From television and movies, most people have a decent understanding that caviar is a delicacy; a rich food made for rich people. Children and those who have simply never made the connection, are often a bit grossed out to hear that caviar actually consists of salted and cured ripe fish ovaries, or egg masses of fish. The traditional ‘caviar’ comes from sturgeon roe, and is a product of Eastern Europe and Russia. Various cultures, however, have their own version of caviar, with the roe coming from seafood species as varied as shrimp, crab, sea urchin, scallop and salmon. In Japan, for example, salmon roe is known as ikura caviar and can often be found atop dishes or delicacies like sushi. It’s not expensive to buy such a product everywhere, but in the many regions of the world where it’s considered a delicacy, roe can be quite a splurge.
Those looking to impress friends, coworkers or guests with a dinner or cocktail party can use salmon roe to really kick up the culinary palette a notch. While true caviar has far more complex flavor, the salmon version is also considered extremely desirable by those with refined palettes. The difficultly of maintaining the product fresh, whole and crisp, as in each individual roe, is what drives the price up most often. Keep this in mind when purchasing roe, especially that from salmon. Ask to sample the roe before purchasing, looking out for crisp roe that really ‘pop’ in your mouth when pressed against the roof or between teeth. A light oil should be release from the roe, and the flavor should be fresh and fishy. If the roe is soft, greasy and overall unpleasant to eat, it should be returned or exchanged to the market, especially if it was an expensive purchase.
Often, the best salmon roe will be lightly salted, and well be kept chilled. As such, it can be a great addition to any sushi platter, cracker and cheese buffet spread, or even on top of other bite sized hors d’ oeuvres like deviled eggs. With a little bit of roe on top of any treat it can be instantly ten times classier, and of course tastier! Most of the time it is best to eat the salmon roe cold, and without many competing flavors. This allows the true flavors and delicacy of the roe to come through. Some recipes will call for heating of the roe, but generally this should be reserved for those with experience as it can easily be ruined in terms of both texture and flavor.