Would you spend thousands of dollars on a meal? Believe it or not, there are many dishes throughout the world that cost just that. Here are some of the most expensive foods on the market:
1. Beluga Caviar
Price: Up to $34,500 for about 2 lbs
No, this isn’t caviar from Beluga whales, but rather Beluga sturgeons, a species of fish found primarily in the Caspian Sea. This type of caviar is known as “black gold” and it’s the most expensive type of fish eggs — reaching prices between $7,000 and $10,000 for two pounds.
There is also Almas Beluga caviar, which is white instead of black and produced by rare albino Beluga sturgeons. About two pounds of Almas caviar can cost $34,500.
Beluga caviar is so expensive for a few reasons:
- Beluga sturgeons take 20 years to reach maturity so they can be harvested, and the best caviar is extracted from fish aged even longer
- The albino fish used to produce Almas caviar are very rare
- The Beluga sturgeon is in danger of extinction
The Beluga fish can live to be over 100 years old, and as they age their eggs become more aromatic and elegant, making for tastier caviar. While Beluga sturgeons can be harvested when they reach maturity at around 20 years old, Almas caviar is exclusively extracted from fish that are 60 to 100 years old.
It’s best to serve this caviar chilled and on a glass dish, and eat it alone or on top toast or crackers. It’s recommended to avoid all metal utensils and silverware when enjoying this delicacy, as they can give the delicate caviar a metallic taste.
Price: $500 to $5,000 per pound
Saffron is considered the most precious spice in the world. Made from the flower Crocus sativus, commonly called “saffron crocus,” its delicate red threads produce a slightly sweet, subtle flavor and fragrance when harvested and dried. The spice can be used in many different dishes, especially in Middle Eastern cuisine.
The reason saffron is so expensive is because of the flower it comes from. Each saffron crocus produces only three stigmas of saffron and blooms for one week a year. The spice must be harvested by hand in the mid-morning while the flowers are closed in order to protect the stigmas, and to produce one ounce of saffron 1,000 flowers must be harvested. It’s a tedious process, and Greece, Iran, Morocco, and India are the world’s top producers of saffron.
For most recipes that call for saffron, the spice is ground and added to warm milk, water, stock or white wine before the mixture is added to the dish. Although it’s incredibly expensive (often $10 or $13 per gram) saffron can keep for several years when stored in a chilled location inside an airtight container.
3. Ayam Cemani Chicken
Price: $2,500 per bird
This Indonesian chicken is stunning. The bird is completely black inside and out — feathers, beak, eyes, comb, blood, tongue, bones and organs. The only parts of this chicken that aren’t black are the pink-tinted white eggs it lays. This all-encompassing blackness is the result of excess pigmentation (a condition called fibromelanosis) and is very uncommon.
The dish is said to be more tender and delicious than typical chickens. They are considered a sacred animal in Indonesia, where they have been used in rituals and sacrifices. Their high cost is due to how rare they are and how difficult they are to breed. The birds are poor setters, which means their eggs rarely hatch unless they are incubated.
4. White Truffles
Price: $3,200 per pound
Truffles are prized by foodies and a staple ingredient in fine dining, so much so that they were dubbed “the diamond of the kitchen” by the 18th-century philosopher and gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. And the white truffle might be the most sought after truffle of them all.
White truffles have a strong, earthy flavor and pungent aroma that completely transform dishes into delectable treats. Unlike many other truffles that have black, rough skin, white truffles have a velvet-like texture and delicate marbled interior. Though they are expensive, you rarely need more than a few ounces to flavor a dish for multiple people.
White truffles are so expensive because they are so rare. They are only available in the fall, they grow almost exclusively in one region of Italy, they cannot be successfully farmed and the amount of truffles every year depends on perfect weather conditions — truffles don’t like extreme heat or severe cold. Each year people, accompanied by trained pigs, must forage these truffles in the wild, and depending on how many are harvested the price inflates or diminishes. In fall 2017, white truffles reached a staggering $3,200 per pound.
Though white truffles should be served simply and uncooked, they must be handled with great care because they are so delicate. Use a toothbrush to gently clean the exterior of any remaining dirt and quickly rinse it under water. Then, simply grate it over a finished warm dish and serve.
