What Is Masago?

What Is Masago?

When cooking Asian cuisine, you have seen an ingredient called Masago crop up in your recipes now and again. The thing is that masago is not really well known in western cultures – so what exactly is it? 

Here we are going to take a look at masago including what it is, its benefits and disadvantages, plus all the different ways you can use masago in your cooking. 

So, let’s dive in! 

What Is Masago? 

Masago is a type of fish roe, meaning that it is the edible egg of a certain fish. The fish in question is the capelin fish which belongs to the smelt family. 

Capelin fish are small, silver-green foragers that are commonly found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Arctic oceans. In appearance, they are very similar to sardines.

They usually eat plankton but the larger capelins among them might also eat krill and other kinds of crustaceans. Capelins themselves are also eaten by other larger predators including seals, whales, seabirds, and even codfish. 

Humans also eat capelin as part of a seafood diet and its eggs are also consumed in the form of masago. Around 20% of harvested capelin fish are used to produce masago.

This process involved capturing female capelins and harvesting their eggs from them before they have a chance to spawn and release them. 

Masago itself is a common ingredient used in making sushi. It is originally pale yellow in color but is sometimes dyed into brighter colors like orange or green to bring some variety to the visual appearance of certain dishes.

As for flavor, it is very mild and plain, so it is often mixed with other ingredients that are far stronger in flavors such as wasabi and ginger. 

Masago is also very low in calories, with one ounce of masago only containing 40 calories. It is also rich in other nutrients including vitamin B12, and vitamin E, and is a good source of protein.

Because of this, masago is recommended to be added to diets to promote a healthy immune system and heart. It is also full of amino acids like leucine and lysine which are great for muscle repair. 

What Are The Health Benefits Of Masago?

As we said earlier, masago is low in calories yet rich in lots of other important nutrients and vitamins that our bodies do not naturally create.

This means that by adding masago to your diet, you can give your body its day’s dosage of vital nutrients in order to keep you happy and healthy. 

It’s a great source of protein which makes it a recommended addition to the pescetarian diet, plus it can help manage hunger to promote better weight management.

This is because protein is great at making you feel full, meaning that you are less likely to constantly snack, and this paired with Masago’s low-calorie amount makes it great for those who need to lose weight. 

Another great health benefit of masago is that it contains a lot of natural Omega-3 fats. Fats are usually avoided but in reality, it is still an important part of our diets that needs to be consumed within their limits to keep us in top form.

Omega-3 fats are great for regulating inflammation, reducing blood clots, and lowering the risk of fatal heart conditions like heart failure. 

Masago is also very low in mercury, unlike a lot of other fish products. While mercury has its benefits, too much can lead to negative side effects like increased anxiety and lack of coordination.

Mercury poisoning is rare but those who eat a lot of seafood in their diet can eat masago to keep that mercury intake low. 

The Disadvantages Of Masago

What Is Masago?

Unfortunately, nothing is perfect and there are some things about masago that you should be aware of, so you can decide if this is the right ingredient for you to add to your diet. 

Of course, there are ever-prevalent allergy concerns. Masago is a type of seafood so if you are allergic to fish, shellfish, or any other type of seafood, you should try to avoid masago.

This is because it contains potential allergens like vitellogenin that can even strike people who are not usually allergic to seafood.

Allergies are very serious and should be taken seriously as sometimes, cases of allergic reactions can become fatal. 

As well, masago is often combined with other potent ingredients that can also cause allergic reactions. It is most typically combined with corn syrup which is proven to disrupt metabolism and increase insulin resistance.

Masago is also very high in sodium and is also mixed with salty ingredients to enhance its taste, so those who want to reduce their salt consumption should avoid this food 

Another thing to note about masago is how it is fished. A lot of concerns have been raised in recent years surrounding the ethicalities of fishing and the fact that egg-bearing fish are the ones often targeted by fishermen can have a serious impact on the fish population. 

Because of the high demand for masago, there are serious concerns about the capelin populations, and every day this fish is edging closer and closer to becoming an endangered species.

In 2021, Canada called for a halt to capelin fishery because capelin larval numbers had been very poor over the last couple of years.

Although this fish is not considered endangered just yet, the signs are beginning to show that it is not that far off from joining that list. 

So, if you are ethically concerned about your food, masago may be one you will prefer to avoid because you do not support its fishing strategies. 

Cooking With Masago

Masago can be easily purchased at many seafood vendors along with additive flavors like ginger and squid ink. This means that although you may have never heard about it, it is still very easy to add to your diet. 

You can use masago as an ingredient in your own homemade sushi, or mix it together with cheese and fruit to serve as appetizers during dinner parties.

It is usually served alongside Asian cuisine like noodles and as a topping for certain types of fish, but masago also goes very well with basic rice dishes as a way to add protein and spice up the color and flavor of the dish. Because it is a type of fish roe, masago is actually eaten raw and does not require actual cooking.

Conclusion

So what is masago? It’s fish eggs! It is typically consumed raw and is often featured in Asian cuisine,  especially sushi. It is a great source of protein and is low in calories, although its high sodium content does make it very salty.

Despite this, masago is a great source of plenty of important nutrients for our daily diets, so it is definitely a great alternative to dairy products like eggs. So, if that sounds great to you, pick up some masago at your nearest seafood store and try it out yourself!

Brandon White
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