Prawns skagen topped with cold-smoked salmon roe, on bread

Roe (/r/) or hard roe is the fully ripe internal egg masses in the ovaries, or the released external egg masses of fish and certain marine animals, such as shrimp, scallop and sea urchins. As a seafood, roe is used both as a cooked ingredient in a large number of dishes and as a raw ingredient. The roe of marine animals, such as the roe of lumpsucker, hake and salmon, is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Roe from a sturgeon or at times additional fishes is the raw base product from which caviar is made.

The term soft roe or white roe denotes fish milt.

Around the world

Africa

South Africa

The large Indian population in KwaZulu Natal consumes fish roe in the form of slightly sour curry or battered and deep fried.

Americas

United States

In the United States, several kinds of roe are produced: salmon from the Pacific coast, shad and herring species like the American shad and alewife, mullet, paddlefish, American bowfin, and a few species of sturgeon. Shad, pike and additional roe are at times pan-fried with bacon. Spot Prawn roe (hard to find) is additionally a delicacy from the North Pacific. Flounder roe, pan-fried and served with grits is popular on the Southeastern coast.

Canada

In the province of New Brunswick, roe (caviare) of the Atlantic sturgeon is harvested from the Saint John river.

Roe from the cisco is harvested from the Great Lakes, primarily for overseas markets.

Roe is additionally extracted from herring, salmon, and sea urchins.

Chile

In Chile, sea urchin roe is a traditional food known as an "erizo de mar". Chile is one of a large number of countries that exports sea urchins to Japan in order to fulfil Japanese demand.

Peru

In Peru, roe is served in a large number of seafood restaurants sauteed, breaded and pan fried, and at times accompanied by a side of fresh onion salad. It is called Huevera Frita. Cojinova (Seriolella violacea) yields the best roe for this dish. Despite the fact that a large number of people like it, it is hardly considered a delicacy. Upscale restaurants aren't expected to offer it, but street vendors and smaller restaurants will make their first daily sales of it before they run out. Cojinova itself (considered a medium quality fish) is caught for its fish meal, not for its roe, which is considered a chance product. Sea urchin roe is considered a delicacy and it is used (at customer request) to add strength to ceviche.

Asia

Bangladesh

Roe from the Ilish fish is considered a delicacy in Bangladesh. The roe is usually deep-fried, although additional preparations such as mashed roe where the roe crushed along with oil, onion and pepper, or curry of roe can additionally be found.

China

In a large number of regions in China, crab and urchin roes are eaten as a delicacy. Crab roe are often used as topping in dishes such as "crab roe tofu" (蟹粉豆腐). Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant serves "crab roe xiaolongbao" as their special. Shrimp roes are additionally eaten in certain places, especially around the downstream of Yangtze River, such as Wuhu, as toppings for noodle soup.

India

Among the tribal populace of eastern India, roe that has been deeply roasted over an open fire is a delicacy. In this region, the roe of rohu is additionally considered a delicacy and is eaten fried or as a stuffing within a fried pointed gourd to make potoler dolma.

All along the Konkan coast and Northern Kerala, the roe of sardines, black mackerel and several additional fish is considered a delicacy. The roe can be eaten fried (after being coated with red chilli paste) and additionally as a thick curry (gashi). In the state of Kerala, roe is deep fried in coconut oil, and is considered a delicacy. A common method of quick preparation is to wrap the roe in wet banana leaves and cook it over charcoal embers.

In Odisha and West Bengal, roe of several fresh-water fish, including hilsa, are eaten, the roe being cooked separately or along with the fish, the latter method being preferred for all but large fishes. Roe, either light or deep-fried are additionally eaten as snacks or appetizers before a major meal.

Iran

In the Caspian provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran, several types of roe are used. Called ashpal or ashbal, roe is consumed grilled, cured, salted, or mixed with additional ingredients. If salted or cured, it is consumed as a condiment. If used fresh, it is usually grilled, steamed, or mixed with eggs and fried to form a custard-like dish called "Ashpal Kuku".

Besides the much sought-after caviar, roe from kutum (also known as Caspian white fish or Rutilus frisii kutum), Caspian roach (called "kuli" in Gileki), bream (called "kulmeh" in Gileki), and Caspian salmon are highly prized. Roe from carp is less common and barbel roe is additionally occasionally used.

Israel

Several sections of the Israeli cuisine include roe. In Modern Hebrew, roe is commonly referred to by its Russian name "ikra" (איקרה). When necessary, the colour is additionally mentioned: white or pink, as appropriate. Israeli "white ikra" is commonly made of carp or herring eggs, while "red ikra" is made of flathead mullet eggs or, in rarer cases, salmon eggs. The term "caviar" is separate, and denotes only sturgeon eggs.

