What are the different kinds of Fish Roe used for making Sushi?

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When it comes to Sushi there are a wide variety to choose from. Whether it is Unagi Nigiri, Tamago Sushi or Ikura Sushi, there certainly is a wide variety of Sushi for you to choose from. However, we will specifically be exploring the different kinds of Fish Roe used to make Sushi for now. Keen to know more? Great! Let us begin this fascinating exploration.

Ikura (Salmon Roe)

The first kind of Fish Roe that we will be taking a look at is Ikura. Ikura is the Japanese name for Salmon Roe. It comes in a reddish orange colour and has a rich savoury flavour. Typically it is served on top of sushi rice wrapped with Nori seaweed. Ikura is harvested when Salmon return to freshwater for spawning. The timeframe for spawning can vary with different Salmon spawning at different ages. In general, Salmon spawn at different times of the year with some of Salmon such as Coho Salmon spawning in July. Farmed Salmon such as Atlantic Salmon are typically harvested for their eggs when they are about 2 years and 16 months old. Furthermore, there is an interesting way in which Salmon eggs can be extracted from female Salmon. This involves the gentle stroking of its body until it releases its eggs while it is anaesthetised.

Apart from these interesting bits of information, studies have shown that the Vitamin A within Ikura has anti-aging properties and can benefit the health of your skin.

Tobiko (Flying Fish Roe)

The next kind of Fish Roe that we will be discussing is Tobiko. Tobiko is the Japanese name for Flying Fish Roe. It has a range of colours and can be reddish or yellow. It also has  a salty taste. As an ingredient, it can be placed on top of sushi rice wrapped with Nori seaweed or it could be served as an ingredient for California Rolls, which are known for their distinctive orange colour due to the Tobiko that surrounds the California Roll. Countries that are Tobiko suppliers include  Indonesia, Peru and Taiwan. A fascinating aspect about Tobiko is that sometimes other ingredients are used to give it a different colour and flavour. One such ingredient is Wasabi. Adding it to Tobiko turns it green.

Masago (Smelt Roe or Capelin Roe) 

An additional kind of Fish Roe popularly used to make Sushi is Masago. This Japanese term refers to Smelt Roe and more specifically, Capelin Roe. It has a reddish orange colour and has a salty and bitter taste. Masago is also typically placed on sushi rice wrapped with Nori. Moreover Masago like Tobiko, Ikura and other Fish Roe are also known to be packed with Omega-3/n-3 Fatty Acids that are good for cardiovascular health. This attribute of Omega 3 has been explored in quite a few different studies.

Kazunoko (Herring Roe)

Thus far we have discussed the three popularly used Fish Roe for making sushi. Now we shall talk about some other Fish Roe used to make sushi. One such Fish Roe is Kazunoko. Kazunoko is the Japanese name for Herring Roe. It has a yellow colour. Furthermore, a special quality about Kazunoko is connected to it being marinated in a mixture of Dashi and Soya sauce. This gives it a rich flavour profile due to the Dashi and Soya Sauce giving  the Kazunoko a salty and savoury or umami filled taste. 

Pollock Roe

The following Fish Roe ingredient  that we will now discuss may be familiar to some of you. That ingredient is Pollock Roe. There are two terms for the Pollock Roe used to make sushi. They are Mentaiko and Tarako. While both names refer to Pollock Roe and they both have a similar pink colour, there are some subtle differences between Mentaiko and Tarako. Here are some of those differences:

  • Mentaiko is spiced with red pepper powder called Togarashi giving it a spicy and salty taste.
  • Tarako is salted Pollock Roe and is sometimes grilled.

These two ingredients provide a unique culinary experience thanks to their different flavour profiles. They are a prime example of how creativity can create different kinds of food from the same food ingredient. Furthermore, Mentaiko and Tarako can be mixed with sushi in different ways. They include being placed within the sushi rice or on top of it.

Karasumi (Mullet Roe)

Beyond what we have discussed, there is yet another Fish Roe sushi ingredient that you may find interesting. That is Karasumi. Karasumi is a Japanese term that refers to Mullet Roe. The name is derived from its supposed resemblance to Chinese Ink Sticks. It comes in a dark orange colour. Furthermore, Karasumi is salted and is a speciality of Nagasaki. That’s not all, Karasumi is used as a sushi ingredient not only in Japan but in restaurants in Taiwan too.

For your reference

Alot to take in? Here’s a useful table to help you remember some important information as well as get to know the different names of these Fish Roe in other languages.

Name of Fish RoeColourTasteNames of these Fish Roe in other Languages
Ikura/Salmon RoeReddish OrangeRich Savoury flavourKorean: 연어알 (yeon-eo al)

Simplified Chinese: 三文鱼子 pronounced as Sānwènyú zǐ

Malay: Salmon Roe

Portuguese: Ovas de salmão
Tobiko/Flying Fish RoeReddish or Yellow or even Green if Wasabi is addedSaltyKorean: 날치알 pronounced nalchial

Simplified Chinese:飞鱼子 pronounced as Fēiyú zǐ

Malay: Roe Ikan Terbang

Dutch: Vliegende Viskuit
Masago/Smelt Roe/Capelin RoeReddish OrangeSalty and BitterKorean: 빙어 알 pronounced as bing-eo al (Smelt Roe) 
카펠린 알 pronounced as kapellin al (Capelin Roe)

Simplified Chinese: 冶炼鱼子 pronounced as Yěliàn yúzǐ as (Smelt Roe)
毛鳞鱼子 pronounced as Máo lín yúzǐ (Capelin Roe)

German: Rogen schmelzen (Smelt Roe)
Lodderogen (Capelin Roe) 
Kazunoko/Herring RoeYellowSalty and SavouryKorean: 청어알 pronounced as cheong-eoal

Simplified Chinese: 鲱鱼子 pronounced as Fēiyú zǐ 

Spanish: Huevas de arenque
Pollock Roe/ Mentaiko and TarakoPinkMentaiko: Salty and Spicy

Korean: 명태 알 pronounced myeongtae al (Mentaiko) 
명란젓 pronounced myeonglanjeos (Tarako)

Simplified Chinese: 明太子 pronounced as Míngtàizǐ (Mentaiko)
鳕鱼子 pronounced as  Xuěyú zǐ (Tarako)

Swedish: Mentaiko (Mentaiko)
Torskrom (Tarako)

Karasumi/Mullet RoeDark OrangeSaltyKorean: 숭어알 pronounced as sung-eoal

Simplified Chinese: 鲻鱼子 pronounced as  Zī yúzǐ

German: Meeräscherogen

A Recap

Let us recap what we have learnt so far:
1. We learnt about the different kinds of Fish Roe used to make Sushi.

2.We discovered that Fish Roe like Ikura, Tobiko and many other kinds of Fish Roe contain nutrients such as Vitamin A and Omega3/n-3 Fatty Acids that benefit your health in many ways.

3. We discovered an interesting way in which Salmon Roe is extracted from a female Salmon by anaesthetising it and gently stroking the eggs out of its body.

4. We discovered that Indonesia, Peru and Taiwan are Tobiko suppliers.

5. We also discussed the different colours and flavour profiles of different Fish Roe. 

6. We learnt the different names in various languages for the Fish Roe we discussed.

A fascinating exploration

Wow that was one very interesting journey was it not?! In many ways this was a truly eye opening exploration that gave you the opportunity to find out more about the different kinds of Fish Roe that are used in the making of sushi. Not only that, we also gained some appreciation for the health benefits that come with some Fish Roe too. Of course it is important to eat everything in moderation for the long term benefit of your health. With that said, may you have a wonderful meal that nourishes both your body and your mind.

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