All About Fish Roe

If you’ve ever eaten or made sushi, then you’re probably familiar with one or two kinds of fish roe.  But how much do you actually know about these colorful spheres?


The bright orange pops you commonly find in Gunkanmakis and Uramakis are called Fish Roe.  Believe it or not these tiny bubbles of color are actually fish eggs.  It’s the same stuff that the luxurious and delectable caviar is made of.   They say that Tobiko is a “poor man’s caviar”. Despite the inglorious description, Tobiko (and other kinds of fish roe) is revered in Japanese cuisine. The Japanese has mastered the art of using these tiny, colorful bursts of flavor for food, and they use quite a few types of fish roe in their sushi:


Ikura (イクラ)ikura fish roe  Roe from Salmon. This roe comes in individual balls and are red-orange in color
Kazunoko (数の子/)kazunoko fish roe  Roe from Herring.  This roe comes in a pale yellow or a pale fleshy color. Unlike   the salmon roe which comes in individual spheres, this roe comes in one cohesive mass.
Masago (真砂子)masago fish roe   Also known as smelt roe, this has a similar texture and color to Tobiko. The only difference is that it’s smaller in size.
Mentaiko (明太子 mentaiko fish roe  This roe comes from spiced (with powdered red pepper) Alaska pollock.  It comes in a sausage form where the roe is encased in an elastic membrane.  Mentaiko is typically pink to dark red in color.
Sujiko (すじこ/筋子)sujiko fish roe 
 This is also salmon roe, however, when prepared and served, it is still in the sac. It typically has a darker, almost blood orange color to it.  It’s also sweeter in taste.
Tarako (たらこ/鱈子)tarako fish roe    Like the Mentaiko, this roe also comes from Alaska pollock. The key difference is that it is salted, instead of spiced. It comes in a pink sausage-like shape and is sometimes grilled for preparation.
Tobiko (飛び子)tobiko fish roe   One of the most common roes you’ll find in sushi is the flying fish roe. This type of roe is teeny-tiny, crunchy, and typically bright yellow-orange in color. However, since it comes in a variety of flavors, Tobiko is sometimes green (wasabi), red (beet), and black (squid ink) in color.


If you want a great recipe where fish roe is the star, check out our recipe for Tobiko Sushi with Quail Egg Yolk. It’s absolutely delicious!