Ikura is a Russian word (Nkpa) which means ‘fish roe’ in general, and is widely used in international commerce, especially referring to salmon caviar.
Soy sauce marinated ikura are also available and growing in popularity.
Salted salmon eggs have a long history in Japan.
The book ‘Enkishiki’ printed in 927 describes how ikura and sujiko were appreciated and regarded as valuable products.
As the salmon prepares to spawn, the female’s eggs mature in the ovary, becoming larger and stronger as the salmon migrates from the ocean to the estuary and finally upriver to the spawning grounds.
For ikura production, the eggs are carefully selected from salmon captured just before entering the river system, when the eggs are fully formed, but are neither too soft nor too hard.
High grade salted ikura has a bright, red-orange color. All eggs should be whole, not broken or squashed, and easily separated from one another.
Salmon caviar is the salt cured individual eggs of salmon. Most wild Alaska salmon caviar comes from Pink and Chum salmon.