Ikra is served as a starter dish, to be eaten with pita or similar breads, particularly in Arab restaurants. It can additionally be purchased in stores, in standard-sized plastic packages. In home cooking it is similarly served as a starter dish.

In Judaism, roe from kosher fish--fish with fins and scales--is considered kosher. Like fish in general, it is considered pareve. Roe is considered kosher only if the fish from which it's harvested is kosher as well. This means that sturgeon roe isn't considered kosher from an Orthodox Jewish perspective.

For most Orthodox Jewish consumers who keep kosher, roe or caviar must be processed under kosher supervision as well. The only exception to this rule is red roe, thanks to a widely accepted responsa by the Bais Yosef.

Japan

Salmon roe at the Shiogama seafood market in Japan
Ikuradon, a bowl of rice topped with salmon roe
Uncooked noodle made from shrimp roe

A variety of roe types are used in Japanese cuisine, including the following which are used raw in sushi:

  • Ikura (イクラ) - Salmon roe. Large reddish-orange individual spheres. Since salmon eggs are additionally used as bait, first-time sushi eaters who have experienced fishing might be taken aback when served ikura. It is a loan word from the Russian, "икра" (soft-shelled eggs, in this context caviar)
  • Sujiko (すじこ/筋子) - Also salmon roe. The difference is that sujiko is still inside its sac when it is prepared. It additionally has a different color; sujiko is red to dark-red while ikura is lighter in color, at times almost orange. Sujiko is additionally sweeter in taste.
  • Masago (真砂子)- Smelt roe, similar to Tobiko, but smaller.
  • Kazunoko (数の子/鯑) - Herring roe, yellow or pinkish, having a firm, rubbery texture and appearance, usually pickled. The roe is in a single cohesive mass and so looks like a piece of fish.
  • Mentaiko (明太子) - Alaska pollock roe, spiced with powdered red pepper and surrounded by a thin, elastic membrane. Mentaiko is usually pink to dark red.
  • Tarako (たらこ/鱈子) - Salted Alaska pollock roe, at times grilled.
  • Tobiko (飛び子) - Flying fish roe, quite crunchy, reddish orange in color.
  • Uni (うに/雲丹) - Sea urchin roe, soft and melting. Color ranges from orange to pale yellow. Humans consume the reproductive organs ("roe") either raw or briefly cooked. Sea urchin roe is a popular food in Japan, and it is called "uni" in Japanese sushi cuisine. Apart from domestic consumption, a number of additional countries export the sea urchin to Japan in order to meet its demand throughout the country. Traditionally considered an aphrodisiac, sea urchin roe has been found to contain the cannabinoid anandamide.
  • Karasumi (カラスミ/鱲子) - is a specialty of Nagasaki and along with salt-pickled sea urchin roe and Konowata one of the three chinmi of Japan. It is made by desalinating salt pickled mullet roe and sundrying it.

Korea

All kinds of fish roe are widely eaten in Korean cuisine, including the popular sea urchin, salmon, herring, flying fish, cod, among others. Myeongran jeot (명란젓) refers to the jeotgal (salted fermented seafood) made with pollock roe seasoned with chili pepper powders. It is commonly consumed as banchan, small dish accompanied with cooked rice or ingredient for altang (알탕), a kind of jjigae (Korean stew).

Lebanon

Sea urchin roe, or toutia توتية as it is known locally, is eaten directly from the sea urchin shell fresh using a small spoon. Some people add a twist of lemon juice to the roe and eat it in Lebanese flat bread.

Malaysia

Particularly in Sarawak, Malaysia, Toli Shad fish roe is a popular delicacy among locals and tourists. The roe is usually found in the street market in Sarawak's capital city of Kuching. The roe can be sold for up to 19 USD per 100 grammes and is considered expensive among locals, but the price can reach up to 30 USD in additional states of Malaysia.

The roe is usually salted before sale but fresh roe is additionally available. The salted roe is usually pan fried or steamed and eaten with steamed rice. The fish itself is additionally usually salted and served along with the roe.

New Zealand

The Maori people and additional New Zealanders eat sea urchin roe, called "Kina". Kina is sold in fishshops, supermarkets, and alongside the road. Most commercial Kina is imported from the Chatham Islands.

Europe

All around the Mediterranean, botargo is an esteemed specialty made of the cured roe pouch of flathead mullet, tuna, or swordfish; it is called bottarga (Italian), poutargue or boutargue (French), botarga (Spanish), batarekh (Arabic) or avgotaraho (Greek αυγοτάραχο).

Denmark

Lumpfish (stenbider) roe is used extensively in Danish cuisine, on top of halved or sliced hard-boiled eggs, on top of mounds of shrimp, or in combination with additional fish or seafood. An Additional commonly eaten roe is that from the cod (torsk).

France

Sea urchin roe (oursin in French) is eaten directly from the sea and in restaurants, where it is served both by itself and in seafood platters, usually spooned from the shell of the animal. Crab, shrimp and prawn roe still attached to those animals is additionally considered a delicacy.

