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Roe From A to Z: 26 Things To Know

Roe From A to Z: 26 Things To Know

From Almas to Zakuska, 26 interesting facts and figures about fish eggs: caviar, salmon roe, grey mullet roe and many other roes.

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Almas. The most expensive caviar in the world: the pearly white sturgeon roe fished in the Caspian Sea comes in 24 carat gold tins and can even cost up to 25,000 Euro per kg.

Bottarga. The roe of grey mullet or tuna fish traditionally dried in Italy, primarily in Sardinia and Sicily. The former is amber-coloured whilst the latter is pink, even quite dark in colour and tastier. It may be eaten as a starter or grated onto pasta dishes in the same way as cheese (but never together with cheese!).

Caviar. The roe of sturgeon, a shark-like fish that lives in the sea but goes upriver to spawn. Caviar accounts for an annual market worth several billions of Euro; the world’s greatest producer of caviar is Russia, where it is also fished, followed by France and Spain where sturgeon is farmed.

Dog Salmon. Of the Pacific species belonging to the Oncorhynchus genus of the Salmonidae family living in the cold and temperate waters of the Pacific Ocean, the dog salmon, also known as chum salmon, is considered to be the best for its roe, despite the fact that its flesh is not highly prized.

Erotic high. Sea urchin roe has always been considered an aphrodisiac. It has been discovered that it contains anandamide, a neuromodulator that produces similar effects to the psychoactive compounds in cannabis.

Fish bait. It is probably owing to its high content of Omega3 fatty acids that salmon roe has a strong aroma reminiscent of fish such as mackerel and sardines. Salmon roe, which is bright red with grains that separate easily, has always been used as fish bait.

Gastronomic. The gastronomic term for “roe” is “coral”. Huso huso. The scientific name for the Beluga sturgeon, the only one which mainly feeds off other fish. It can reach a length of 8 m and may even exceed 3 tons in weight. The female of the species reaches maturity when it is around 20 years old and may provide as much as 150 kg of caviar. This caviar has large grains (over 3 mm in diameter) and its colour ranges from pearly grey to dark grey.

Icre Nigre. A spreadable Rumanian delicacy made from carp roe, fresh breadcrumbs, oil and lemon juice, whisked up like a mayonnaise and served with toast, hard boiled eggs and black olives, accompanied by vodka.

Japan. A country where fish roe is most highly appreciated. Among the many noteworthy specialities, Tobiko flying fish roe is particularly appreciated by sushi gourmets, together with the red mullet roe typically consumed in the city of Nagasaki.

Karasumi. This Japanese version of bottarga, together with uni (sea urchin) roe and pickled sea cucumber innards are the three components of the celebrated chinmi – meaning rare tastes/delicacies – of Japanese cuisine. In Taiwan, the city specialized in these products is Tungkang.

Lumpsucker. Lumpsucker roe is very popular. The female of the species lays about 130,000 eggs (amounting to about 600 g roe). Preserved in brine it is sold as a caviar substitute.

Martigues. In France, 'poutargue' – the French Provencal name for bottarga – of which the most famous comes from Martigues is that of grey mullet, often eaten on buttered toast accompanied by a white wine like cassis, côtes-de-provence, muscadet or champagne.

No killing. Fish roe, especially that of sturgeon, is traditionally obtained by killing the fish, a practice that is far from being sustainable. There is, however, an alternative method consisting in a non lethal operation: the belly of the fish is cut open following an ultrasound scan and then stitched up. This is the technique used for instance in Italian fish farming.

Ovaries. The term 'roe', or 'hard roe' refers to the mass of fish eggs which have reached full maturity within the ovaries, or in an external environment, as in the case of some sea creatures like shrimps and sea urchins.

Paste. In Finland and Scandinavian countries a fish roe paste, known as Smörgåskaviar, is extremely popular, made from cod roe and eaten on all occasions, especially at breakfast time.

Quality caviar. Caviar is classified according to its quality, which depends on various factors. Generally speaking, the more expensive varieties have light coloured roe. Such light coloured eggs are said to come from fish that are at least one hundred years old, but their colour also depends on genetic factors.

Ricci. This is the Italian word for “sea urchin”, whose gonads are consumed. A delicacy that is often eaten raw in Mediterranean countries, possibly with a squirt of lemon juice. In Italian cuisine, it is frequently used to make delicious pasta dishes.

Scallop. Scallop roe is actually the curved part embracing the round central muscle. A lot of scallops are hermaphrodites, and many change sex throughout their lifetime. Others have a definite sex and so the males have a roe containing white testicles, whilst that of the females has bright orange ovaries.

Tarama. Cured carp roe or cod roe used to prepare the famous Greek or Turkish speciality, Taramosalata, where it is mixed with lemon, garlic, onions and olives.

Uni. The name given to sea urchins in Japan, a country in which the demand for their roe is huge and sends prices rocketing: it may even cost as much as 400 Euros per kilo. It is served raw in sushi and sashimi.

Vobla. The dried roe of the vobla fish, also known as Caspian roach, are looked on as a delicacy in Russia, a country in which there is no linguistic distinction between roe and caviar, and where the roe of various fish species are widely consumed, such as the savoury cod or pollock roe at breakfast time, and smoked or fried herring roe.

White roe. This term refers to milt, the seminal fluid of fish. In Russian cuisine, white herring roe is pickled, like the rest of the fish, and often eaten together with pickled roe.

Xiaolongbao. The typical steam baked bread rolls from the region of Shanghai. The Nanxiang Bun Shop, a famous eatery of the metropolis which boasts a century old tradition and now also operates in South Korea, Japan and Singapore, serves them filled with crab eggs, a Chinese delicacy.

Yankee. A North American variety of alosa, Alosa sapidissima, the American shad, is employed in the United States for its roe, which is then enjoyed fried with bacon.

Zakuska. The assortment of dishes, hot and cold starters, served prior to meals in Russia, accompanied by vodka, brandy or cognac: no self-respecting host can fail to include caviar on buttered bread.

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