Japanese cuisine always offers a delectable and unique taste. And if you have tried sushi, there’s a big chance you have seen and got curious about the fish roe in your dish. This is the most typical garnish in sushi not only because of its distinct taste but also for its pretty colors.
Fish roes are fish eggs that are not yet hatched, and one of the most commonly used is the smelt roe. Keep reading to find out what is smelt roe and whether it’s an ingredient worth trying!
What Is Smelt Roe?
Roe is a popular ingredient in sushi. It’s another name for fish eggs, so smelt roe is fish eggs from smelt fish.
In Japanese, smelt roe is also called masago. It is considered one of the most popular fish roes and comes from a capelin, a kind of smelt fish. Capelin is often found in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, but unlike salmon, this kind of fish tends to swim to fresh bodies of water to spawn.
Smelt roe is typically used as a garnishing or topping and is placed inside sushi rolls. Here are some basic characteristics of smelt roe:
When fresh, smelt roe is pale orange in color. But when served in sushi, you may notice a more vibrant, bright orange color that almost looks red. This is because smelt roe is usually marinated and dyed to make it more visually appealing.
Smelt roe is more or less 1 millimeter in diameter, and the size of these eggs largely depends on where the eggs are harvested.
#2. Texture and Flavor
For something so small, smelt roe has a strong and distinct taste that’s smokey and slightly salty. Based on the smelt roe’s maturity, it can even develop a bitter kick. The fish eggs have a crisp mouthfeel but are softer and more delicate than other types of fish eggs.
This balance of flavors and textures perfectly complements all the other ingredients like rice, nori, and different kinds of seafood, including crab, shrimp, and tuna.
#3. Nutritional Benefits
The tiny smelt roe not only tastes delicious but also packs some major nutritional benefits. They are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids known for their positive impact on your heart and mental health. It also helps fight inflammation and can help in managing your weight.
Additionally, smelt roe is also a good source of vitamin D, which can help manage anxiety and depression as well as fight off insomnia and fatigue, thus benefitting your overall mental health.
Smelt roe also contains other essential vitamins and minerals like protein, selenium, sodium, iron, phosphorus, and vitamins B, C, and E.
Smelt Roe: Compared to Other Fish Roes
#1. Smelt roe vs. flying fish eggs
Flying fish eggs are also called tobiko, but unlike tobiko, smelt roe are smaller and don’t have that crunchy texture that tobiko have.
Tobiko is also naturally orange to reddish, so they are also used as a topping in sushi. However, many prefer using smelt roe because it is more affordable than flying fish eggs.
#2. Smelt roe vs. salmon roe
Salmon roe, as the name suggests, comes from salmon fish. Both salmon and smelt eggs are used in plenty of sushi dishes, but compared to smelt roe, salmon roe has a more potent flavor with a more distinct texture. Salmon roe is crunchier and has a more pungent taste. It is also slightly bigger than the smelt roe.
Easy Smelt Roe Recipe You Must Try
If you’ve never had smelt roe and are not sure whether you will like it, why not try a simple recipe that can help you decide whether smelt roe can be a regular feature in your meal plans?
And since most supermarkets carry masago in their seafood sections, you don’t have to worry too much about sourcing the ingredients. And you can always head to the nearest Asian market and get your supply of smelt roe there. Once you have your stash, make this simple California roll recipe at home.
Ingredients you need:
• Cooked sushi rice
• 1 pound of king crab legs
• 2 medium-sized cucumbers, sliced lengthwise with 1-inch thickness
• 2 ripe avocados cut into strips
• 3 sheets of toasted seaweed or nori
• toasted sesame seeds
• 2 ounces of smelt roe
• Sushi rolling mat (or parchment paper)
Here are the steps to prepare California rolls:
#1. We’ll be using the inside-out rolling method, so you get the sushi rice on the outside of the rolls. So, wrap the sushi mat with plastic wrap to avoid the rice from sticking to it.
#2. Cut your toasted seaweed or nori in half horizontally.
#3. Wet your hand, and take about one cup of cooked rice and form it into a ball.
#4. Place this rice ball on your nori and spread it all over it, right until the edges. Try to keep the thickness of the rice to an inch.
#5. Turn the nori over, so the seaweed is on top of your rice.
#6. Place several pieces of crab legs along the length of the nori.
#7. On top of the crab, place 2-3 slices of avocados.
#8. Now, take the edges of the bamboo roller closest to your and roll the sushi away from you. Be gentle and firm so that that that rice sticks to the nori. You can also roll the bamboo roller over the sushi roll to make it rounder and the roll tighter.
#9. Cut your sushi roll in the middle and dip each sushi roll into a bowl of smelt roe.
#10. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds over the rolls and cut the rolls into equal pieces. Enjoy!