What is Smelt Roe? – Benefits, Culinary Usage, and Other Facts

What is Smelt Roe? – Benefits, Culinary Usage, and Other Facts

Knowing what is smelt roe will enhance your knowledge of Japanese cuisine as a culinary enthusiast, epicurean, or simply a curious reader. Also known as masago, smelt roe is one of the several exotic ingredients used to create perfect sushi delicacies. Apart from the answer to what is smelt roe in sushi, this blog will give you an idea of its benefits and culinary usage in Japanese and other cuisines. Read till the end to get an idea of how to store smelt roe for a longer time.

What is smelt roe?

Smelt roe or Masago is the culinary name for smelt egg or eggs of the capelin fish that belongs to the smelt species. Due to its abundance in the cold northern waters, smelt roe is commonly available in the regions banking the Pacific oceans. Therefore, Japan, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Ohkotsk Sea, East China Sea, and the Sea of Japan, has a huge demand for fish roe.

Now that you have the basic idea of what is smelt roe let us see how it looks and tastes like. Smelt roe or masago has a bright orange color and a glossy appearance that justifies the ‘exotic’ tag in every way. Moreover, when you taste just a bit of the roe, it will also give the tastebuds a mind-blowing textural satisfaction.

The tiny fish eggs will burst out of the sacs, giving you the most delicate balance of umami and savoriness. The unique taste and flavor and the satisfying pop in the mouth make masago delightful, especially for seafood lovers. Apart from that, its visual appeal piques the interest of every food lover.

Apart from masago, Japanese cuisine also features tobiko, tarako, mentaiko, Fujiko, kazunoko, ikura, caviar, and other types of roe. Including masago and other fish roe has been a common practice in Japanese cuisine since the 4th century. However, smelt roe has made a unique place in other cuisines over the years.

what is smelt fish roe

What is smelt roe in sushi?

While caviar is prominent in global cuisine, there are still questions about what is smelt roe in sushi. Simply, it is one of the most popular varieties of sushi eggs. Moreover, it offers a distinct flavor and unique dimension to your favorite sushi rolls, donburi bowls, and more. The beautiful, salty taste of the fish eggs creates a harmonious contrast with the mild sticky rice. Therefore, the result is finely presented dishes that are complete flavor bombs!

When it comes to the culinary usage of smelt roe, you may find it in its marinated form. While the raw version is called masago, right after the brine bath, it becomes ikura or eggs in soy. Moreover, handling a role requires a high level of skills, and that’s why only expert sushi chefs can give you the ultimate sushi experience. Besides the main dishes, chefs use masago and ikura as toppings for several nigiri delicacies.

Do you want to try using fish roe at home to re-create your favorite sushi delicacies? Check out these recipes that will help you stir up sushi rolls like a pro:

Smelt Roe & Avocado Maki Roll

Ingredients:

Fresh avocado slices
Nori seaweed sheets
Pickled ginger and wasabi for serving
Smelt roe (ikura), marinated or plain
Soy sauce for dipping
Sushi rice, prepared and seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt

Instructions:

  • Place a bamboo sushi rolling mat on a clean, flat surface. Lay a sheet of nori, shiny side down, on the mat.
  • Wet your fingers to prevent the rice from sticking, and spread an even layer of sushi rice over the nori, leaving about 1 inch of the nori sheet uncovered at the top.
  • Arrange avocado slices and a generous amount of smelt roe in the center of the rice.
  • Carefully lift the bamboo mat from the bottom, and begin rolling the sushi away from you, using gentle pressure to shape it into a tight cylinder.
  • Once rolled, moisten the uncovered nori edge with water to seal the roll.
  • Slice the roll into bite-sized pieces using a sharp, wet knife.
  • Serve with soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi on the side.
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Spicy Smelt Roe Tempura Roll

Ingredients:

Nori seaweed sheets
Pickled ginger and wasabi for serving
Sesame seeds, for garnish
Smelt roe (ikura), marinated or plain
Soy sauce for dipping
Spicy mayo sauce (mayonnaise mixed with sriracha or chili sauce)
Sushi rice, prepared and seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt
Tempura-fried shrimp (shrimp tempura)

Instructions:

  • Lay a sheet of nori, shiny side down, on a bamboo sushi rolling mat.
  • Wet your fingers and spread an even layer of sushi rice over the nori, leaving about 1 inch of the nori sheet uncovered at the top.
  • Drizzle the spicy mayo sauce over the rice and spread it evenly.
  • Arrange tempura-fried shrimp and smelt roe in the center of the rice.
  • Carefully lift the bamboo mat from the bottom, and begin rolling the sushi away from you, using gentle pressure to shape it into a tight cylinder.
  • Once rolled, moisten the uncovered nori edge with a bit of water to seal the roll.
  • Sprinkle sesame seeds over the roll and press gently to make them stick.
  • Slice the roll into bite-sized pieces using a sharp, wet knife.
  • Serve with soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi on the side.

Smelt Roe California Roll

Ingredients:

Avocado slices
Cucumber, julienned
Imitation crab sticks, shredded
Nori seaweed sheets
Pickled ginger and wasabi for serving
Sesame seeds, for garnish
Smelt roe (ikura), marinated or plain
Soy sauce for dipping
Sushi rice, prepared and seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt

Instructions:

  • Lay a sheet of nori, shiny side down, on a bamboo sushi rolling mat.
  • Wet your fingers and spread an even layer of sushi rice over the nori, leaving about 1 inch of the nori sheet uncovered at the top.
  • Arrange the shredded imitation crab sticks, cucumber, and avocado in the center of the rice.
  • Add a generous amount of smelt roe on top of the fillings.
  • Carefully lift the bamboo mat from the bottom, and begin rolling the sushi away from you, using gentle pressure to shape it into a tight cylinder.
  • Once rolled, moisten the uncovered nori edge with a bit of water to seal the roll.
  • Sprinkle sesame seeds over the roll and press gently to make them stick.
  • Slice the roll into bite-sized pieces using a sharp, wet knife.
  • Serve with soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi on the side.
  • Enjoy these delectable sushi rolls that feature smelt roe’s delightful taste and texture, adding a burst of flavor to every bite!

