Tobiko and Masago: Fish Eggs Similar and Different

Not Just Garnish on Sushi

If you find a cluster of small eggs atop a clump of rice and bound together by seaweed or sprinkled generously on top of various sushi rolls, you’re looking at fish roe. Fish roe has a number of uses in Japanese cuisine. They are high in vitamins and protein and as well as cholesterol. There are a couple of types of fish roe most frequently used in sushi establishments – tobiko and masago. The main differences in tobiko and masago are that they are the roe (eggs) of different kinds of fish and they have different tastes, colors, and sizes.

Tobiko is a prized sushi roe, valued as a finishing touch and garnish to rolls or enjoyed on its own by true lovers of fish roe. It comes from the roe of tropical flying fish, which have the ability to leap into the air at speeds of over 40 mp/h. Tobiko adds color to many different rolls, including the popular California roll. It also has a very crunchy texture, yet with a mild taste, slightly sweet and salty contrasting with its bright red color. Typically used in sushi, it is a versatile ingredient in other cuisine. Tobiko can be enjoyed on crackers, in omelets, or on salads for example.

Tobiko is nutritionally high in protein, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. However, it is also high in cholesterol content, hence, should be consumed in moderation. But since it is mainly used as garnish and if consumed only as garnish, the levels of cholesterol is not worrisome.

Masago is the roe of Capelin, an Atlantic and Arctic fish, related to the salmon family. It is dull red in color and usually needs to be dyed for a more pleasing appearance. Masago’s taste is similar to Tobiko, but it lacks the same distinctive crunch and is generally a more boring and less versatile ingredient in sushi cuisine. This has not stopped many sushi restaurants from substituting Masago for Tobiko because Masago is cheaper and its unique orange coloring brings a strong aesthetic to sushi presentation.

Masago became a common ingredient in sushi mainly because it’s widely available, the fish itself is sustainable and it adds a variety of dimensions to a sushi roll. Masago is low-calorie but packed with Omega 3 acids. Both Masago and Tobiko have a savory taste however, Masago’s flavor is more subtle than Tobiko though Tobiko is larger in size. Some chefs combine the two. While Tobiko can stand out with its crunchiness, Masago complements the variety of flavors and textures, without being too strong.

Enhancing Sushi Flavors with Fish Roe in Bothell

Have a better appreciation of our sushi selections when they come with Masago or Tobiko. You’ll love the eye-pleasing colors, taste and texture of fresh fish roe, only here at your Japanese restaurant in Bothell.