You might be familiar with caviar. The eggs of the sturgeon fish are an expensive Russian delicacy that has come to be appreciated around the world for its rich and subtle flavor.
Caviar is a type of roe or fish’s eggs, just like Tobiko. However, Tobiko is the roe of the flying fish, rather than the sturgeon.
Unlike caviar, Tobiko is affordable enough that average people can add it to their sushi as a beautiful garnish that also delivers a layer of bright, interesting flavor.
What Is Tobiko?
Tobiko is the roe of the flying fish, a common fish in Japanese waters. The eggs are smaller than ikura (salmon roe), but larger than masago (capelin roe), ranging from 0.5mm to 0.8mm, and are a bright red-orange or gold color.
Tobiko is a common garnish for sushi, contributing a bright pop of color as well as a distinctive flavor. However, it can also be made into its own sushi roll.
When tobiko is taken from flying fish, it is salt-cured, which gives it a salty and slightly smoky taste. Fresh tobiko doesn’t have a strong flavor, but it develops during salt curing.
What Does Tobiko Look Like?
Tobiko is a kind of fish eggs or roe, and it looks like a mass or pile of many, many tiny eggs. Tobiko is golden, orange, or light red, and the individual eggs are each less than 1mm.
They are too small to eat individually, but in larger masses, they have a distinctive and interesting taste.
The tobiko you find in your local grocery store may come in different colors, but these are all variations of the same ingredient. These other versions of tobiko are dyed to produce an aesthetic effect.
What Texture Does Tobiko have?
The texture of Tobiko is one of the most fascinating and enjoyable parts of eating it!
Initially, when you bite into tobiko, you can feel the graininess of all the small eggs.
When you bite down, a sweetness will be revealed as the tobiko bursts into your mouth with a salty, smoky, umami flavor and you can savor a creamier texture from the contents of the eggs, rather than their exteriors.
The initial texture of tobiko is grainy and a little crunchy, but as you chew the flavor emerges and the texture becomes smooth and creamy.
Types Of Tobiko?
There are several different types of tobiko you can buy. They are all the eggs of flying fish, but they are dyed using other ingredients to create a visual effect as garnishes.
- Orange/Red Tobiko is the default, unchanged, salt-cured version of tobiko
- Black tobiko has been dyed black with squid ink.
- Green tobiko has been dyed with wasabi and is therefore much hotter and spicier than other tobiko.
- Red Tobiko has been dyed with beets
- Yellow Tobiko has been dyed with Yuzu
Where Does Tobiko Come From?
The Japanese flying fish, also known as Cheilopogon agoo, is a small fish with fins that enable it to leap out of the water.
Flying fish are used to make some types of sushi. They are very small, oily fish that taste similar to sardines.
Tobiko is the eggs, or roe, of flying fish. It is harvested not by catching or killing flying fish and removing the unfertilized eggs, but by taking advantage of the natural behavior of flying fish, which always lay their eggs on a floating platform of seaweed or kelp.
Skilled and knowledgeable fishermen can create a kind of seaweed ball that attracts female flying fish to lay their eggs on it.
With careful timing and close attention, they park their fishing boats and wait until enough roe has accumulated to haul in their load and separate the roe from the seaweed.
This technique allows fishermen to harvest a lot of tobiko at one time, without killing all of the flying fish. However, fisheries need to show restraint in harvesting anything from the sea.
If there aren’t enough tobiko that actually get fertilized in the ocean and hatch, there won’t be another generation of flying fish.
Is Tobiko Healthy?
Tobiko is a very healthy food that is packed with important vitamins and nutrients that your body needs.
Although most people eat tobiko in very small portions, as a garnish on sushi and sashimi, etc, it contains high amounts of important nutrients and can be a significant part of a healthy diet.
Tobiko has plenty of healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids that we all need more of. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and may help brain function.
It also has more than enough protein. Tobiko has an exceptional amount of protein per serving while remaining low in carbohydrates and sugars.
It also has important vitamins and minerals, like vitamin A, iron, and calcium.
It’s not all good news when it comes to Tobiko, however. You should restrict your intake because Tobiko is high in both cholesterol and sodium.
If you enjoy small amounts of tobiko as a garnish, you shouldn’t have any issues due to the small portion sizes,
but if you eat large amounts of tobiko every day you would be increasing your risk for heart disease and other chronic illnesses in the future.
What Are The Dangers Of Eating Tobiko?
It is safe to eat Tobiko in moderation, but overconsumption could put your health in danger in the long run.
Tobiko is high in both sodium and cholesterol, which both have an impact on cardiovascular and heart health.
If you want to protect yourself from heart disease, limit the amount of Tobiko you eat so that you are well within the recommended daily limits for both sodium and cholesterol.
How Do You Eat Tobiko?
The most common and popular way to enjoy tobiko is as a bright garnish on sushi and sashimi. The golden red color of tobiko is eye-catching and attractive, and the way the roe bursts with flavor in your mouth is delicious.
You can eat tobiko on many other foods too – other types of fish, rice, crackers, omelets, cheese, and even in ramen.
If you have enough to spare, you might enjoy eating tobiko right out of the jar!
How Can I Store Tobiko?
Roe can spoil very quickly, so it’s best not to open your tobiko until you are ready to eat it.
