Sep 6, 2012

Tobiko... Flying Fish Eggs

Tobiko Tapenade
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Caviar has always been considered a luxury food, sometimes selling for thousands of dollars. Tobiko, the Japanese word for flying fish roe, is relatively inexpensive when compared to other caviars, making it attractive to the budget minded culinary explorer. If you love sushi as much as I do, then you should have seen these beautiful little fish eggs being served in sushi bars, decorating the tops of sushi rolls. Tobiko comes from the flying fish, which are found throughout the world's temperate and tropical oceans. The roe from these fish is then harvested and transported to Japan or Taiwan for preparation (salting, curing, dyeing, etc.), and then re-exported. Tobiko is a very small egg compared to salmon eggs. Natural tobiko has a red-orange color, however these eggs are often dyed other colors, using natural ingredients, to accentuate the presentation of various dishes. Squid ink is used to make it black, yuzu to make it pale orange, or even wasabi mustard is used to make it green and spicy. Personally I like the natural roe. It's flavor is mildly sweet/salty, with a crunchy texture that is a delight on the tongue. The roe is very nutritious, being high in vitamins, and protein, however it is also high in cholesterol.

The challenge in cooking is always to find new and creative ways to prepare and present food. I have found that tobiko has a depth of flavor that not only works well as a decoration to many dishes, but as a star ingredient as well. Tobiko is usually found in the refrigerated fish section of your grocery store. If you can't find tobiko in your area, you can buy it online on many sites like:

Tobiko Recipes:
Tobiko Tapenade
Tapenade is a popular olive spread eaten in the South of France. The combination of flavors in my recipe, takes this dish out of France, and transports it to Hawaii.

1 1/2 cups pitted ripe olives (I use canned California ripe olives because they are sweeter than kalamata olives)
2 garlic cloves
4 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/2 cup tobiko, (cost about $6.00 on Moloka'i)
2 tablespoons ground roasted sesame seeds
2 Japanese cucumbers

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse the food processor until the tapenade is thick but still has texture. Split cucumbers in half lengthwise. With a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon, remove seeds from cucumber halves. Turn cucumber halves over and with a potato peeler, remove one long slice of peeling on the bottom of each cucumber half so that when this appetizer is served, it sits up flat on a serving plate. Fill each cucumber half with the olive mixture, then sprinkle with ground roasted sesame seeds. Top with tobiko, then cut into 1" bit-size pieces and arrange on serving plate. Serve immediately. Makes 1 cup, or about 30 servings.

Tobiko Lemon Vinaigrette
I use this colorful vinaigrette to marinate chopped octopus (tako) to make a salad, then I put a spoonful of tobiko on top, beautiful and yummy! It would also taste great over crab, shrimp, oysters on the half shell, or even over cold asparagus. I'm getting hungry!

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon nori komi kurikake (a rice seasoning found in the Asian section of your grocery store)
1/4 cup tobiko caviar (flying fish roe)

Blend the lemon juice, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, ginger, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Pour into a bowl and add the nori komi kurikake and tobiko caviar. Give it a stir and season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper. Makes just over a cup.

Ahi Tuna with Tobiko Aioli
Aioli is like mayonnaise, and is typically made of garlic, olive oil and egg. This recipe puts a decidedly Asian/Hawaiian twist on this French classic, almost like a creamy poke with caviar.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Chinese garlic chili sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon tobiko
1 green onion, thinly sliced, including dark green stalk
8 ounces sushi-grade ahi tuna, cut into 1/2" cubes

4 teaspoons tobiko for garnish
nori strips for garnish
roasted sesame seeds for garnish

Combine aioli ingredients in a bowl. Put just enough aioli on the tuna to coat. Garnished with sesame seeds, thinly sliced 1 1/2" nori strips, and a teaspoon of tobiko on top of each serving. Makes 4 servings.

Asian Shrimp Crab Cakes with Tobiko
Bean thread noodles, also called cellophane noodles, are made from the starch of the mung bean. Translucent when cooked, they retain a slightly resilient feel and create a perfect filling with the shrimp, crab and tobiko. All of these ingredients can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store.

1/2 ounce dried bean thread noodles
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled, de-veined, and minced
1/2 pound cooked crabmeat, flaked (imitation crab can be substituted)
1/2 cup Japanese-style bread crumbs (panko)
1/4 cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Japanese-style bread crumbs (panko) for coating
about 1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup tobiko (flying fish roe) for garnish

Soak bean thread noodles in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Cut into 2-inch lengths. Place bean thread noodles in a bowl with remaining filling ingredients; mix well. Divide filling into 6 equal portions. Shape each portion into a patty about 2 1/2-inches wide and 1/2-inch thick. Coat with breadcrumbs; shake to remove excess. 3. Place a wide frying pan over medium heat until hot. Add oil, when oil is hot, add half of the crab cakes and pan-fry, turning once, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Cook remaining patties, adding oil as needed. Arrange on a serving platter and garnish the top of each crab cake with tobiko. Makes 3 servings.

