Chinese Producers Hope To Impress With Caviar, Truffles And Foie Gras, Though Not All Critics Are Convinced#
As many wealthier Chinese gourmands have developed a taste for western culinary specialties like truffles and foie gras, the domestic market for these expensive delicacies has exploded in recent years. As we have written before ("Fruit Of The Gods” Finding Its Way Eastward"), truffles in particular have gained visibility in the Greater China market following high-profile auctions like the one at which Macau mogul Stanley Ho purchased a giant white truffle for $330,000 in 2007. Today, an article about the increasing number of producers of the "triumvirate of haute cuisine delicacies" -- truffles, caviar and foie gras -- in Canada's Kelowna.com caught our eye.
China's assault on the global gourmet market is still a modest story. But not for long.
Besides its increasingly successful foray into foie gras, the world's most populous nation is also producing truffles and caviar to complete the Holy Trinity of haute cuisine products in demand around the world.
Truffles have long been the preserve of Europeans, particularly the French in the mountainous Perigord region, and caviar has been almost exclusively the domain of the Russians and Iranians.
But the Chinese are moving in on both fronts.
In Yunnan province, for instance, the truffles are abundant and the farmers are accustomed to collecting them. There are no hogs or dogs sniffing for the buried treasure there — the farmers have always known where to find them, they just did not know how precious they were.
For years, Chinese farmers picked truffles to feed to their pigs. Now they collect them for export.
Chinese caviar is having a somewhat easier debut at the world's top tables. It is farmed, never an attribute you look for in fish or fish products, but increasingly common since the one-year ban on exporting Caspian Sea and Amur River caviar in 2006. The mandated pause was nowhere near sufficient to repair the damage sturgeon stocks have suffered from pollution and over-fishing, and without more drastic measures, farmed caviar may soon be the norm — for everyone.
China is not the only country producing farmed caviar, which makes the "method" and the "origin" less of an issue for those who might be snobby about either. France and Italy are both heavily involved in the luxury production.
But for China, it is an infant industry that is growing by leaps and bounds.
From a standing start just a few years ago, in 2008 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which oversees the Caspian caviar trade, awarded China the largest quota any nation was given for farmed caviar – 9,400 kilograms.
[Kien Huynh, the Chinese Canadian co-owner and chef at Trois Gros Bistro in Guangzhou] predicts the day is coming quickly when top-end gourmet products that are made in China will be widely available and enjoyed in China, too, and not just in the big cities.
Case in point: he says he can already sell about 30 kg of middling-priced Chinese foie gras a week in his French bistro.
"Chinese people love food," he said. "Just like the French.
"You can sell luxury food here, as long as people have money. And China is developing fast now, in the past 15 years, and more people are getting rich.
"These people are willing to pay for good food," Kien confidently predicted. "The market here will be large and have lots of rich people."