In a culinary context, roe refers to the fully ripe internal egg masses released from the ovaries of certain fish and shellfish. It can be served cooked or raw, as a delicacy called caviar or as an ingredient to prepare other dishes. The word can also describe the roe of other marine animals, such as sea urchins or lobsters. Caviar is often sold in jars and is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health.
If you’ve been to a sushi restaurant, you may have tried flying fish eggs, or tobiko, that are usually a vibrant orange and used as a garnish on maki (AKA sushi rolls). These are actually a type of salmon roe. They are a bit larger than masago and have more of a crunch to them. They are commonly dyed using squid ink to achieve different colors.
Another common fish egg is tarako, which is also referred to as cod or pollock roe. It is encased in a plain, salty membrane and has a tender, salty flavor. It’s also a great source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
You might have also encountered ikura, which is the small, bright-red salmon roe served on many sushi rolls and in sashimi slices. It’s a very popular sushi topping that’s also known as the king of fish eggs. Another cured roe that’s sometimes found in jars is botargo, which is a traditional Italian preparation made by rubbing smoked roe on thin crackers and serving it like an appetizer.