Sushi is one of those foods that is a little on the pricey side but is always worth it. Who doesn’t like to spoil themselves to a plate of sushi from time to time? I’m going to explore whether or not caviar is typically put on sushi today.
So do they put caviar on sushi? Yes, caviar is used in sushi relatively often. Although Sturgeon caviar is rarely ever used in sushi, the roe or caviar of other fish is frequently used in the preparation of sushi. These roes include tobiko, masago, and ikura.
There are many recipes that use caviar for sushi in Japanese cuisine, and I can’t sum them up in a single paragraph, so I’ll be discussing them throughout this guide.
Do They Put Caviar on Sushi?
Caviar is a very broad term that differs from person to person. While some people may mean the eggs of any fish species when they mention caviar, other people would rather refer to those as roe and save the term caviar for the eggs of the sturgeon.
Traditionally, sturgeon caviar has only been harvested in the areas around the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea because of how common those fish species are around there. While the Japanese Sturgeon exists as a species, it is mainly found in rivers in China despite its misleading name.
It has yet to be proven how far Japanese sturgeon are willing to venture out of the Chinese rivers, though some scientists hypothesize that they may even swim into the Sea of Japan. Despite these fish sometimes ranging near Japan, sturgeon isn’t really used in Japanese cuisine, and neither are its roe.
Instead of using sturgeon caviar, Japanese cuisine has mainly focused on the roes of other fish species, including salmon. In Japanese cuisine, salmon roe is known as ikura, but there are many other kinds of roe that are used in sushi and served with other dishes, as well. Here’s a handy table comparing the kinds of roe that are used in Japanese cuisine:
There is a wide and exciting array of caviar to choose from when eating sushi, and each of these kinds of roe has a few key differences that make them more suitable for specific dishes. The best caviar for sushi is a subjective matter, but I’m personally a fan of both masago and ikura, though I have nothing against the other varieties as well.
Masago is one of the smaller forms of caviar that is typically served alongside sushi, and it is distinguishable from the other varieties because the individual eggs are usually more difficult to spot. From a distance, the small size of the eggs makes masago look like more of a paste or a spread.
Determining whether or not your caviar is masago by color is typically unreliable because dyes are added to the roe during the production process. While orange is the traditional color of masego, you may find masego in red, green, or yellow, as well.
On the other hand, ikura is a lot more distinctive than masago because of the large size of the individual beads. When you chew on ikura, its large size gives each bead a satisfying pop.
Ikura also has a less salty and sea-like taste than other kinds of caviar used in sushi, so if you’re looking for a light flavor that is less overpowering, then this should be your favorite.
Tobiko is one of the more affordable kinds of caviar that is used in sushi and it consists of the eggs of the flying fish. This kind of roe is plentiful and it has a relatively neutral flavor profile that makes it a great starting point for anyone looking to try caviar on their sushi for the first time.
Keep in mind that Japanese caviar is as finicky as sturgeon caviar, so it will have to be stored properly to ensure that it doesn’t go bad.
What Else is Caviar Usually Served With in Japanese Cuisine?
Sushi isn’t the only place where you’ll find some of these roes in Japanese cooking, as some prepared dishes may also feature this fishy component.
A popular and easy recipe that contains caviar is mentaiko pasta, which is a pasta that is prepared with a sauce made of karashi mentaiko roe.
To prepare this sauce, you add the karashi mentaiko roe and then mix in olive oil, parmesan, as well as cream and milk. Whisk this all together and your sauce is ready. Simply cook your pasta and add it to the sauce before tossing it to ensure that all of the noodles have been properly coated.
You can also chop up some leaves of seaweed to add them as a garnish once the dish is ready. The seaweed adds an additional dimension of flavor and it also makes the dish look nicer if you plan on serving it to friends or family, so while you may be tempted to skip it, it’s worth going the extra mile.
Another simple Japanese caviar recipe that you can prepare is ikura don, which is a rice bowl that has been topped off with ikura. What really brings this recipe together is the fact that you marinate the salmon roe before adding it to the rice, giving it a deeper flavor profile.
Start off by adding the ikura to a bowl and then add soy sauce, sake, and dashi. You’re going to want to let it sit for about half an hour. The longer it sits, the more time there is for the flavors to get infused into the ikura, eventually making it taste better.
While the ikura is marinating, you can start cooking the rice. Once the rice is ready, you can then drain the bowl containing the roe with a strainer. Using a spoon, layer the ikura on top of the rice and then garnish with seaweed and wasabi.
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