Finland

Common whitefish and especially vendace from the fresh water lakes in Finland are renowned for the excellent delicate taste of the roe. Roe is served as topping of toast or on blini with onion and smetana.

Greece

Taramasalata, salad made with taramá

Taramá is salted and cured carp or cod roe used to make taramosaláta, a Greek meze consisting of taramá mixed with lemon juice, bread crumbs, onions, and olive oil; it is eaten as a dip.

Avgotaraho (αυγοτάραχο) or botargo is the prepared roe of the flathead mullet.

Italy

Bottarga is primary the salted and dried roe pouch of the Atlantic bluefin tuna; can be additionally prepared with the dried roe pouch of the flathead mullet, even if it is considered of low quality and less tasty. It is used minced for dressing pasta or in slice with olive oil and lemon (Fishermen style). The coastal town of Alghero, Sardinia, is additionally known for its "bogamarì" specialty (fresh sea urchin roe).

Netherlands

In the Netherlands fried roe of herring is eaten.

Norway

Norwegian caviar is most commonly made from cod, but caviar made from lumpsucker or capelin roe is additionally available.

In a few areas it is additionally common to fry the roe from freshly caught fish, to be eaten on bread or with potatoes and flatbread.

Portugal

Codfish roe and sardine roe are sold in olive oil. The fresh roe of hake (pescada) is additionally consumed (a popular way of eating it is boiled with vegetables, and simply seasoned with olive oil and a dash of vinegar). In the South of Portugal, the "ouriço do mar" (sea urchin) is highly appreciated. In the Sines area (Alentejo), a layer of dried pine needles is placed on the ground and, on top of it, a layer of sea urchins. This layer is topped with a second layer of dried pine needles. The pile is set on fire. The roe is removed from the cooked sea urchins and eaten. Sea urchin isn't consumed in May, June, July, and August.

Romania

Fish roe is quite popular in Romania as a starter (like salată de icre) or at times served for breakfast on toasted bread. The most common roe is that of the European carp; pike, herring, cod are additionally popular. Fried soft roe is additionally a popular dish. Sturgeon roe is a delicacy normally served at functions.

Romanian roe salad decorated with black olives

Russia and ex-USSR countries

In Russian, all types of fish roe are called "икра" (ikra, caviar), and there's no linguistic distinction between the English words "roe" and "caviar." Sturgeon roe, called "чёрная икра" (chyornaya ikra, "black caviar") is most prized. It is usually served lightly salted on buttered rye bread, or used as an ingredient in various haute cuisine sauces and dishes. It is followed in prestige by salmon roe, called "red caviar," which is less expensive, but still considered a delicacy. More common roes, such as cod, pollock, and herring are everyday dishes. Salted cod or pollock roe on buttered bread is common breakfast fare and herring roe is often eaten smoked or fried. The roe of freshwater fish is additionally popular but the commercial availability is lower. Soft roe of various fishes is additionally widely consumed, mostly fried, and is a popular cantina-style dish.

Roe found in dried vobla fish is considered delicious; though dried vobla roe isn't produced separately as a stand-alone dish, roe-carrying vobla is prized.

Spain

Cod and hake roe is commonly consumed throughout the country in a large number of different forms: sautéed, grilled, fried, marinated, pickled, boiled and with mayonnaise, or in salad. Tuna and ling dry brined roe is traditional in Andalusia and the Mediterranean coasts after antiquity. In all the Spanish coastal regions, sea urchin roe is considered a delicacy and consumed raw.

Sweden

Smoked and salted cod roe paste, commonly served as sandwich topping is popular in Sweden. The most famous brand is Kalles kaviar.

Lightly salted roe of the vendace is called Löjrom in Swedish. It is naturally orange in colour. The most sought after type is Kalix Löjrom from Kalix in the northern Baltic sea.

Most Löjrom consumed in Sweden is however imported frozen from North America.

Stenbitsrom, the roe of lumpfish is naturally a bleak unappetizing gray, but is coloured black (to emulate Black Caviar) or orange (to emulate Löjrom). Stenbitsrom sells in much larger volume than Löjrom, but it has two drawbacks: it tastes little more than its salt and artificial additives, and the colour additives tend to bleed into additional parts of the food you serve it with (such as a boiled egg), or to discolour the porcelain dish.

There is additionally a trend to use more Laxrom (Salmon roe), which is a natural orange colour, and has large diameter.

United Kingdom

Roe consumed within the UK is generally soft roe as opposed to hard roe. Though not popular, herring roe is sold within a large number of British supermarkets. Battered cod roe can additionally be bought within a large number of fish and chip shops. Various tinned roes are on sale in supermarkets e.g. soft cod roes, pressed cod roes and herring roes.