What Is Masago And How To Get It

Masago is a specific kind of fish egg. It comes from capelin fish, found in the northern parts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans. It is most commonly used in sushi, sashimi, and nigiri, and is also sometimes mixed with wasabi to create "wasabi caviar." This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

What Kinds Of Fish Eggs Are Used In Japanese Cuisine?

Masago is just one style of roe used in Japanese cuisine. Others include tobiko, which comes from flying fish, ikura, which comes from salmon, mentaiko from the walleye pollock, uni from sea urchins, and ebiko from shrimp. Here are some ways to differentiate between them.

Feature Tobiko Ikura Mentaiko Uni Ebiko
Larger than masago

Cooking Spaghetti With Masago Sauce

Differences Between Caviar And Other Fish Eggs

Caviar Others
Usually black Mostly orange or red
Often sold processed Usually served fresh
Sturgeon eggs Harvested from a variety of different fish
Cured Can be served in a variety of ways


Getting your hands on some masago shouldn't be too difficult, depending on where you live. The best place to go is an Asian grocery store, which will likely have it in quantities both large and small. Some higher-end grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's or a cooperative might have it as well. And, of course, you can always give it a try at your local sushi joint. You should ideally look between winter and early spring, as that is the capelin fish's breeding season so it will be fresh.

In Depth

Sushi is one of the most popular foods in the world. It began as a Japanese street food in the 8th century, but it's come a long way since then. Today, you can find it in restaurants, grocery stores, and even make it at home. There are hundreds of different types of sushi with a variety of ingredients, toppings, and sauces.

Roe, or fish eggs, is a common topping for sushi. There are many different kinds, ranging in size and color. Masago is a type of roe that comes from the capelin fish. This species is mostly found in the northern parts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans. Capelin are plentiful and have a high reproduction rate, so their eggs are more readily available than some other types of roe. This also makes masago a more sustainable ingredient than many other types of fish used in sushi.

Masago is one of the smallest types of roe. Its name comes from the Japanese word "masa," meaning sand, because the eggs are so tiny. Like other types of roe, it does have a somewhat fishy taste. When fresh, it has a mild, sweet, and slightly salty flavor. The processed varieties sold as caviar are much saltier.

When fresh, it has a mild, sweet, and slightly salty flavor.

It is similar to tobiko, which comes from the flying fish. Both are naturally orange in color, but tobiko is larger and has a stronger flavor. It is also firmer and has a slightly crunchy texture. Restaurants often use masago as a substitute because they look very similar, but flying fish roe is more expensive.

Often, masago is used on the outside of sushi rolls as a garnish rather than a filling. Its crunchiness provides a contrast in texture with softer ingredients like rice, fish, and avocado. You can find both tobiko and capelin roe in several different colors and flavors. The more vibrant colored varieties usually contain some sort of dye or other ingredient to enhance the appearance or taste. For instance, black masago usually gets its color from squid ink. It can also be mixed with wasabi to turn it bright green. This is sometimes sold as "wasabi caviar."

Sushi rolls are not the only way that masago is eaten. It can also be used in nigiri and sashimi. Nigiri is a mound of rice topped with fresh meat or seafood. When made with masago or other types of roe, it can also come in a bowl, or wrapped in a thin strip of dried seaweed to help keep its shape. Sashimi is simply thinly sliced raw meat or fish. It can be served with sauces and garnishes like pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce. Sashimi made with fish eggs is sometimes served in a cup made from a lime, avocado, or the peel of a cucumber.

Sashimi is simply thinly sliced raw meat or fish.

Masago is low in calories and a good source of vitamins D and B12. Like salmon, avocado, and nuts, it contains a lot of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential nutrients are good for your heart, joints, skin, and overall health.

If you want to try it, masago is served at most sushi restaurants. Look for it in the descriptions on the menu. Sometimes, it may be listed as smelt roe or fish eggs. If you don't see it, try asking your server. There are plenty of places to order it online as well. Capelin roe is sold refrigerated, frozen, and in jars. The jarred varieties are cured and much higher in sodium. Since it has to be harvested during the capelin's breeding season, you can only buy fresh masago during a few months out of the year. Check your local Asian or international market in winter and early spring.