Tarako (salted cod roe) onigiri recipe

Here’s another classic onigiri recipe: Tarako onigiri. Tarako (cod roe) is sold raw in Japanese markets, usually in packages of several small caviar sacs. (When I was a child, I always thought they looked like tongues!)

The bright red color is beautiful, and you can choose from regular or spicy. For onigiri, regular tarako is used more often.

While raw tarako is delicious over hot rice (no need to add any flavoring, as it’s already very salty), for onigiri, I prefer it cooked. You can do this by placing a few sacs under the broiler or on a stovetop grill until the red color turns pink.



Making Takaro Onigiri, step-by-step

1. Cut the cooked tarako into 1/3" slices (reserving one slice per onigiri) and break the rest of the caviar up with your fingers. You'll have to remove the outer film, which can be a little tedious. For the best results, try to break it up as finely as possible.
2. Mix the tarako into hot rice, incorporating it evenly, until it turns a nice shade of pale pink. As with the takano recipe, you can mix only a portion of rice in a large bowl - as shown here - or use separate bowls. I usually make a variety of onigiri, so I don't make more than a few of each kind.
3. Scoop a handful of rice into the palm of your hand (after wetting but not salting them. In this case the tarako is very salty, so you don't want to add extra salt)
4. Make an indentation into the rice and fill it with a piece of tarako.
5. Press - firmly but not too hard - turning and pressing the onigiri in your hands until it forms a triangle. You might want to use plastic wrap to keep your hands clean for this one, because the tarako does tend to get messy.

If you’ve never tried tarako before, I wish I could describe the experience to you. It’s not only the rich, somewhat smoky and intense caviar flavor, but the dry mouth-feel of the tarako that is so nice. Tarako is delicious when tossed with spaghetti and flavored with dashi — the umami effect is a little like Parmesan cheese.