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What is Masago?

Masago is a very popular ingredient coming from the roe of capelin. Capelin belongs to the smelt family and the masago roe is sometimes referred to as “smelt roe”. Masago is easy to add to the dish and very popular in the Japanese kitchen especially for sushi. Not only has masago a beautiful colour and a unique taste, but it also contains a lot of proteins, healthy fats, and essential nutrients as vitamin B12 and magnesium. Read this article and get more information about masago, the capelin roe as well as the benefits and downsides of masago.

Where does masago come from?

Capelin fish is not very well-known but very common. They are considered a forage fish. This means they are an important food source for other predators such as codfish, seals, whales, and seabirds. Capelin is an Atlantic and Arctic fish, which lives in the cold waters off the coasts of Greenland, Norway, and Iceland. Unlike other species of smelt, the capelin does not enter freshwater to lay its eggs but instead lays them close inshore, sometimes on the gravels of beaches. Like other smelts, the capelin is sleek and slender with olive-green backs and silvery whites bellies. It may resemble a sardine.

How we make kelp caviar

The roe of capelin

The meat of capelin is edible, but not commonly consumed. Sometimes the meat is dried, roasted, or salted but fishermen tend to create other products instead, like masago.

Capelin is a small fish, only 11-20 cm, and weighs 25-50 grams. Female capelin begin releasing eggs around the 2-4 years of age and continue to spawn until death. The female can carry 6,000-30,000 eggs. Masago is harvested from the female caplin when the fish are full of eggs but before the chance of spawning.

The small eggs have a savoury and flavorful taste. They add an extra bit of crunch to the dish. The roe is mild and a good compliment to ingredients like squid ink, ginger, or wasabi. The roe is naturally white or yellow. Before reaching the supermarket the roe is typically coloured. The capelin roe is coloured black, red, yellow, orange, or green. Masago is a popular alternative to tobiko. This roe is larger than masago and usually higher quality.

Is Masago good for you?

Masago is, like other types of fish roe, low in calories but high in important nutrients. Fish roe gives you lots of protein and healthy fats. Even though masago is typically consumed in small amounts, you will still get a larger number of key nutrients. For instance, the roe contains omega 3-fatty acids, selenium, magnesium, and vitamin B12. In general fish, roe is very high in vitamin B12. B12 is essential for you to get from the food you eat as your body cannot produce it on its own. Read some further benefits of eating masago.

Benefits with masago

1. Natural source of vitamin D

Masago is one of the few natural food sources of vitamin D, which is essential for the body to absorb calcium needed for bones and muscles. Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of osteoporosis, depression, and insomnia.

2. High on Omega-3

As in several other fish and fish-related food, masago is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have many health benefits. These fats regulate inflammation and control blood clotting. A higher dietary intake on omega-3 fat can help support heart conditions.

3. Low on Mercury

Some fish such as mackerel have a high level of mercury, but because capelin is a small fish the level of mercury is much lower. Fish roe like masago can be eaten with moderations of pregnant women.

Downside on masago

Not everything about eating masagois great. Be aware of the disadvantages and what you should know about eating the roe.

1. Sustainability problems connected to eating roe

Since the capelin fish is popular in our cuisines, the capelin stock has drastically decreased over the past years. It’s a big problem harvesting the pregnant female capelin. Not only will the female fish disappear but the next generation of capelin are too. The capelin is a forage fish and plays a major role in the food chain for other predators.

2. High in Sodium

The level of sodium is relatively high in masago and this also applies to other fish roe. Also, masago is often mixed with salty ingredients as soy sauce and salt to enhance the taste. This increases the sodium content of the final product even further. For people with high blood pressure or heart problems, masago will probably be one of the things to cut down.

3. Risk of allergic reactions

Masago is a seafood product and naturally, those with fish and shellfish allergy should avoid it. For some people, masago can cause allergic reactions without having seafood allergies. This includes rashes, narrowing of the airways, and low blood pressure.

Vegan kelp caviar with sushi

The bottom line

Eating masago is without a doubt delicious and adding the ingredient to your dish is enhancing to the eye. Smelt roe has many great characters. But you should not eat masago without concern. As good as masago can be for you, as many disadvantages can it give you. The most prominent of all being the effect on the environment and the fish stock of capelin.

This is why Cavi-Art has made a sustainable alternative tosago. A great, healthy alternative – which leaves the number of capelin alone – and provides a beautiful product for you to eat in the future.

See more about our Tosago product