Thursday, June 25, 2015
The eggs and I
I love fish eggs. Just think of them. Such small beads, translucent tiny globes, bright jewels that break on the tongue and release the pure essence of the sea.
Caviar is the first thing that comes to mind when considering fish eggs. Traditionally, this refers to the roe of wild sturgeon in the Black and Caspian Seas, rare and costing almost $200 an ounce.
At that cost, I think I've only tasted real caviar perhaps once or twice in my life.
But you don't have to break the bank to enjoy fish eggs - there are plenty of other, less expensive varieties of roe to try.
Japanese cuisine prizes fish roe, and tobiko, or flying fish roe is one of my very favorite roes. Americans have become familiar with it in sushi bars, where it's used as a garnish for fancy rolls Its tiny eggs are firm and pop nicely in the mouth. Naturally orange in color, it can be dyed with natural ingredients, such as squid ink black, beets for crimson, yuzu for golden, or wasabi to make it green and give it a spicy tingle.
It's not just for sushi, either. I saw a recipe online for tossing tobiko and shiso leaf with spaghetti, I'm dying to try it!
Manhattan's Lower East Side purveyor Russ and Daughters makes a fine sandwich using wasabi tobiko called the Fancy Delancey - smoked tuna and dill-infused cream cheese on a bialy, with a generous layer of wasabi tobiko.
I had a craving for tobiko the other day which drew me to a Japanese market nearby in West Los Angeles. They had packaged sushi, with volcano rolls frosted with tobiko, or boxed assorted nigiri-zushi with a single tobiko gunkan-maki in the center.
But then I saw it. There, in the refrigerator case, was a small plastic container of tobiko. Pure. by itself.
How could I resist?
It was such a guilty pleasure to sit alone and chopstick up mouthfuls of roe. Though tobiko is briny and tastes of the ocean, there's also an underlying sweetness I can savor when I eat it like this, all by itself without rice or other ingredients to get in the way. There's also a slight bitter finish that makes me crave the salty-sweetness of another bite.
And of course, there's the sensation of the little beads bursting in my mouth, between my teeth, a pop-crunch that's simply addictive.
Such little eggs! It makes me feel so greedy!
Now, go away and let me feast!