Malaysia rolls out its first caviar brand, T’lur

PUBLISHED ON Oct 17, 2019

On a quiet patch of land in Tanjung Malim, Perak, strange, miraculous things are happening. The land is filled with large tanks, which in turn, are filled with fish. So far, nothing seems out of the ordinary.

Except that these fish happen to be sturgeon, a breed of fish that typically thrives in sub-tropical, temperate and sub-Arctic rivers, lakes and coastlines in Europe, north America and some parts of Asia.

Sturgeon fish are also better known for its roe, tiny little orbs called caviar that often fetch thousands of ringgit. This little Malaysian farm harvests caviar too!

Breeding the fish

On the invitation of a few Malaysian investors, Chien initially came to Malaysia to start a hot springs resort but ended up deciding to kick-start a sturgeon fish farming project instead in 2008.

The investors pumped in millions of ringgit into the project and Chien got to work. It took him five years, thousands of lost fish, countless expert naysayers, a lot of determination (and some heartbreak) and eight failed attempts before he finally nailed the recipe for breeding sturgeon fish in Malaysia.

“We hired a lot of experts and most of them gave up, but I kept trying,” says Chien simply.

Though Chien – understandably – will not reveal his secret methods, interestingly, after all that trial-and-error, he has discovered that sturgeon fish actually grow much faster in hot, humid local temperatures than they otherwise would.

“The growth of the fish is much faster – because in Europe, they have four seasons, so during winter, the fish don’t eat and don’t grow but here they’re growing and growing 365 days a year,” he says jubilantly.

Chien says the purity of the water used in the tanks is important to ensure good quality fish. As such, he uses water sourced from the forest behind the farm, which is so pristine it has a pH value of seven.

This water is pumped into the tanks three times a day to ensure it remains clean and the fish are only fed commercial marine pellets for optimum growth.

“The natural resources here are excellent, the water quality is very good so I am confident that the fish and the caviar are world-class,” says Chien.

Lim became immersed in the farm’s day-to-day operations in 2017, after being tasked by his family to commercialize the output from the farm.

“Up until that point, the focus had been on R&D, not on selling the fish or the caviar, so I focused on commercializing both,” he says.

Lim spent a year learning the ins and outs of sturgeon farming and caviar harvesting, even engaging a German expert to show the team how to extract the best flavour from the caviar.

Under his watch, the company also launched T’lur Caviar, the first Malaysian brand of tropical caviar in March 2019 and hasn’t looked back since.

Made in Malaysia caviar

Caviar is one of the world’s oldest luxury foods and was originally harvested by Russian and Persian fishermen in the Caspian Sea. It typically refers to salt-cured fish roe only sourced from sturgeon (roe from salmon and other fish is not considered “real caviar”).

The Caspian Sea is often reputed to be the producer of the best caviar in the world, with varietals like Beluga caviar and Osetra caviar leading the premium pack.

There are 27 different species of sturgeon in the world, but T’lur’s caviar yield is only from two kinds – Siberian sturgeon and Amur (Japanese) sturgeon.

Chien and Lim first realised they were sitting on a goldmine when an injured fish was slaughtered and caviar was discovered. Further examination of a sample size of fish on the farm showed that 99% of them were female.

“We suspect it’s because of the environment and weather,” says Lim.

Since most of the fish on the farm are female and Chien had already discovered how to keep sturgeon fish alive in the local climate, selling Malaysian caviar became a foregone conclusion. After all, Chien had already proved to be a sturgeon pioneer.

Why not go the extra mile and become a pioneering Malaysian caviar producer too?

Source: Star Malaysia