We all know caviar and saffron are among the most expensive ingredients in the world, but what other delicacies do top chefs shell out their budgets for? Here’s a list of foods that are as rare as they are outrageously priced.
All coffee enthusiasts know how the right coffee bean can whip up a delicious brew. Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world and passes through the digestive system of a civet (a cat-like animal) before it reaches your cup. It is priced at $150 for 100 grams of beans to make a musky brew. Kopi Luwak coffee comes from the Indonesian island of Java and Sumatra, an area well-known for its excellent coffee. The resulting coffee is said to be like no other. It has a rich, heavy flavour with hints of caramel or chocolate. It is earthy, and has an exotic flavour profile. The body is almost syrupy and it is very smooth.
Hawaiian Kona Nigari Water
The world’s most expensive water comes from 2,000 feet under the ocean in Hawaii. Because the water is taken from such a great depth, it is supposedly free from contamination by pollution and is said to help with weight loss and improve skin condition. Hugely popular in Japan, it costs $402 per 750ml making it top of the list of the most expensive ingredients in the world.
White Alba Truffle
There’s the luxury black truffle you might have had grated over your buttered tagliatelle, and then there’s the white Alba truffle, which grows in Italy. White truffle season is from September to December when they grow wild in the forests around Alba, a small Piemontese township. They are knowns to be most desired for their unforgettable flavour and have a knobbly shape, firm flesh, and pale golden colour. The most expensive tuber sold for $330,000US in 2007.
Moose House Cheese
There are many expensive kinds of cheese out there to choose from, but Moose House cheese has to be one of the most exclusive ones available. A Swedish farm is the world’s only producer of this rare, creamy delicacy. Nestled in a small moose farm in Bjurholm, Sweden with just three moose (named Gullan, Haelga, and Juna), they are only milked between May and September. The moose produce enough milk for about 660 pounds of cheese each season. Elk House farm makes four kinds of cheese from the high-protein milk: a soft, white-mould variety similar to Camembert; a creamy blue cheese; a dried blue cheese; and feta.
Caviar has always been a byword for luxury, but in recent years the most expensive beluga caviar has become even more expensive because the sturgeon it comes from is now an endangered species – 100-year-old albino sturgeons from the Caspian Sea. Siberian sturgeon caviar is one of the most expensive foods on the planet, prized for its salty, earthy taste. But Iranian Almas caviar is officially the world’s most expensive and rare caviar. A kilo will set you back over $35,000. The caviar is also the Guinness World Record holder for the most expensive caviar on the planet.
Saffron is more expensive than gold, mainly because the harvesting process is so labour-intensive. Being one of the most expensive ingredients, the finest saffron comes from the state of Kashmir in India. Saffron is the dried stamen of the crocus plant: Each crocus produces just three stamens, and each of these must be hand-picked and air-dried. It takes about a football field’s worth of flowers to produce one pound of dry saffron, and about 40 hours of labour to pick all those flowers. However, saffron is usually sold in small portions, because a little of the spice goes a long way in flavouring dishes. It can sell for over $3,000 for a kg.
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale
True traditional balsamic vinegar takes at least 12 years to produce and is protected under the European Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) system. Trebbiano grapes grown in the Emilia Romagna area of Modena, Italy are harvested and the grape is then boiled over an open fire before being stored in wooden casks for up to 25 years. 100ml of this speciality vinegar (about 3.4 fluid ounces) can go for $180.
The Champagne of beef, Wagyu beef comes from Japanese cows famed for their high level of fat marbling. It is this marbling that lends the beef such an amazing flavour—the fat has a low melting point, so it melts into the meat when cooked, resulting in a juicy taste. The best Wagyu is said to come from Kobe. With only about 3000 cows certified as Kobe annually, and even fewer of these destined for export, Kobe beef is one of the most exclusive foods in the world—priced at around $300 a pound.
Matsutake mushrooms, the highly-prized autumnal delicacy revered by fine diners in Japan, are the world’s most expensive mushrooms. Prized for its meaty texture and sweet aroma that combines with a hint of cypress. with a spicy aroma and can be sold for as much as $2,000 per kilogram. They are sometimes called “pine mushrooms” due to their association with certain types of pine trees making them one of the most expensive ingredients in the world.