Top 10 Luxury Bites
Previously, we exposed you to the notion that certain food items might be imbued with an emotional association through our experiences. However, comfort food is not the only ‘emotional’ food items on the market. Staying on that same line of thinking, you will realise that another category of food also stirs an emotional response. And that category of food is none other than, luxury food.
In our modern media-saturated culture, the very mention of luxury foods is enough to send images and connotations swimming through our minds. Immediately, your mind will be drowning in grand images of posh restaurant ambience filled with lavish foods such as caviar, foie gras and etc. These thoughts are also further fuelled by our consumption of food media such as food television programmes, online food blogs and etc.
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As luxury food is never a cheap affair, it is usually a rare indulgence that we reward ourselves with. And therein lays the paradox, because if we were to consume these luxury food items on a daily basis, it would lose the ‘special’ feeling and be rendered as an everyday food item.
So, what are these luxury food items that we can only dream of? What are the kinds of food that leaves us all star-struck? We round up our truffle hogs and hunt down the top 10 luxury bites that leave us wanting more!
Top 10 Luxury Bites
Having just celebrated Caviar Day on the 18 July, we thought that we will kick things off with the rich black briny treasure of the sea. Found mainly in the Caspian Sea, caviar actually refers to the salted roe of the sturgeon fish. Fully grown female sturgeon can weigh up to 130 kilos with 25 per cent of that consisting of fresh roe.
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Although caviar is usually black in colour, it has been known to also come in red, gold and grey. The grade of caviar is determined by characteristics such as colour, lucidity, maturity and fragrance. Bet you didn’t know that it can double up as a skin and hair care product!
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Traditionally presented on servers made of pearl or gold, caviar should always be served cold. Although satisfying on its own, caviar is usually served with plain crackers or bread along with a host of condiments such as lemon juice, sour cream or chopped onion. It is usually paired with a drink of ice-cold vodka or bubbly champagne.
Costing between S$9000 and S$13,000 per kilo, the high grade beluga caviar is something for a very special occasion. Thankfully, it is considered to be socially embarrassing to consume more than 50 grams of caviar in one sitting. It was said to be a favourite of artist, Pablo Picasso who paid for his habit by sending cash wrapped in a signed original sketch.
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Also known as uni, sea urchin is considered by the Japanese as a culinary delicacy. Usually served raw as sashimi and sushi, it retails at a hefty S$550 per kilogram. But, it is not just the Japanese who has the taste for this salty goodness.
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In Mediterranean cuisines, people also have a penchant for using it to enhance sauces or soups. Furthermore, sea urchin is also good with eggs such as in omelettes or scrambled eggs. Like the Japanese, the Chileans choose to keep it simple by having it with chopped onions, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Chūtoro (Fatty Tuna)
Needing no introduction, chūtoro or fatty tuna as it is more commonly known, is the light sweet tender flesh of the Bluefin tuna. Found near the back and belly of the fish, it is a delicate dish which requires the precise knife skill of a highly skilled chef.
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Best enjoyed as sashimi and sushi, the chūtoro can be quite expensive and is only served on special occasions.
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Famed for its rich buttery taste, foie gras is the specially fattened liver of a duck or goose. A popular French delicacy, it is usually sold as a whole or made into a mousse or pâté. A versatile luxury item, foie gras can be savoured on its own or as an accompaniment with other items such as steak.
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Although occasionally produced using natural feeding, French law dictates that foie gras must be made through the force feeding methodology. Despite overwhelming animal rights groups concerns, it still remains popular worldwide.
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Considered as the big cousin of the crayfish, lobster is a main seafood staple which set most tongues wagging. The lobster’s naturally sweet flesh means that the crustacean requires very simple preparation. Usually served steamed or grilled, it is commonly used in soup, sandwiches and the Italian salad cappon magro.
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However, we prefer it in its entirety with a hearty clarified butter sauce. The rich butter sauce is the right condiment that brings out the natural sweetened lobster flavour.
