While the world’s most famous fish roe probably belongs to the Russians and their caviar, we think Japan’s salted salmon roe is special.
When these salmon eggs are still in the egg casing, they’re called “sujiko.” When released from the casing and salted, they become “ikura” — which, funnily enough, comes from the Russian word for caviar. Sujiko is sweeter and darker red, but the process of curing the loose eggs makes ikura lighter in color. Biting into ikura reveals a slightly fishy and salty flavor with distinct popping texture when bitten into. The latter is popular in sushi, chazuke, or in ikura-don, which is a rice bowl topped with ikura. It’s also eaten as a snack alongside sake.
Traditionally, the sujiko is in season around fall and early winter, when you can buy it and salt it yourself to make ikura. Considering the roe’s fragility, this curing process is much gentler than those associated with other fish and meats. By salting them, the eggs plump up and become a firm red-orange. Ikura can later be preserved in straight salt or in soy sauce, depending on how you’d like it to taste.
Uwajimaya carries pre-cured ikura in our seafood department.