I love Tobiko, there I’ve said it, I usually only find it when eating in a Japanese restaurant or at a sushi bar, but today we are trying something different. We’re tossing some in spaghetti which has a light shellfish broth clinging to it and using herbs for extra flavour and texture. I have become a bit obsessed with popping fish roe on food as a garnish or topping my favourites being Scrambled Eggs and Spaghetti Salmonara adored with lumpfish caviar and when I was given some tobiko I simply couldn’t resist stirring it into my seafood pasta. First, lets find out more about Tobiko.
Tobiko is the Japanese word for the roe of a flying fish. It is most widely recognised because it is used in creating certain types of sushi. The eggs are very small, ranging from 0.5 to 0.8 mm. For comparison, tobiko is larger than masago (capelin roe), but smaller than ikura (salmon roe). Natural tobiko is an orangey-red colour, has a mildly smokey or salty taste, and a crunchy texture. Sometimes Tobiko is infused with other natural ingredients to change both its colour and flavour. Common variations include squid ink to make it black, yuzu to make it yellow, beetroot to make it red and wasabi to make it green. These creations can be enjoyed as toppings on rolls, garnishes or as pieces of nigiri, on rice and wrapped inside a sheet of seaweed (gunkan)
When prepared as sashimi, Tobiko is often presented on avocado halves or wedges. Tobiko is used in the creation of numerous other Japanese dishes too, such as an ingredient in California rolls. Frequently, masago, capelin or smelt roe is substituted for tobiko, due to its similar appearance and flavour. The tiny size of the individual eggs will be apparent to the experienced diner, but Tobiko is rarer and therefore harder to find.
Tobiko adds a crunchy texture and a salty taste to a dish, not to mention a rather artistic appearance. Its multiple colours, black, orange, red, green, all have very different flavours and levels of spicing. In its natural state, however, it is not very tasty. Only after it’s been processed with simple preservatives and flavouring does it take on the form most of us would know and recognise. Raw tobiko roe is highly nutritious, due to its exceptional vitamin content, high protein content, and large quantity of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Although the downside is that it contains a large amount of cholesterol, the amount of roe consumed in typical servings, about a tablespoon, does not represent a problem to a healthy diet because it amounts to only seventeen percent of the recommended daily cholesterol allowance.
- 100g dry pasta ( enough for two persons)
- A glug of olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 500 ml of fish stock
- A squeeze of tomato purée
- A pinch of ground fennel seeds
- A splash of Noilly Prat
- Freshly milled black pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp of tobiko ( we’ve used orange)
- Finely sliced basil and savoury for garnish
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add salt and the spaghetti and simmer until al dente, normally around 10-12 minutes. In the meantime add the oil and garlic to a large saute pan and fry for a minute or so. Next add the fish stock and bring to the boil. We need to reduce the stock by half. Once this has happened add the Noilly Prat or extra dry vermouth to the sauce and stir in the tomato purée. The sauce will begin to thicken up, if it gets too thick simply let it down with a splash of water. Add the ground fennel seeds then season to taste. Resist putting salt in because the Tobiko is quite salty in its own right. Drain the spaghetti, then add it to the seafood sauce, toss the spaghetti in the sauce to coat it and then stir in the Tobiko. Finally, serve up in pasta bowls and garnish with the basil and savoury or any other herbs you choose.