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Better known as prosciutto in Italy, dry- cured ham is a European food staple which reflects the continent’s culinary heritage. Made from the pig or wild boar’s hind leg, this exquisite dish requires a tedious manufacturing process which spans between nine months and two years.
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Served as part of an antipasto platter, it is thinly sliced and eaten raw as an appetiser. However, it is not heard of to use prosciutto in pasta sauces, pizzas or stuffing to enhance other meats. Be sure to also check its Spanish cousin, the famed Iberian ham. The fat marbled dried ham’s flavour is derives from the pig’s specially regulated grain diet.
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Affectionately known as Kobe niku, Kobe beef refers to beef cuts that comes from Tajima cattle raised in the Hyōgo Prefecture of Japan. Governed by the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association, the tantalising piece of marbled beef has to fulfil a number of stringent criteria before it can be passed off as Kobe beef.
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In order to purify the beef, the Japanese farmers go as far as to castrate their cattle to gain the prestigious label. The farm fed Tajima cattle is fed on a diet of grain fodder and must be brushed regularly so as to settle its fur.
As a result of such painstaking efforts, Kobe beef cultivates a flavour and tenderness which is unmatched by any other beef. It is usually enjoyed cooked as a steak or in hotpots. However, the Japanese do consume it raw as sashimi.
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A well-known Chinese luxury food, shark fin is served at special celebrations. Considered as one of the eight treasured food from the sea, it symbolises wealth, power, prestige and honour. Originated from the Ming Dynasty, it is usually sold fresh or dried.
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Famed for its health benefits, shark fin is said to boost sexual potency, enhance skin quality and even lowers cholesterol. However, animal rights groups have been protesting heavily against the inhumane practice of harvesting shark fins. Hence, shark fin has now been banned in several parts of America, Canada and in Taiwan.
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Termed as the “diamonds of the kitchen”, truffles are the highly prized fruits of a high grade fungus. Harvested by specially train pigs and dogs, it is usually found buried underground near the roots of a tree.
Found only during autumn, truffles come mainly in two varieties. While the white truffle can be found in northern Italy, black truffles are only found in the French region of Périgord.
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Growing up to 12 cm in diameter, an individual white truffle can weigh up to 500g. At a cost of S$18,000 per kilo, it is usually served raw to harness its distinct pungent taste.
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As for the black truffle, it can grow up to seven cm in diameter and weigh up to 100g. Although cheaper than its white counterpart, the black truffles can easily go for a whooping S$6500 per kilos. It is commonly used in making truffle salt and honey. Sometimes even used as garnish on pastas and salads.
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In addition, both varieties of truffles may be inserted in meats, pâtés and speciality cheeses.
| Did You Know?
|Truffle oil actually does NOT contain truffles! It is actually made of olive oil that is artificially flavoured with synthetic agents to resemble the sharp truffle flavour!
Yubari King Melon
Looking for a decadent end to your luxury meal? Then, you should check out the sweet Yubari King melon. A hybrid of two cantaloupe cultivars, the exceptionally smooth and perfectly round fruit can only be found in Yūbari, Japan.
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Traditionally presented as gifts during the Japanese Hungry Ghost Festival (Chūgen), the highest fee ever received was at a 2008 Japanese auction. On that occasion, a pair of Yubari King melons fetched an astronomical S$32,000!
A popular ingredient in many cuisines, saffron is a versatile spice that is not just used in cooking but in perfumes and dyes as well. Used for over four millennia, this spice is derived from the saffron crocus flower. Today, Iran is the biggest producer of saffron. It is responsible for over 90 per cent of the world’s saffron supply.
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Loved for its fragrant aroma and taste, saffron has been known to have health benefits as it contains anti-cancerous properties as well as antioxidants. It is said to be good for boosting the immune system and said to be effective in chasing away depression. However because of its labour intense harvesting process, saffron can cost anything between S$1400 to S$14,000 per kilo. Thus, making it the most expensive spice in the world!
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