Only in Taiwan have five species of mullet been identified and 10 different fish species. The most commonly caught by fishermen is the Mugli cephalus (locally called wuyu). Ever since antiquity, a special bottarga has been prepared with the cefali’s ovary sacs, and its existence was noted in 1747, in the chapter dedicated to harvesting and food products of the Zhongxiu Taiwan Fuzhi. The preparation technique was widespread even in older times, during the Dutch domination from 1624 to 1662, when bottarga was considered a sort of treasure because it was so used in cash transactions. The preparation process starts with salting the sacs; afterwards the salt is removed and the individual sacs were pressed with a stone to get the desired shape. After patching any holes in the sacs, they were then sun dried.
Depending on the fishing period, there are two types of bottarga: one with a mild, delicate flavour, from mullets that deposit their eggs in the sea before the winter solstice. The “return mullets”, which return from the sea to the brackish waters they departed from, give a less interesting bottarga from an organoleptic point of view.
In ancient times, the main fishing areas were spread out in the country’s western and southern parts: Dagou (today Kaohsiung), Yaogang (Xingda Harbour) and Xiadanshui (Kaoping River). Because of climate change and the impact of fishing, the amount fished has slowly diminished from the Nineties on. Preserving mullet bottarga production also means conserving a significant piece of the country’s history and culture.