Even though it first debuted in exclusive high-end restaurants away from the hoi-polloi of your typical hipster foodie hangout, could the increasing popularity of flying fish roe caviar revolutionize the world caviar scene?
By: Ringo Bones
Even though it only became widely known to the hipster-foodie-scene-at-large near the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, flying fish roe caviar – popularly known as Tobiko – was hailed to be the most versatile ingredient in cutting edge newfangled dishes. No longer the exclusive “proprietary secret ingredient” of top sushi chefs; the shiny, crunchy, vibrant orange and dense black versions of this Caribbean fish roe are a total delight for both chef and aficionado alike. But what makes flying fish roe - i.e. that orange colored pearl-like tasty stuff in sushi rolls - caviar a more “environmentally-friendly” option in comparison to the “traditional” true blue Caspian Sea sturgeon sourced caviar?
Flying fish - the common name of some 50 species of fishes in the family Exocetidae, they are found in warm seas, like the Caribbean, and usually far from land. Flying fish range in color from blue or greenish on the upper portion of their bodies and silvery white at the bottom as a form of protective camouflage coloration typical of open-water ranging fishes. Its ability to glide is made possible via the great enlargement of the pectoral fins in the two-winged flying fish. Ordinarily, flight is made in order to escape enemies and the action is often initiated by any large body – such as a ship – cutting through the water.
Since the wings are held rigid, the flight can in no way be compared that of a bird or bat but is more like that of an unpowered fixed-wing glider. The propulsive thrust is supplied by the tail, the lower lobe of which is extended. Flying fish swim rapidly and when the surface of the water is reached, they set the pectoral fins at right angles to the body. They then skim the water, the tail remaining submerged and moving laterally with powerful strokes. Now they tremble all over from the thrust so that the tips of the pectorals may alternately touch the water in a manner which falsely suggests that they are voluntarily moved. They shoot into the air at a speed of 30 or 40 miles per hour. The glide may last 30 seconds and cover 300 yards, although the time in the air and the distance covered vary greatly. The flight ends as the fish dive into the water; but in many cases they turn immediately at right angles and take off again.
Flying fish lay their eggs supplied with fine sticky threads which anchor them in crude rests in drifting seaweed. The species of seaweed the flying fish laid and anchored their eggs to plays a factor in the resulting final color (and inherently varying nutritional content?) of the Tobiko caviar. The young differ in color from the adults and often have a pair of whisker like appendages on their lower jaws.
Flying fish are an excellent food fish. They also serve as forage for important food fish such as tuna and are often used as bait. In the Philippines, flying fish caught locally are usually prepared with a sugar and salt blend marinade since the species found locally tend to have a bitter / blander taste in comparison to other locally sea caught food fish.