Tobiko, or "poor man's caviar," is the roe of the flying fish. It is a popular sushi ingredient, usually served sprinkled on top of maki sushi rolls
or on its own. The eggs are very small, smaller than salmon roe or masago. They often come in various colors; what's the deal?In its natural form, tobiko is bright orange. But when infused with certain flavors, the colors change. The most common colors/flavors are:
• Green (wasabi)
• Red (Beet)
• Black (Squid Ink)
Tobiko is hardy and can hold up to processing better than more fragile fish roes such as sturgeon and salmon, so this makes it cheaper. More fragile fish roes have to be separated by hand; tobiko can be separated in a centrifuge. It can survive being frozen much better than other roes. The texture is crunchy, and the taste is a combination of salty and nutty.
I like to put various flavored tobiko in a chirashi bowl.
I purchased my tobiko at Sun Fat Seafood in San Francisco; each small tub was $2.50 each. It can also be purchased online at Catalina Offshore.
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(Images: Kathryn Hill)