Tuesday, August 26th, 2008...12:46 pm
10 Most Expensive Foods
With the world in the grip of an international food crisis, supermarket prices increasing weekly and the cost of a Pot Noodle at an all-time high it seemed like a good time to take a somewhat tasteless (pun intended) look at the world’s most expensive foods.
While people across the globe struggle to feed their families, many of these luxurious foodstuffs are most likely to be found piled high on a silver spoon and stuffed into the yapping holes beneath the snooty noses of the world’s wealthiest gourmands.
Put another way – if you want to make an omelette with the following ingredients you’ll probably need to remortgage your house, I’m not sure it would taste too good though!
(Note: the prices below are attempted approximations based on data from a broad range of web sources; if you can find a more accurate price, or any other expensive foods, then let us know!)
10. Fugu Fish
Price per kilo: £70-£160 ($125-$300)
Price per pound: £30-70 ($55-$135)
Fugu, an ancient Japanese food, is highly revered and served in a heavily ritualised manner. But as Homer Simpson is well aware, this innocuous-sounding delicacy has a deadly aspect. Made from the meat of particularly poisonous pufferfish (or blowfish, pictured above), just one of which contains enough poison to kill 30 people, it probably comes as no surprise that, if prepared incorrectly, an unlucky diner is likely to experience nausea, vomiting, paralysis and eventually death by asphyxiation.
So, potentially containing a poison (tetrodotoxin) 1,200 times more lethal than cyanide with no known antidote, it might not be the most expensive food on the list, but it is the only one that may cost you the ultimate price… (I should add that deaths resulting from incorrectly-prepared fugu are very rare).
9. Jamón Ibérico de Bellota
Price per kilo: £100-£210 ($185-$395)
Price per pound: £45-£95 ($85-$180)
Jamón ibérico de bellota (which translates as Iberian acorn ham) is the world’s most expensive pig product. The highest grade of Spanish jamón ibérico meat, jamón ibérico de bellota comes from the Black Iberian Pig breed which is raised free-range among the forests along the Spanish-Portuguese border and eats only acorns. This luxury ham has only been available to buy in the US and UK since 2007 but now has a steady supply both sides of the Atlantic.
8. Matsutake Mushrooms
Price per kilo: £105-£1,050 ($200- $2,000)
Price per pound: £50-£480 ($90-$905)
The matsutake mushroom (Tricholoma matsutake) has been highly-valued in Japan for centuries. Also known as mattake, this large fungus is primarily found on particular types of pine tree in areas of Japan, Korea and China (although they are also grown around the world and exported to Japan to satisfy the voracious demand).
In keeping with the country’s reverence for ancient customs, some reports attribute Japan’s affection for the matsutake to its respect for tradition rather than the mushroom’s flavour, which is said to be rather bland.
7. Kopi Luwak Coffee
Price per kilo: £140-£700 ($265-$1325)
Price per pound: £65-£315 ($120-$600)
Here’s a weird one. Kopi Luwak, also known as civet coffee, is the world’s most expensive coffee. Produced primarily in Indonesia, what sets this bean apart from your average Gold Blend is that the coffee berries are eaten by the wild Asian Palm Civet (a small feral cat-like mammal, pictured above), excreted undigested and then harvested from their droppings. Apparently, the animal’s stomach acids cause an enzymatic process that imbues the bean with a complex and unique flavour.
For those of you who haven’t tried a “crappuccino”, as some jokers have dubbed it, you may not only be sceptical as to the culinary merits of an excreted coffee bean, but moreover, its level of hygiene. However, a scientific study carried out in 2002 verified the coffee’s quality; the lead researcher confirmed that tests revealed “the Kopi Luwak beans had negligible amounts of enteric (pathogenic) organisms associated with faeces”.
Funny, that’s exactly how I like my coffee: milk, no sugar and negligible amounts of faeces…
6. Kobe Beef
Price per kilo: £295-£410 ($550-$770)
Price per pound: £130-£190 ($250-£350)
For meat lovers Kobe beef is the holy grail of steaks. In Japan a meal consisting of this legendary meat, prized for its rich flavour, tenderness and heavy marbling of fat will set you back around ¥13000 (£65/$130) on your credit card.
The criteria for 100% authentic Kobe beef is very strict: the meat must come from the black Tajimi-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle, born, raised and slaughtered in the Hyōgo Prefecture region of Japan (in which lies the city of Kobe). According to tradition the cows are fed a special diet and are brushed and massaged regularly.
Rumours abound when it comes to the cows’ special treatment – many refer to them being fed beer and being rubbed with sake (Japanese rice wine). However, these are generally dismissed as popular myths.
