IS SALMON ROE CAVIAR?
First, let us see what the connection between “true” caviar and salmon roe categorized as red caviar is.
Actually, all fish have roe, and some of it is treated and handled the same way as “real” caviar. You see, caviar is a word reserved only for the roe coming from the sturgeon, a fish native to the Caspian and Black Sea basin. Salmon roe belongs to another group that is often labeled simply as fish roe.
However, salmon roe has been and still is a part of many national cuisines. The Russians are undoubtedly most known for their Russian “black” caviar but that one can sometimes be quite pricy. The much cheaper and more easily accessible salmon roe is often seen as a more beloved option.
The Japanese eat salmon roe with rice. It is known there as ikura. If you walked by a sushi bar, you would certainly find these eggs on the menu. A Japanese or Korean store where sushi-grade fish is sold is a place where red caviar can be found.
Last, but not the least, Swedes are mighty fond of smoked and salted cod roe paste. But what is this saying of red caviar?
Maybe the aristocracy prefers wild sturgeon caviar, but there is nothing wrong with a slice of toast, some crème on it, and a little bit of red caviar.
Red caviar represents a group of roe that has been washed and salted. In this group we can find other fish, such as tobiko or masago. When the eggs are removed from the fish they are fiery red. This clear blood orange color is changed to cloudy orange once the salt is added. The preparation requires that the membrane (in which the eggs are held) is rinsed after the initial salting. This turns its tone from misty into clear and glossy.
The orangey-red color is the trademark of salmon roe, but it’s not just the color that sets black caviar apart from red caviar.
THE TASTE OF SALMON ROE
Since salmon roe is not as expensive as sturgeon caviar, it is readily available, so I suggest you make a visit to your favorite store or if you are not sure where to look, check here and we can give you a hand.
I can tell you right away that talking about salmon roe’s taste is not going to mean much, when comparing with the real deal, but I’m going to give it my best shot.
As with all caviars and quasi caviars the two most dominant taste paths are the freshness and the slight saltiness. Take a spoonful in your mouth and listen to the sound of the sea as the most amazing thing happens. The tiny orbs burst in your mouth with incredible flavors that spell out only one word – more.
The salmon roe has one more trick in its sleeve. It is less salty than the sturgeon caviar (although this varies depending on how salted the caviars are). The briny and yet sweet flavor is an important thing as this combination releases the umami.
Described as the most satisfactory experience that food can provide, the unique umami of the salmon roe is the main reason it is so sought out in Japanese and Korean cuisine.
The roe is firmer and will release a loud pop when pressed by the tongue.
The main difference between salmon roe and all the other caviar types is that it pulls the unique salty-sweet aroma of the salmon fish itself.
My recommendation, when discussing taste, it would be so much more beneficial if you could experience it firsthand. Check the salmon roe from Bond Caviar, a truly perfect delight.
Some most famous salmon are the King-Chinnock, Silver-Coho, Red-Sockeye, Pink-Humpy and Chum salmon. Chum salmon is one of the best to make caviar from, its egg sacks (known as skeins) are large and can reach half an inch in size.
North American salmon caviar usually comes from the Chum and Silver Salmon that live in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, or the Chinook salmon, found in the Great Lakes.
The orange color comes from a group of antioxidant pigments known as carotenoids. These are obtained through the salmons’ diet. They deposit the pigment in both their skin and eggs during the preparation for spawning. That protects the tissue from oxidative damage, helping regulate the immune response.
Everybody knows that salmon, no matter the variety, is packed with nutrients. These are mainly omega-3 fatty acids, but also some other minerals and vitamins. All of that is directly transferred to eggs which are even more packed than the salmon itself.
In a spawning adult, the red color is a signal of health, and is used to attract mates.
King Salmon eggs are the perfect color orange and mild in taste.
The Japanese ikura is salmon roe cured only with sea salt.
When in chunks, the roe is called “sujiko”. It becomes “ikura” when the ovaries are loosened. When topped on rice it tends to spill out easily and that is the reason why it’s commonly made into Gunkanmaki which as an oval-shaped sushi wrapped around with a strip of seaweed.
Ikuracan be steamed with pieces of salted and seared salmon as a variation of another classic dish with chicken and egg.
Immature roe has a weaker sac which will break as it is separated from the skein. Japanese connoisseurs are familiar with this and can distinguish between older and younger salmon. The most valued salmon in Japan is the Chum Salmon.
AT THE TABLE
The eggs can be used as garnish but also as a stand-alone dish, accompanied with different accessories. Because the salmon fish has scales the food is considered kosher.
The standard pairing as with any caviar would be with blinis. They have a lovely earthly flavor that comes from buckwheat flour. They are also a bit buttery and make a perfect combo with salmon roe. I suggest that you check out this simple and yet amazing recipe at Bond Caviar.
The more Asian way would be to take it with rice. If not taken as sushi, there are still other ways – only the sky’s the limit!
It can be taken on canapés, solo, just with a spoon, as a garnish, with crème fraiche, salmon lox, and dill as an appetizer.
You can even prepare red caviar yourself. If you happen to know a fisherman or if you find it in your local fish shop, rest assured that there is a way you can have it on your own plate.
No matter how you try to take it, it’s going to be a positive experience.
With caviar it’s the same as it is with wine. You simply have to try it all.