fish by extracting the eggs humanely, allowing the fish to live and produce more eggs.

If you want to make your own vegan caviar, there are homemade recipes on the web using nori as the base, chia seeds or agar-agar as the thickener, and a syringe to make the bubbles. Check TikTok, too, for versions made with fruit or balsamic vinegar.

Serve your caviar with icy vodka for an appetizing beginning to your meal.

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