The near-mythological status of Kobe beef has lead to an industry of imitators. Nowadays, cheaper “Kobe-style” steaks from cross-bred domestic cattle are readily available in steakhouses and butchers throughout the West. According to experts these approximations should not be considered authentic Kobe and pale in comparison to the real thing.
Price per kilo: £580-£5,800 ($1,100-$11,000)
Price per pound: £265-£2,650 ($500-$5,000)
Saffron is undisputedly the most valuable spice in the world. Derived from the saffron crocus (Crocivus sativus) which is believed to have originated in Greece, it has been cultivated for over 3,000 years for culinary and medicinal uses and gets a mention in many classical writings including the Bible and Shakespeare.
Today, saffron’s characteristic vibrant yellow-orange colour and strong aromatic flavour is evident in a wide range of international recipes from Spanish Paella and French Bouillabaisse to Indian Biryani dishes.
In terms of price, there have been periods when Saffron has been worth more than its weight in gold. This high price comes from the flower’s exacting growing conditions and labour intensive harvesting process – a consequence of the huge number of flowers needed to produce the spice –around 150,000 per kilogram (68,000 per pound).
4. Bird’s Nest Soup
Price per kilo: £1,000-£5,000 ($2,000-£10,000)
Price per pound: £455-£2,270 ($910-$4,535)
When it comes to strange culinary delicacies, China’s Bird’s Nest Soup is right up there with monkey brains and haggis. The birds whose homes make up the soup’s main ingredient are a handful of swift species, particularly the White-nest Swiflet and the Black-nest Swiftlet.
Known as the ‘Caviar of the East’, these valuable nests are actually made of hardened strands of the birds’ unique glue-like saliva – that’s right, spit soup. As you would expect, harvesting the nests of these cave-dwelling creatures is a tricky job, albeit one that has been refined over around 400 years.
The birds nests come in a variety of colours and though all are prized for their culinary, nutritional, medicinal and even aphrodisiacal properties the rarer, and more expensive, ‘blood-red’ nests are prized most of all.
3. White Truffles
Price per Kilo: £1,600-£5,000 ($3,000-$9,350)
Price per pound: £725-£2,250 ($1360-$4,200)
The elusive white, or Alba, truffle (Tuber magnatum) has stubbornly evaded attempts at domestication and cultivation. Therefore, the only sources of these precious fungi are to be found underground on the roots of certain tree species in particular regions of Italy and Croatia. Since they are notoriously difficult to find truffle-hunters are traditionally aided in their task by pigs, as the truffle’s aroma resembles that of a porcine sex hormone (although dogs are also used).
Of all the types of truffle, the white truffle is held in the highest esteem due to its intense flavour, rich aroma and aforementioned scarcity. The highest price ever paid for a truffle was in December 2007 when a 1.5kg (3.3lb) white truffle sold for $330,000 (£165,000). It was, however, sold at a charity auction; therefore the huge price tag is not a reflection of the average market price.
2. Almas Caviar
Price per Kilo: £10,000-£18,000 ($18,500-$34,200)
Price per Pound: £4,500-£8,165 ($8,400-$15,500)
If you want to flash your cash, nothing says “opulent decadence” quite like a bowl of shiny black fish eggs. For those in the know, however, it is the pale amber eggs of the Iranian Almas caviar that are the ultimate in conspicuous culinary crowing.
According to London’s Caviar House & Prunier in 2003, where 1kg of Almas in a 24-karat gold tin will apparently set your bank account back £25,000 ($47,500), the increasing demand for this rare delicacy meant that buyers of Almas were put on a four-year waiting list. Still, I suppose it gives them a chance to get saving.
Price per kilo: £17,000-£60,000 ($33,000-$110,000)
Price per pound: £8,000-£27,000 ($15,000-$50,000)
Known in the food industry as additive E175, to the rest of us it’s just plain old gold – officially the world’s most expensive foodstuff. Prized for its, erm, flavourless taste and, erm, golden colour it is used primarily in the form of small quantities of 23K gold leaf or flakes as decoration for ludicrously lavish and pricey dishes and food products (see the DeLafée website for some ridiculous, gaudy examples).
As one of nature’s edible metals gold, like iron, is safe to eat in relatively small amounts. According to EdibleGold.com, “Gold is an inert metal that simply passes through the intestinal system. Edible Gold will pass out of the body after about 24 hours unchanged without causing any harm or reaction on the body”. After which, I presume, the lavatory becomes the recipient of the world’s most expensive crap.