There's just something about salty spheres of fish roe that amplifies the taste of the sea. Whether it's the large, juicy roe of salmon or the almost gritty breadcrumb-y texture of bottarga, it's generally accepted that adding roe to a dish adds a touch of luxury and 'wow' factor to any meal.
Still confused about how exactly to use it? Don't worry, we're here to help. P.S. It doesn't require you to have a mother-of-pearl spoon, either!
Call it bottarga, butarga, or even avgotaraho, this "caviar of the south" is made from curing and drying mullet or tuna roe. Whole roe sacs are sold in pairs (and in some variations, coated in beeswax), and are enjoyed sliced, fried, or grated over your dish of choice.
The Japanese have a long-standing tradition of using all types of roe in their dishes, and a popular one is tobiko, which is flying fish roe that has been cured but not dried. Small and orange, these are commonly used on gunkan (sushi shaped like little boats or ships), or as a topping on dishes like salads, noodles and chirashi to add texture and a salty hit.
Bonus tip: if you're reading a Japanese menu and are unsure, the 'ko' ending can sometimes be a clue. 'ko' can mean 'children' in Japanese, and refers to the roe of the seafood preceding it. Ebiko = roe of ebi (prawn), tarako = roe of tara (cod) and so on.
Ah, the golden liquid-centred spheres of salmon roe that has appeared on many a brunch menu in Sydney. Its distinctly salty goodness pairs especially well with creamy ingredients like sour cream, mayonnaise and avocado, and because of the liquid centre and size of the egg, you don't have to use a whole lot for it to come to great effect. Can't find salmon roe? Trout roe also has a similar flavour profile and is also sold in jars at delis and fishmongers'.
Popular in Sweden, lumpfish roe is about the same size as tobiko, but more mildly flavoured and saltier. These are sometimes known as the poor man's caviar, and are used in a similar way to salmon roe - use it to top sour cream blinis, to upgrade your egg salad, or even as a garnish on your avo on toast!
Mentaiko and tarako are made from Alaskan pollack roe or cod roe and are a speciality of the Fukuoka region. Intensely salty, these are sometimes served to accent rich dishes like ramen, or more commonly mixed with mayonnaise or cream to create a sauce of sorts. Mentaiko mayonnaise (Mentai muyo) is so commonly enjoyed that it's even found as a filling in onigiri sold in convenience stores!
Okay, so this one is a little bit left of field, but sea urchin roe is still technically roe, and we're going to include it as an honorary member of this list! Harvested from the spiky sea urchin, these 'tongues' of roe range from a bright yellow to a dirty mustard colour. The Maoris in New Zealand cook it in its shell by piercing a hole in the top to let the steam vent, but you can use its briny sweetness and creamy texture to enhance starchy dishes like risotto and pasta. Pro tip: sea urchin is at its best during the warmer months, so pick your season carefully!
“As caviar is such a decadent product and possesses a unique, subtle flavour, it’s important not to do too much to it. Combining caviar with scallops and avocado compliments the delicacy really well. Here, I've used Exmoor sturgeon caviar along with smoked the sturgeon itself. If you can’t find caviar, use salmon roe or flying fish roe instead. ” Luke Nguyen, Luke Nguyen's United Kingdom
The witlof leaf is used here as a mini-bowl, leaving your other hand free for a cocktail or glass of bubbles.
Hokkaido in Japan is famous for four different varieties of crab, but the hairy crab (named for its hairy claws) is considered by many to be the sweetest and most delicate. In this dish, served at two Michelin-starred Kappo Okada, the natural sweetness of the crab is accentuated by smoking it with houjicha green tea, and serving it with nutty brown rice and the light, bursting texture of salmon roe.
Japanese pasta recipes are a wonder unto themselves. Using Japanese ingredients that cross over into Italian cuisine, such as dried mullet roe (karasumi in Japanese, bottarga in Italian) and sea urchin, these dishes are close to their Italian ancestors. This simple sea urchin pasta is Hokkaido in a nutshell, combining the taste of the cold weather sea urchin with famed Hokkaido cream.