A couple of years ago, I wanted to have caviar on New Year’s Day, but couldn’t find any that was ethically sourced. Instead, I made a vegetable caviar with the sea vegetable hijiki. With the right fixin’s, it makes a fine accompaniment to chilled champagne, and will make you feel fancy for a fraction of the cost of real caviar.
A version of this story was posted in 2010 as“A New Year’s Caviar Conundrum”
Just before the holidays, I was given a bottle of Dom Perignon. I wanted to enjoy it on New Year’s Day with black caviar, old-school style. Caviar is the tiny eggs (or roe) of various fish, especially sturgeon and paddlefish. Because of intense demand for their eggs, these fish are on the brink of extinction. In light of that, I set out to find a caviar that I could feel good about eating.
After a search that led to dubiously sourced and exorbitantly priced caviar, I resolved to go faux. The substitute I settled on was hijiki seaweed, a sea vegetable with a mildly fishy taste that’s popular in Japan. I found it at the Japanese market Sunrise Mart in the East Village for $3.99. Score.
I made my hijiki caviar and salted it well, and then salted each individual serving to evoke a briny taste. Set off by the bright champagne, the disguised sea vegetable tasted sweet, salty, and creamy. The only thing missing was the “pop factor” of fish eggs. I’m not sure how to resolve that one, but I’ll keep trying.
I wish you a happy and healthy new year, see you in 2012!
Makes approximately 1 cup caviar
1/4 cup hijiki seaweed
2 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, plus extra
For serving: Sour cream, scallions, freshly squeezed lemon juice, toast points/blinis/crackers
Soak the hijiki in cold water for 1 hour. Drain well and place it in the bowl of a food processor. Grind until the hijiki is broken down into caviar-sized bits, about 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the vinegar, honey, and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Cover and marinate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
When you’re ready to serve, pour the hijiki through a fine mesh strainer to remove excess liquid. Place a small spoonful of caviar on a toast point and top with sour cream and scallions. Season generously with salt, and a dash of lemon juice.