Tobiko is the Japanese word for the tiny orange-colored eggs (roe) of more than forty species of flying fish. You frequently see this ingredient in a recipe for sushi. But what exactly is Tobiko and where can you buy it? And how many different kinds of Tobiko are there really? I like to explain it to you in this article.
What is Tobiko?
On some sushi rolls like the California Roll, you see those round orange little things on the outside. The orange ingredient you see there on that outside of some sushi rolls is Tobiko.
Tobiko are fish eggs from the flying fish and is frequently used by many sushi chefs as a garnish for sushi. This delicious ingredient gives a nice “bite” to your sushi and provides fine taste explosions while eating sushi. The eggs are crispy and plop nicely and gently in your mouth when you take a piece of sushi.
The Tobiko eggs are not very large. They have a diameter of 0.5 to 0.8 millimeters.
What does Tobiko taste like?
These flying fish eggs are crisp and have a slightly salty taste. But not as salty as most fish eggs such as caviar or eggs from salmon or sturgeon. Tobiko tastes just a little sweeter than these “bombs from the sea.
The beauty of Tobiko is that it goes perfectly with many types of fish as well as sushi rice. That is why it is a great ingredient for many chefs to work with. I sometimes stir it into my spicy Sriracha mayonnaise to give it a fuller flavor. It really works great.
Besides the fact that it tastes delicious and provides great pleasure to your taste buds, Tobiko of course also looks incredibly attractive on a roll of sushi.
What different types and flavors of Tobiko are there?
There are different types of Tobiko available. Each with its own color and its own taste. This flavor is artificially added to the eggs.
The best known and most widely used. Neutral slightly salty taste. The eye-catcher of the world famous California Roll.
Tastes exactly the same as the orange version. Got the black color from squid ink. Add a small amount to a Nigiri Salmon, for example, and you get a fantastic picture on your plate.
This red Tobiko has a slight chile pepper accent and therefore tastes perfect with sushi rolls that could use some spice. I personally use it for my sushi rolls with crayfish. A perfect combination both in terms of color and flavor palette!
The green version of Tobiko not only looks beautiful; it also tastes delicious! Both the color and the taste of this Tobiko come from another well-known flavoring from Japanese cuisine, Wasabi!
The taste of Wasabi goes perfectly with many kinds of sushi. I often use it as an addition to a roll of fresh tuna or, like the sushi below, the Canned Spicy Tuna.
Yellow (or Golden) Tobiko:
Last we have a version that you don’t see appearing too often (yet) on sushi, but I think that’s about to change. The Yellow (aka Golden) Tobiko is harder to come by than the other varieties, but demand is growing fast for it.
This version of Tobiko gets its color from adding Yuzu and citrus. Consequently, the taste is fresher than the other four flavors of Tobiko.
Where can you buy Tobiko?
Well, the hardest question to answer is where to buy Tobiko. I searched for it myself quite a bit because in the big supermarkets it is hardly available. Yes, you can find salmon eggs there, but that is absolutely not the same as Tobiko. So where can you buy Tobiko then?
- The best place to find it is at a very good specialized fish shop. If they don’t have it in their range, they can certainly help you order it from their supplier.
- The second place I recommend is a good oriental supermarket. There you will regularly find this delicacy.
- A third place where they are sure to have it are wholesalers like Sligro and Makro. There it is in the refrigerated section near the fish department. Of course, you have to have a pass to buy from these wholesalers.
How do you store Tobiko?
According to the manufacturer, Tobiko has a shelf life of 12 months, provided the jar has not yet been opened and is kept in the refrigerator or freezer.
In fact, you can also store Tobiko well in the freezer. This is ideal if you only need a small amount. You then take a scoop and let it thaw quietly so you can use it on your sushi. Be very careful to do this with a clean spoon so no mold can develop. This is extra important if you keep your Tobiko in the refrigerator after you open it.
In the freezer at -18 degrees it will keep well for about three months.
What can you make with it?
There are an awful lot of delicious recipes of special sushi in which Tobiko is used. As a flavor enhancer or just as a decoration to embellish an image of a particular sushi.
Are you curious about what delicious recipes these are? Then sign up now for my home sushi making course and make these wonderful creations too!