Cream of Potato Soup with Tobiko
Potatoes and caviar go really well together. I've been to many parties where caviar is served on a slice of cooked red potato with a dab of sour cream. Here I have taken this concept and have made it into a delicious creamy soup, which can be served hot or cold.

1/4 cup minced onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups peeled and cubed baking potatoes
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, cut into chunks
6 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
6 tablespoons tobiko (flying fish roe)

Saute onions in a little olive oil until soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes on medium heat. Combine the onions with broth, cream, potatoes, and spices. Boil on medium heat until potatoes are tender. Reduce to low heat. Put cream cheese chunks in microwave for 30 seconds, or until soft. Add to soup mixture. Heat, stirring frequently, until cheese melts. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with chives. Put 1 tablespoon of tobiko caviar in the middle of the soup, and serve. Makes 6 servings. Note: For a smoother consistency, blend soup with a stick blender after adding cream cheese, then add chives and tobiko.

Linguini & Clams with Tobiko Cream Sauce
Kimberly and I have been eating linguini and clams for a long time, and we love it. Normally we use fresh Manilla clams, but they are hard to get here on Moloka'i, so I came up with this canned clam version, and added tobiko to the mix.

8 ounces dried linguini pasta
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup tobiko, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
2 - 6.5 ounce cans chopped clams
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Bring large pot of water to boil and add about 1 tablespoon of salt to the water. Boil pasta about 10 minutes, until al dente and drain. In a saucepan, heat up your clams and juice and add your cream and butter and let it reduce on low-medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Do not boil your sauce. Taste and add 6 tablespoon tobiko to your sauce and season with a little salt and pepper if needed. Now add your pasta and cook together for 1 minute. Plate your pasta and garnish with chopped parsley and 1 tablespoon of tobiko on top of pasta. Makes 2 servings.

Tobiko Watercress Omelet
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons chopped watercress leaves
1 teaspoon Chinese Shaoxing wine or Japanese sake
3/4 teaspoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
3 dashes white pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons tobiko (flying fish roe)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 stalk scallion, green part only, cut into small rounds

Mix the eggs with watercress leaves, wine, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and white pepper. Mix to blend well and make sure that the oyster sauce is completely dissolved. Heat oil in skillet over moderate heat. Add egg mixture to pan. Cook lifting edges with fork until omelet is done then fold omelet in half. Cut into 2 sections with a spatula. Lift omelet onto serving plates and top with sour cream, scallions and sprinkle with tobiko caviar. Serve with slices of fresh mango or cantaloupe, and sweet seedless grapes. Makes 2 servings.

Tobiko Egg Noodle Nests
Bean threads, also called cellophane noodles, are vermicelli-thin noodles made from the starch of the mung bean. Translucent when cooked, they retain a slightly resilient feel and create a perfect nest with the egg and tobiko. They can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store along with sesame oil.

about 1 ounce bean thread
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 egg, plus 2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons milk
about 1/4 cup water
pinch of kosher salt
vegetable oil or spray vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 ounces tobiko (flying fish roe)
6 lemon segments
1/4 cup fine minced chives

Soak bean threads in warm water 30 minutes. They usually sold in 2-ounce packages. It’s easiest to soak whole package although you may not use all of it. Drain and place in glass or porcelain bowl. Pour chicken stock to cover and microwave 1 minute, or until just cooked. Immediately drain and let cool. Whisk egg, egg yolks, milk, water and salt until well-combined. Spray nonstick pan with vegetable oil, and heat on medium. Pour in about 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) beaten egg mixture and immediately swirl to make thinnest possible crepe. Cook about 45 seconds, flip over and cook additional 15 seconds. Remove to cutting board. Continue until egg mixture is used up. You should have about 4 egg crepes. Let cool. Roll egg crepes and cut into thread-thin pieces. Cover and refrigerate. To assemble: Toss bean thread in sesame oil. With kitchen shears, cut them into roughly 3-inch segments. Place a few strands of bean thread, then egg strips in a circular pattern on small plates to form a light, feathery nest. Top with tobiko caviar. To serve: Squeeze lemon juice over nests. Sprinkle chives around nests. Makes 6 servings.

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