If you have ever tried Japanese sushi then you noticed some bright-colored things on top of them. They usually are added as a topping on different sushi rolls. These are known as tobiko which is a Japanese term for ‘flying fish roe’.
Tobiko eggs are very distinctive looking with their super small size. They usually range between 0.5 to 0.8 mm in diameter.
Most of the restaurants add colors or wasabi to tobiko eggs. But if they are natural without any added condiments, they have a reddish-orange color.
This color can change depending on what you mix with it. They can turn green, black or light pink too.
Let’s find more about it!
What is Tobiko in Sushi?
Tobiko is used as a topping for sushi dishes to make them look more appealing and delicious. This garnish is commonly used in raw Japanese dishes as it adds a salty, smokiness to it.
There are a few different types of flying fish roe that is used interchangeably in Japanese dishes. Tobiko, masago, and ikura are some of the most common types.
Masago eggs are visually very different from Tobiko as they are even smaller in size. Ikura is basically Japanese salmon eggs which makes them the Japanese version of caviar.
Even though tobiko is not that known in the west, you can find them in many grocery stores in Japan. They come in a wide range and packaging. All you have to do is grab a spoon and take as much as needed.
What’s the Difference between Tobiko and Masago?
Masago and tobiko both are the roe of the capelin fish. This means they have a lot of similarities. Despite how interchangeable they are, a keen eye can spot the differences at a first glance.
Masago’s color is dull compared to tobiko which is bright red/orange. Masago is often dyed or mixed with other condiments to change its look and appeal.
The taste of masago is not similar to tobiko. Masago is not as crunchy and is a juicer. It looks smaller than tobiko. Masago actually looks a lot like sand as the eggs are super small.
What is Black Tobiko?
Black tobiko is basically tobiko that has been dyed with either squid ink or food colorings. The color can vary from deep blackish-red to green.
Tobiko eggs absorb colors very well which is why sushi chefs like to use different colors for different dishes. This not only makes them look unique, but it also adds to the appeal of the dish.
To color tobiko eggs, chefs use beetroot for red, wasabi for green, and of course squid ink for jet black.
One color you won’t find in tobiko is blue. Blue is a very rare color to find.
There are however some species of fish that produce natural blue roe in Australia. Actually, there is a wide range of fish roe all around the world and each has its uniqueness. But we will get to that some other day.
How Do You Eat Tobiko Sushi?
You probably have eaten tobiko many times before without knowing or realizing it. How can’t you! They are everywhere in Japanese sushi places.
They have been around for a long time yet we never realized they are fish eggs. The difference is, people are now curious about what they are eating thanks to the internet!
Eating tobiko sushi is quite simple. They are added on top of the sushi to give a vibrant color. Tobiko is used as a topping or garnish. So next time when you eat sushi with chopsticks, notice the tiny balls on top of the sushi rice.
They look colorful and delicious. You can add a bit of ginger or wasabi on top of the tobiko eggs to enhance the smokiness of the roe.
How to Make Tobiko Sushi?
If you want to make tobiko sushi at home, it’s pretty easy to do. If you have made sushi before, this will take only 10-15 minutes for you. So here’s how to make tobiko sushi:
- 4-5 tablespoons of tobiko eggs
- Half a cup of sushi rice (cooked)
- One nori sheet
- Your favorite veggies. (cucumber, carrots, etc.)
- Put on your gloves and get your hands before handling the sushi rice. Sushi rice tends to be very sticky so this helps to prevent mess.
- Grab a handful of sushi rice and add small ovals that look around 2-3 inches long.
- Take your nori sheet and cut it at 1-2 inches in width. Then wrap it around your rice. The nori seaweed helps to keep the rice protected. So when you use your chopsticks to eat it, the whole thing does not break into pieces.
- When you are wrapping the nori strip, make sure to leave a little space above the rice. This is where the tobiko goes.
- Use water to seal the nori together.
- Push some rice down and make a small dip. Add your tobiko on top of the rice. After you are done, serve the sushi immediately. Tobiko sushi tends to get soggy quickly. So eat as soon as possible.
