Avgotaracho of Messolonghi
Avgotaracho (bottarga) is known as a delicacy and a fishery product since ancient times, but its official recording begins in 1668. It’s made from the eggs of the females of the species Mugil cephalus, also known as the Common Mullet, or “bafa” as the locals call it, which abounds in the Messolonghi-Aitoliko lagoon. It’s sometimes called “the gold of the lagoon”, because of its golden-red color and its commercial value, and other times “the caviar of Greece”, since it’s one of the most exquisite and gourmet products of the country. This is why its recognition is worldwide, being a top choice for the most demanding gastronomy. It is worthwhile noting that avgotaracho produced exclusively by the fishing cooperatives in the lagoon of Messolonghi is the only Greek fishery product with protected designation of origin (PDO) and the second throughout Europe.
Fishing takes place during the breeding season of “bafa”, that is, from the end of August until the middle of September. The fish breed in the so-called “ivaria” or “divaria”, the traditional lagoon fisheries that communicate a half year with the sea, masterfully created by the fishermen in the bays of the lagoon. These are stake traps where the fish are captured and then caught with fish traps, nets and spears. After the sorting of the fish is done, the processing that will end up in the legendary avgotaracho can begin – a preparation method that seems to have remained almost unaltered over time, including four stages: first, the egg sacs are removed, then the eggs are cured with coarse salt, afterwards they are dried in special areas, and finally they are coated with natural wax. However, the best time to enjoy avgotaracho is within the first ten months of its production. The fresher, the more unique.
The traditional form of avgotaracho is long and narrow and usually golden-brown in color, but it is also available both in grated and smoked form. Αvgotaracho is distinguished by its rich, full taste, its intense sea aroma and its oily, juicy texture. It is also particularly beneficial for our health, since it contains a significant amount of vitamins and polyunsaturated fats. To taste it, first remove the wax that protects it and then cut it into very thin slices. The simplest, Mediterranean, way to enjoy it is on toasted warm bread, as an appetizer. And if you are wondering about what drink would better pair with avgotaracho, try it with ouzo, tsipouro, beer, wine, champagne, whisky, vodka… all equally suited to this exquisite product. Being a fresh and rare raw material, avgotaracho is also used by many chefs to create inspired dishes.