5. Foie Gras
Price: $40 to $80 per pound
Foie gras is an incredibly rich and tender dish of goose or duck liver. This French delicacy has a supremely buttery melt-in-your-mouth quality that is most commonly found in fine dining restaurants, where it is served as an appetizer.
This dish has had a regal standing since Ancient Rome, where the dish was served with milk and honey. Foie gras became known as a dish exclusively for royalty in France, where kings and noblemen dined on it, and King Louis XVI declared it to be “the dish of kings.”
This reputation is a lot of what makes foie gras so expensive, and also because the dish is so controversial — the birds are force-fed multiple times a day to ensure a fatty liver, a process that’s criticized by many as animal cruelty. Because of this controversy, many countries have banned production of foie gras and many retailers have stopped selling it. Today, foie gras is only produced by France, Hungary, Belgium, Romania and Spain.
Foie gras is always served chilled or cold and coated with simple seasonings, sometimes simply salt and pepper. It’s served as an appetizer either on its own or on top of a warmed sliced baguette.
6. Bird’s Nest Soup
Price: $30 to $100 per bowl
Bird’s nest soup is an Asian delicacy, but, like foie gras, comes with controversy. The name “bird’s nest soup” might conjure an image of twigs and sticks floating around your bowl, but this dish is actually made from the saliva of small birds called swiftlets.
The swiftlet bird, native to Southeast Asia, makes its nests from its saliva that hardens when it’s exposed to air. Traditionally, the nests are harvested from the Malaysian and Thai caves where the birds dwell, a dangerous process where workers climb around 500 feet on tall, rickety wooden ladders without any safety equipment. Harvests happen three times a year and each nest takes a bird about a month to construct.
Once the nests are harvested, they are exported to China where the nests are dissolved in water to create the soup. The dish has a gelatin-like texture and consuming it regularly is said to have healing qualities that prolong your life and make you healthier.
The poor working conditions, where many have lost their lives, is only part of the controversy behind this dish. The swiftlet population is decreasing because of the harvesting, pollution and deforestation. Today, many places in Malaysia have begun farming the birds for their nests in an attempt to control the harvesting.
7. Moose Cheese
Price: $455 per pound
Moose cheese is exactly as it sounds — cheese made from moose milk. It is the rarest cheese in the world and only produced by one small farm: The Elk House farm in Bjurholm, Sweden. The Elk House produces three types of moose cheese: Whole Mold Cheese, Creamy Blue Cheese, Dried Blue Cheese and Feta Cheese.
The cheese is so expensive because it is so exclusive. The cheese is only commercially sold in Sweden and Russia, and it all comes from this farm’s three lactating moose.
8. Wagyu Beef
Price: Starting at $60 for 8 oz
Wagyu is regarded as one of the finest beef in the world, and it’s easily recognized by the fine marbled pattern of fat woven into the meat. This marbling gives Wagyu a rich, buttery taste and texture that nearly melts in your mouth. Fine Wagyu beef prices range depending on the beef’s size, cut, and quality. An eight ounce Wagyu steak can start at $60, but other cuts can reach prices in the thousands.
This beef is so pricey not only because of its rich quality, but because of the meticulous methods that go into raising each Wagyu cow. Calves are fed a special milk replacement until they are weaned. They are then sent to fattening farms where they are cared for and fed a special formula for about 30 months to increase the beef’s amount of fatty acids and enhance the flavor.
Kobe beef is regarded as the finest of Wagyu because the process for creating this meat is stricter and more standards of production must be met. Kobe cows are also raised in special feeding farms, but they are kept between two and four months longer than other Wagyu cows. Kobe cows are also part of a “pure” bloodline that has survived since Japan’s Edo period (1615 to 1867) and each cow must meet a strict list of requirements including meeting a fat marbling ratio and being born, raised and fed strictly in the Hyogo Prefecture in Japan. Because of these details, only about 5,000 cows are certified as Kobe beef each year.
Wagyu beef is best prepared rare or medium rare. If it is cooked for too long, the marbling will melt away, ruining the beef’s flavor and making the texture leathery instead of buttery.