- Add wasabi, grated ginger, and soy sauce to the platter to enhance the taste of the tobiko eggs.
See how easy it is? Tobiko sushi is probably the easiest type to make. So try next time with your family and friends!
Where to Find Tobiko for Your Sushi?
Tobiko is not a very known ingredient. So your best bet is the local Asian stores. Look for Japanese grocery stores in your area. They definitely carry more than one type of tobiko.
We recommend going for the smaller size the first time. You don’t need a lot of it anyway unless you are making tons of sushi for everyone.
If you can’t find it anywhere, oh well there’s always amazon. We like the Bemka Flying Fish Roe Caviar for fresh tobiko roe.
How to Eat Tobiko in Other Dishes
Nobody said you can only eat tobiko with sushi and sashimi. In fact, there is a wide range of ways you can enjoy tobiko and add it to your usual diet!
- Tobiko Pasta: We just love adding a tablespoon of tobiko on top of freshly made pasta. If you are making creamy pasta with a cheesy sauce, add some tobiko on top as garnish.
The small salty bites will balance out the creaminess with a hint of smokiness. Who doesn’t want that!
- Dips: Imagine adding tobiko to nachos or crackers. It will taste divine especially with some lemon zest on top.
- Salads: This is actually the simplest way to add extra nutrition and protein to your salad. The salad not only will look more colorful but it will also last taste delicious!
Frequently Asked Questions
01. Is Tobiko the Same as Caviar?
Tobiko is not actually the same as caviar. Even though they might look similar in color and size, tobiko is saltier. It’s made by salt-uring the fish roe which gives it the intense smoky and salty taste.
Despite the salt, tobiko is much sweeter than caviar. Tobiko can be made from any fish roe whereas caviar is specifically made from fish eggs of a sturgeon.
02. What is Tobiko Eggs Made of?
Tobiko eggs are made of a type of fish roe. It can look very similar to salmon eggs. It has a very different texture and taste from other types of fish roe like caviar.
Tobiko is very popular in Japan and it actually has much smaller eggs than other fish species. It looks vibrant, bright reddish in color. Some people think tobiko eggs are not real eggs.
That’s a misconception. Tobiko basically comes from flying fish species. Their eggs look so colorful and tiny that people assume it’s not real.
03. What Does Tobiko Eggs Taste Like?
Tobiko eggs have a very distinct and unique taste which makes them so popular. They are salty and smoky without being overpowering.
Even though it’s so salty, it has a note of sweetness as well. When you bite into them, instead of popping like caviar, they feel crunchy. This gives them a very pleasurable mouthfeel.
04. Is Tobiko Fake?
No, tobiko is not fake! Due to their bright orange color and super small eggs, tobiko looks like cartoon food, in a good way of course!
But they are anything but fake. Tobiko roe comes from a type of flying fish. They are super popular in sushi and other Japanese dishes due to their unique texture and flavor profile. It adds a hint of umami to any dish.
05. Is Tobiko Bad for You?
Tobiko is rich in protein and fatty acids. It has omega-3 fatty acids which are amazing for our heart and liver. These fatty acids help to reduce inflammation and help our brain to function better. If you have a weak immune system, adding tobiko to your diet can boost it very fast.
However, tobiko contains a high level of cholesterol which can be damaging for high blood pressure patients. Eat it in moderation if you are diabetic or overweight.
Typically, tobiko is served in smaller portions anyway. So it’s not a big issue.
06. What is Roe in Sushi?
Roe is basically fish eggs. When fish eggs are fully ripe they look bright red or orange in color, this is the best time to eat them. Fish roe is a very common ingredient in Japanese cuisine.
They are added in both cooked and uncooked manner to dishes. A lot of Japanese sushi is covered in fish roe which adds a salty, smoky flavor to the food.
It melts in your mouth and gives you that umami sensation we all love. In case you are wondering, fish roe does not smell or taste fishy at all.
No wonder tobiko is so cherished and loved by so many people. Just a small dash of tobiko completes the dish.
We just love the crunchy texture of tobiko in different recipes. Don’t hesitate to try tobiko with different dishes. You will be pleasantly surprised by how good it tastes!