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Masago: What is it? And should you eat Masago?

When it comes to trying out new foods, one of the most confusing aspects stems from knowing what you will be eating. Trying out a new restaurant? Then you might come across something on the menu you have never seen before. 

This is particularly common when visiting restaurants which sell various forms of seafood. With that in mind, you might wish to focus on something new to try. Next time you are in a restaurant, then, be sure to look out for something in particular: Masago.

Masago? What is that?

The name itself can sound quite off-putting, but it should not be. Masago is one of the most popular dishes for those who enjoy fish-based products. Masago, though, is often called Masago sushi. We’ll get to that in a moment, but for now let us focus on what the actual product is – and whether or not you would like it based on what you typically eat.

This is a form of fish roe, which are fully ripened fish eggs which are commonly found from fish including salmon and herring. Sturgeon also have a habit of leaving behind fish roe like this. Masago, though, is the fish roe that has come from a very specific fish: a Capelin.

Capelins are a tiny fish which is found in the waters around the Arctic, the North Pacific, and the North Atlantic. As such, they are quite a plentiful form of fish and as such tend to turn up quite a lot. Masago, though, is not a product that is anywhere near as common. Despite their prevalence in certain parts of the world, Masago is a mostly common dish in Asian culinary circles.

This particular food has become a popular add-on in many Asian cuisines it’s considered a very specialist product, too, and the distinctive and particular taste that it can give off is very impressive indeed. This is why quite a lot of people tend to be drawn to the dish. 

If you are a fan of foods that come with a very specific taste then you might find the concept of trying out Masago quite exciting. It has become popular in culinary circles for many reasons, but he fact that it has such a large following in Asia also stems from the fact that it has one of the most specific tastes found in seafood.

How is Masago developed?

The actual process for the creation of Masago can be quite confusing if you are not used to the process. So, Masago is also known by some as smelt roe because it comes from the capelin fish which is a part of the wider smelt family of fish.

These tiny fish, considered to be part of the forage fish variety, are often seen as a food source for larger aquatic life. However, despite resembling sardines, they are not often used as a direct source of food. Indeed, Masago is actually the main reason why many fishers will look to capture capelin in the first place. Since they are one of the less desirable fish for some people, capelin are often used for their Masago as much as for their own use as a food source.

Indeed, it is estimated that around one fifth of all capelin captured are used to try and make Masago from their presence. Since female capelin will start to release eggs within two to four years and continue to do so until the day they die, there is ample chance for large-scale extraction.

When the fish are full of eggs and are not able to spawn the eggs just yet, they are harvested for the Masago.

What does Masago look like?

You will often find Masago in various different seafood products. it has a pale, almost yellowish tone to it. Some groups, though, will put food dye into their Masago to give it more colourful and creative hues. This, though, is not always the case; though it is common to find bright red, green, or orange Masago.  

Masago is commonly referred to by some as Masago sushi; this is because it is often found in sushi rolls. The flavour tends to be quite mild, despite having a very distinctive taste on its own. When blended with other popular delicacies such as ginger, it can help to make the taste of the other ingredients become even more intense on the tongue.

So, is Masago sushi? It depends how you look at it. It is often used in sushi, but it would be rare to find a Masago-only sushi. Many people do not realise this, and that is something to keep in mind. You can buy Masago sushi, but it will merely be part of the entire packaging in the sushi roll itself.

What Masago is not, though, is tobiko.

Masago and Tobiko: What is the difference?

A common misconception among those who are new to the world of culinary seafood is the difference between masago and tobiko. Tobiko is the eggs, or the roe, of a particular kind of flying fish. While they have many similarities and do share a large variety of profiles, they are by no means identical to one another.

It is an important distinction to make as many people are not aware that there is much of a difference. For one, tobiko is typically far more expensive – it is seen as a much more costly delicacy to capture and create. However, it is also typically much larger than a masago product. This is why many people choose to use masago in their sushi rolls; they can pack more of the product into the sushi roll without excess expenditure.

Masago is also a much more natural colour and tone, whereas tobiko is naturally a much brighter and vibrant colour. Today, though, you will often find masago that has been packed with food dye in a bid to make it look more like its more expensive competitor.

Is masago caviar?

Another common misconception about the product is that masago is a form of caviar. Caviar, though, in the strictest sense, is the roe that comes from the sturgeon form of fish alone. However, caviar has become a more common term as a catch-all for all forms of fish egg. However, if you were to speak to someone who is passionate about their seafood, they would be likely to correct you on the mistake!

Therefore, you should try and remember that caviar is in the most formal manner talking about the sturgeon fish roe alone. They are very different in taste, texture, colour, and more or less every other aspect from a masago.

Is masago healthy?

One of the most notable things about eating masago is the fact that it has been shown to be quite healthy for those who choose to eat it. It is a product which has been shown to have around 40 calories in 28g of fish roe. They also tend to be high in many of the most essential nutrients that our bodies need. Some of the most popular parts of masago that make it good for the body include the high content of Vitamin C, E and forms of Vitamin B, including B2 and B12.

Selenium and phosphorous levels are also quite high, making this an even more enticing product to eat if you are looking for something genuinely satisfying to enjoy eating. We recommend that you look into masago if you are looking for a low-calorie treat that you can enjoy without having to worry about piling on the calories. It is also a good source of protein, with around 6g of protein in the sole 1oz of eggs.

This makes it a very powerful and potent source of nutrition for those who are looking to boost and expand their nutritional intake. It’s also extremely high in Vitamin B12, which we mentioned above. Since this is an essential vitamin that we cannot produce on our own, though, getting as much of it from your food should be highly recommended.

Indeed, Vitamin B12 is linked to helping our bodies to increase energy and improve red blood cell development. Try and keep this in mind, as your body needs a diverse profile of vitamins coming in to keep it healthy.

Another nice touch that comes from masago is the presence of immune-boosting polyunsaturated fats that our bodies need to help maintain strong function of essential organs.


Should you eat masago?

If you are a fan of seafood and you have tried similar products in the past, you will be almost certain to enjoy eating masago. It’s a highly satisfying dish that can be very nutritious and filling when eaten correctly. On top of that, masago is a high quality dish in terms of boosting your ability to eat seafoods.
Since we know that seafood is a great source of retaining long-term health and combatting illness, adding masago to your diet is unlikely to do you any harm. If you can find a good source of masago, you would do well to enjoy this satisfying, engaging form of seafood.

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