What is smelt roe usage beyond sushi?

With its vibrance, flavor, and unique taste, the usage of sushi eggs has traveled across cultural and geographical boundaries. So, whether you like Japanese fusion, Mexican, Italian, or Korean delicacies, there are high chances that you will find smelt eggs as part of those.

In this section, check out some major cuisines other than Japanese in which capelin roe can be a taste enhancer.

Japanese Fusion

In the contemporary culinary scenario, fusion cuisine is a sensational field. Therefore, if you want to try Japanese fusion cuisine, try the finest masago. Whether it adds more visual sophistication or a unique texture, it can be a fantastic ingredient for dishes like a sushi burrito, tempura rice bowls, and more.

what is smelt roe

Korean dishes

Masago or ikura are quite popular in typical Korean delicacies such as Kimbaps, similar to sushi rolls. If you are wondering what is smelt roe usage in Korean cuisine, simply try a bibimbap bowl, and experience the umami burst from the same.

Mexican Cuisine

Exciting new flavor combinations are now available due to the fusion of Japanese and Mexican cuisines. With its saline flavor, smelt roe elevates dishes like ceviche and improves the seafood experience. Smelt roe also adds a touch of class to tacos and tostadas, adding to the diverse array of flavors in this confluence of culinary cultures.

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Italian Cuisine

Italian cuisine has also adopted smelt roe, especially in pasta recipes. Contemporary chefs often add roe to seafood pasta preparations, providing a delicious contrast of flavors and textures. Smelt roe gives traditional Italian dishes a hint of decadence, whether used in creamy sauces or served simply with olive oil and garlic.

Other Cuisines

In addition to the cuisines in the list above, you can find smelt roe in a wide range of cuisines worldwide. For example, French gourmet amuse-bouche and Scandinavian-inspired smore bread often feature various types of roes, especially caviar.

What are smelt roe nutritional benefits?

Rich source of minerals and vitamins

The smelt egg is an exotic ingredient that acts as a taste enhancer and a nutritional powerhouse. These pearl-like fish eggs are rich sources of minerals and vitamins that are highly beneficial for your health. Additionally, just one serving of masago includes vitamins D, B6, and B12. It also contains other minerals like magnesium, calcium, and iron.

Contains omega-3 fatty acids

One of the primary nutritional benefits of fish eggs such as masago, ikura, caviar, and more is their omega-3 fatty acids content. The EPA and DHA content of fatty acids reduces inflammation and triglyceride levels resulting in better heart functioning. Moreover, omega-3 fatty acid benefits brain development and other cognitive functions. It also lowers the chances of neurodegenerative issues and improves joint health. Note that consuming fish eggs in any form also gives you healthier skin and frees you from anxiety.

Overall balanced diet

Surprisingly, sushi eggs can have a major contribution to a balanced diet. Being a rich source of amino acids apart from the other nutrients makes it a wonderful element for your overall vitality. One serving of those orange pearls can help your muscle development, tissue repair, and weight management. Therefore, it is a good idea to incorporate fish roe in simple salads and regular food, apart from gourmet dishes.

Preparation and storage of masago

It is crucial to properly cook masago before savoring its delicious flavor. It is often available in ready-to-eat forms, either marinated or fresh. Carefully run cold water over fresh smelt roe to remove extra salt or contaminants.

Before serving, pat it dry with paper towels. Also note that after marination, the roe requires no more preparation, and the version becomes ikura. The marinating procedure enhances the flavor; you can directly enjoy it from the jar.

Storage tips for sushi eggs

Proper storage is crucial to maintain the quality and taste of capelin or any other roe. Either you can follow the instructions on the packaging or check out the following points to know more about the storage procedure..

Proper refrigeration

It is the best idea to store any fish roe in the refrigerator inside an airtight container. The low temperature will keep the freshness of the product intact and also restrict the growth of bacteria.

Don’t freeze

If you want to enjoy the delicate taste and texture of masago or other varieties of the same, don’t store it in the freezer. Moreover, consuming it within a couple of days of its purchase is best. Please note that these are exotic ingredients that taste best when fresh. However, the shelf life of ikura is longer comparatively.

Choose the right container

Choosing a container of food-grade plastic or other non-reactive material is essential. In that way, you can ensure that no funky flavors distract the eggs’ delightful taste.

Other tips

  • Avoid exposure to air: Limit exposure to air as much as possible to prevent oxidation, which can affect the taste and appearance of smelt roe.
  • Handle with care: Gently handle smelt roe to avoid bursting the delicate roe sacs, which could affect its texture.

By following these preparation and storage guidelines, you can fully appreciate the unique taste and delicate texture of smelt roe, adding a touch of luxury to your culinary experiences.

what is smelt roe

Final thoughts

If you are a food lover and enthusiastic about trying new things, try fish roe next time. Besides, now that you are aware of what is smelt roe, its benefits and its usage in different cuisines, there are so many options. Therefore, whether you are a sushi lover or more into fusion and continental cuisine, there is a scope of trying smelt egg in a new version every time. You can even try it as salad toppings if you are a conscious eater too!

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