If you don’t know what masago is, it shows you aren’t a sushi lover. Yes, masago is a common, and favorite ingredient used by sushi chefs, and in Asian cuisine. They are considered a novelty and high demand ingredient for its distinct taste.
What is masago?
They are orange-red fully ripened roe of capelin, a small fish of the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the Arctic Ocean. Capelin resembles sardines, and though its flesh is edible, it’s used to create products like masago.
Masago is healthy, translucent in appearance, like jelly beads, with a mild sea flavor. The female capelin starts releasing eggs from 2-4 years and continues till death.
Masago is harvested when the fish is full of eggs but before spawning. It’s a common sushi roll ingredient and though pale in color, is often dyed to make dishes look more visually appealing.
Unlike most seafood, masago is low in mercury, making weekly small servings safe for pregnant women. A tablespoon or two is used in many recipes for its high nutritional and low-calorie profile.
It is rich in:
- Vitamin B12 for proper nerve and blood cell health
- The sunshine vitamin D which boosts immunity and prevents brittle bones and rickets
- Magnesium necessary for various body functions like blood pressure and sugar control and nerve and muscle function.
- Selenium that protects against oxidative damage and infection
- Iron to carry oxygen from the lungs through the body
- Omega-3 fatty acids vital for brain, heart, and bone health and to reduce inflammation.
Despite the many benefits, masago does have a few disadvantages. It contains harmful ingredients like:
- Artificial colorings added by manufacturers to give it a vibrant look. So read ingredients and choose high-quality masago made by reputable sources.
- Fructose corn syrup, commonly added by manufacturers in the United States. Those with diabetes should read ingredients and buy masago devoid of sugar.
- Sodium while curing, which is bad because masago is naturally high in sodium. So masago should be sparingly consumed by those with high blood pressure or on a low-salt diet.
- Unhealthy ingredients which restaurants use while cooking. Choose sushi restaurants that use only wild-caught fish and masago without artificial colors.
- Conservationists are worried about the overfishing of capelin fish, which affects its reproduction and population. Oceanographers are considering a capelin fishing ban to prevent this.
Some people may suffer from allergies wherein you have to stop eating masago and seek immediate medical attention. The possible side effects are:
- Weak pulse
- Stomach cramps
- Inability to breathe and speak
- Bluish skin
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen tongue
Tobiko vs. masago
Tobiko is another popular fish roe used in sushi. While both fish eggs are highly nutritional, tobiko is different in the following ways:
It comes from the tropical flying fish found in warm, tropical waters.
It is bigger in size and comes in various colors like red, green, black, and orange.
It is more expensive
Masago is not only used in sushi. It can also be sprinkled on salads for added flavor and texture, to your favorite dishes and even cooked with pasta. It can also be used to make a spicy masago sauce for sushi or salads.