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. Just know – caviar sushi is excellent.
Do They Put Caviar on Sushi?
Caviar is a very broad term that differs depending on who you ask. 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.
Although all fish eggs can be referred to as fish roe, purists that enjoy the gourmet black caviar of the sturgeon prefer to keep the word caviar for that category. Everything else is salmon or other fish roe, although these sorts also have their respective names, especially the Japanese sorts.
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 is its roe.
Instead of using sturgeon caviar, Japanese cuisine has mainly focused on the roe 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:
So, is salmon roe caviar Japanese? Essentially, it is, since it’s primarily used in Japanese cuisine and comes from those areas. The specific names, like ikura and masago, are also telltale signs that this type of fish roe belongs to the region.
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. This type of roe is classic sushi caviar and is the most common in Japanese caviar sushi.
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 in sushi, so if you’re looking for a light flavor that is less overpowering, 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 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. If for this or any other purpose, you don’t want to eat sushi with caviar, there’s no need for it. And if you’re wondering does sushi have caviar, not all of it does.
Maybe you don’t enjoy the pop of the fish eggs as much as you’d like, or the flavor doesn’t bring anything new to the table when consuming sushi. In this case, you don’t need to add or order any sushi with caviar on top.
What Else is Caviar Usually Served With in Japanese Cuisine?
Is caviar on sushi the only way to eat ikura and other fish roe? Definitely not! Sushi isn’t the only place where you’ll find some of these roes in Japanese cuisine, as some prepared dishes may also feature this component.
A popular and easy recipe that contains caviar is mentaiko pasta, which is prepared with a sauce made of karashi mentaiko roe.
To prepare this sauce, add the karashi mentaiko roe and then mix in olive oil, parmesan, 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 all of the noodles have been properly coated.
You can also chop up some seaweed to add as a garnish once the dish is ready. The seaweed adds an additional dimension of flavor which the Japanese call umami, and it 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 isn’t sushi caviar) is ikura don, which is a rice bowl that has been topped off with ikura. This is very easy to make at home, and you can add as much or as little as you prefer.
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.
There you go! Besides only eating caviar in sushi, why not try some new recipes? Salmon roe isn’t just sushi caviar; it can go the extra mile to make any meal pop with flavor and texture. The great part is that Japanese recipes include most of their popular ingredients, making the extraction of roe worth the effort since it’s not only used for one purpose.
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