The Nasty Bits: Salmon Roe
Fish eggs, or roe, are harvested from so many kinds of fish and prepared in such innumerable ways that it's difficult to know where to begin.
The Russians are famous for their caviar harvested from sturgeon although red caviar, or salmon roe, is also beloved. The Japanese eat the same red caviar (called ikura) with white rice, either plainly or rolled up in sheets of seaweed. And if you've browsed the food section at Ikea, then you may have noticed that the Swedes are mighty fond of a smoked and salted cod roe paste that's squeezed from a tube onto sandwiches and crackers.
What unifies all these diverse fish egg experiences?
No matter the size of the egg or the species from which it came, fish roe is a globule-shaped vehicle to taste the ocean. Though tiny, roe is so full of flavor that you wonder if what you're tasting is real. That's the sense I get at least when eating a spoonful of black or red caviar—that popping release of briny yet sweet ocean liqueur.
Though you'll pay a hefty price for black caviar, red caviar is just as delicious and a fraction of the cost. It's available at most Japanese or Korean stores where sushi-grade fish is sold, and can also be found packed in glass jars at artisanal food stores.
Salmon roe is very good with blinis and sour cream, or even spooned as is onto buttered toast. A bowl of white rice topped with a layer of ikura is a meal in itself with perhaps a few pickles on the side. For years I ate it straight out of the package before realizing you could cook with it. The Japanese steam ikura with pieces of lightly salted, seared salmon in a variation of another classic dish of chicken and egg (both preparations are plays on the concept of mother and child.) Steamed, the roe still retains its integrity and is milder in taste, losing a bit of the brininess.
Make your scrambled eggs with salmon roe and any fresh herbs of your choice. What the roe lacks in fat, the egg handily provides. The result is a salty, rich, indulgent variation of your typical morning eggs.