You can keep an unopened, airtight jar of tobiko in your refrigerator for up to 20 days. Once you open it, you should try to use the tobiko in the next 3-4 days for the best results.
Can You Freeze Tobiko?
Yes! Tobiko freezes very well, without a loss of flavor and texture.
Add your tobiko to an airtight container and put it in the freezer. It should be good in the freezer for up to 3 months, as long as you don’t defrost and refreeze it.
Remember that it can be hard to scoop tobiko when it is frozen together in a mass, so separate piles or cubes or containers of tobiko if you want to get some of it out of the freezer and leave the rest in.
How To Tell If Tobiko Is bad?
When tobiko spoils, it has an unhealthy, fishy, rancid smell. This bad odor develops quickly.
If you leave spoiled tobiko long enough, it will begin to develop black dots, and could even attract mold.
Make sure to use your fresh tobiko as soon as you can to avoid spoilage, and never eat any tobiko that you are unsure of since you could get very sick. When in doubt, throw it out.
Tobiko Vs. Masago
Tobiko is the roe of the flying fish, while masago is the roe of the capelin.
Masago is generally cheaper than tobiko and has a duller, less intense flavor.
The smoky, salty, and bright citrus flavors of tobiko are much more muted in masago, and although both look interesting and beautiful on sushi, tobiko is often preferred for its more intense and direct flavor.
However, if you don’t like fishy smells or intense fish flavor, masago might taste better for you. It contains much of the same flavor with less intensity, so it can be less overwhelming and more welcoming to those who are ambivalent about fish.
Tobiko Nutritional Information
|per 12g serving of Tobiko, according to Intershell Seafood
Quick Table: 3 Tobiko Taste Recipes
|Tobiko Salmon Mayo Rice
|Inari Tobiko Sushi Roll
This recipe is a “double omelet” using both fish eggs and chicken eggs! The mix creates a really extraordinary flavor, with a burst of tobiko in every mouthful and a full umami, fishy flavor.
It is simple to make, and despite its elevated gourmet ingredients, this omelet is a hit with everyone, including kids.
With oyster sauce, sesame oil, and sake, this is definitely not the omelet you are used to in the first place. This is a very Asian-style omelet, with interesting and challenging flavors that you might not be familiar with, but are destined to fall in love with.
Calories Per Serving: 70
Preparation Time: 25 Minutes
This delicious casserole dish uses Japanese mayo mixed with Sri Racha sauce and tobiko as a unifying flavor, holding together rice, nori, and half-cooked salmon.
The strong, rich, meaty flavors in this dish all work together, and tobiko is the highlight, permeating every mouthful.
You can easily make adjustments to this for your taste preferences. For example, you can cook the salmon if you are uncomfortable with leaving it half-cooked, or you could remove half of the hot sauce called for if heat is not your thing.
The one thing you don’t want to mess with is the hot mayo and tobiko combination that pulls this dish together. It is delicious and not to be missed.
Calories Per Serving: 120
Preparation Time: 40 Minutes
Tobiko is commonly enjoyed as an extra flavor or garnish on top of sushi rolls, but in this recipe for inari sushi, it is tobiko that is the star of the show.
This simple recipe has only 7 ingredients, including inari wrappers, and is both quick and easy to make.
The simple flavors involved – the seasoned rice, the inari wrapper, the mayo, and the scallions – highlight how bright, rich and interesting the flavor of tobiko is, without overshadowing it.
If you love the flavor of tobiko, you owe it to yourself to sample this delicious dish, where you can taste it in one of its purest forms along with ingredients that complement it perfectly.
Calories Per Serving: 100
Preparation Time: 30 Minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Tobiko Fishy Tasting?
The flavor of tobiko is primarily salty and smokey, but it has a distinctly fishy umami flavor. It doesn’t taste exactly like fish, and the “fishy” taste isn’t overpowering, but the bright and intense flavor of tobiko is noticeably fishier than the muted masago.
If you are trying to avoid a “fishy” taste, rather than chasing after a burst of fishy umami flavor, you’ll probably be happier with masago than tobiko. Masago is salty and delicious, with a flavor that is mellower and less fishy.
Is It Healthy To Eat Tobiko?
Yes! Tobiko is full of important nutrients and minerals that can support your health. It is packed with protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases and improve your brain health.
However, you don’t want to eat too much tobiko. Although there is plenty of nutrition in this delicious ingredient, there is also a lot of sodium and cholesterol.
Over time, increased sodium and cholesterol could increase inflammation and your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Tobiko is a healthy food that is great in moderation but isn’t very healthy if you eat a lot of it.
Can You Eat Tobiko Raw?
Tobiko is most commonly eaten raw, on sushi and sashimi.
Although it is possible to cook tobiko and many do in different dishes, the raw flavor is brighter and more intense than the flavor of cooked tobiko and makes a greater impression.
Many prefer tobiko raw, and it is both healthy and delicious to eat it that way.
Does Tobiko Have Fish In It?
Tobiko is the roe (fish eggs) of the Japanese flying fish. Therefore, asking “does Tobiko have fish in it?” is kind of like asking “does an egg have chicken in it?”
Tobiko are unfertilized eggs – they are not technically fish. However, they come from a mother fish’s body and if they were fertilized they could grow up to become fish.
The flavor of tobiko is different than the flavor of flying fish, but it does have a rich, salty, smokey, umami fish flavor.
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