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Roe or hard roe is the fully ripe internal egg masses in the ovaries, or the released external egg masses of fish and certain marine animals, such as shrimp, scallop and sea urchins. As a seafood, roe is used both as a cooked ingredient in many dishes and as a raw ingredient. The roe of marine animals, such as the roe of lumpsucker, hake and salmon, is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
The term soft roe or white roe denotes fish milt.
Around the world 
Roe from the Ilish fish is considered a delicacy in Bangladesh. The roe is usually deep-fried, although other preparations such as mashed roe where the roe crushed along with oil, onion and pepper, or curry of roe can also be found.
In many regions in China, crab and urchin roes are eaten as a delicacy. Crab roe are often used as topping in dishes such as "crab roe tofu" (蟹粉豆腐). Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant serves "crab roe xiaolongbao" as their special. Shrimp roes are also eaten in certain places, especially around the downstream of Yangtze River, such as Wuhu, as toppings for noodle soup.
In the state of Kerala, roe is deep fried in coconut oil, and is considered a delicacy. Among the tribal populace, roe that has been deeply roasted over an open fire is a delicacy. In this region, the roe of rohu is also considered a delicacy and is eaten fried or as a stuffing within a fried pointed gourd to make potoler dolma.
All along the Konkan coast and Northern Kerala, the roe of sardines, black mackerel and several other fish is considered a delicacy. The roe can be eaten fried (after being coated with red chilli paste) and also as a thick curry (gashi). In Kerala, a common method of quick preparation is to wrap the roe in wet banana leaves and cook it over charcoal embers.
In Odisha and West Bengal, roe of several fresh-water fish, including hilsa, are eaten, the roe being cooked separately or along with the fish, the latter method being preferred for all but large fishes. Roe, either light or deep-fried are also eaten as snacks or appetizers before a major meal.
In the Caspian provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran, several types of roe are used. Called ashpal or ashbal, roe is consumed grilled, cured, salted, or mixed with other ingredients. If salted or cured, it is consumed as a condiment. If used fresh, it is usually grilled, steamed, or mixed with eggs and fried to form a custard-like dish called "Ashpal Kuku".
Besides the much sought-after caviar, roe from kutum (also known as Caspian white fish or Rutilus frisii kutum), roach (called "kuli" in Gileki), bream (called "kulmeh" in Gileki), and Caspian salmon are highly prized. Roe from carp is less common and barbel roe is also occasionally used.
- Ikura (イクラ) - Salmon roe. Large reddish-orange individual spheres. Since salmon eggs are also used as bait, first-time sushi eaters who have experienced fishing may be taken aback when served ikura. It is a loan word from the Russian, "икра" (soft-shelled eggs, in this context caviar)
- Sujiko (すじこ/筋子) - Also salmon roe. The difference is that sujiko is still inside its sac when it is prepared. It also has a different color; sujiko is red to dark-red while ikura is lighter in color, sometimes almost orange. Sujiko is also sweeter in taste.
- Masago (真砂子)- Smelt roe, similar to Tobiko, but smaller.
- Kazunoko (数の子/鯑) - Herring roe, yellow or pinkish, having a firm, rubbery texture and appearance, usually pickled. The roe is in a single cohesive mass and so looks like a piece of fish.
- Mentaiko (明太子) - Alaska pollock roe, spiced with powdered red pepper and surrounded by a thin, elastic membrane. Mentaiko is usually pink to dark red.
- Tarako (たらこ/鱈子) - Salted Alaska pollock roe, sometimes grilled.
- Tobiko (飛び子) - Flying fish roe, very crunchy, reddish orange in color.
- Uni (うに/雲丹) - Sea urchin roe, soft and melting. Color ranges from orange to pale yellow. Humans consume the reproductive organs ("roe") either raw or briefly cooked. Sea urchin roe is a popular food in Korean cuisine, and it is called "uni" in Japanese sushi cuisine. Apart from domestic consumption, a number of other countries export the sea urchin to Japan in order to meet its demand throughout the country. Traditionally considered an aphrodisiac, sea urchin roe has been found to contain the cannabinoid anandamide.
- Karasumi (カラスミ/鱲子) - is a specialty of Nagasaki and along with salt-pickled sea urchin roe and Konowata one of the three chinmi of Japan. It is made by desalinating salt pickled mullet roe and sundrying it.
All kinds of fish roe are widely eaten in Korea including sea urchin, salmon, herring, flying fish, cod, among others. Myeongran jeot (명란젓) refers to the jeotgal (salted fermented seafood) made with pollock roe seasoned with chili pepper powders. It is commonly consumed as banchan, small dish accompanied with cooked rice or ingredient for altang (알탕), a kind of jjigae (Korean stew).
Sea urchin roe, or toutia توتية as it is known locally, is eaten directly from the sea urchin shell fresh using a small spoon. Some people add a twist of lemon juice to the roe and eat it in Lebanese flat bread.
New Zealand 
The Maori people and other New Zealanders eat sea urchin roe, called "Kina". Kina is sold in fishshops, supermarkets, and alongside the road. Most commercial Kina is imported from the Chatham Islands.
All around the Mediterranean, botargo is an esteemed specialty made of the cured roe pouch of flathead mullet, tuna, or swordfish; it is called bottarga (Italian), poutargue or boutargue (French), botarga (Spanish), batarekh (Arabic) or avgotaraho (Greek αυγοτάραχο).
Lumpfish (stenbider) roe is used extensively in Danish cuisine, on top of halved or sliced hard-boiled eggs, on top of mounds of shrimp, or in combination with other fish or seafood. Another commonly eaten roe is that from the cod (torsk).
Bottarga is primary the salted and dried roe pouch of the Atlantic bluefin tuna; can be also prepared with the dried roe pouch of the flathead mullet, even if it is considered of low quality and less tasty. It is used minced for dressing pasta or in slice with olive oil and lemon (Fishermen style).
Common whitefish and especially vendace from the fresh water lakes in Finland are renowned for the excellent delicate taste of the roe. Roe is served as topping of toast or on blini with onion and smetana.
Codfish roe and sardine roe are sold in olive oil. The fresh roe of hake (pescada) is also consumed (a popular way of eating it is boiled with vegetables, and simply seasoned with olive oil and a dash of vinegar). In the South of Portugal, the "ouriço do mar" (sea urchin) is highly appreciated. In the Sines area (Alentejo), a layer of dried pine needles is placed on the ground and, on top of it, a layer of sea urchins. This layer is topped with a second layer of dried pine needles. The pile is set on fire. The roe is removed from the cooked sea urchins and eaten. Sea urchin is not consumed in May, June, July, and August.
Fish roe is very popular in Romania as a starter (like salată de icre) or sometimes served for breakfast on toasted bread. The most common roe is that of the European carp; pike, herring, cod are also popular. Fried soft roe is also a popular dish. Sturgeon roe is a delicacy normally served at functions.
In Russian, all types of fish roe are called "икра" (caviar), and there's no linguistic distinction between the English words "roe" and "caviar." Sturgeon roe, called "чёрная икра" ("black caviar") is most prized. It is usually served lightly salted on buttered rye bread, or used as an ingredient in various haute cuisine sauces and dishes. It is followed in prestige by salmon roe, called "red caviar," which is less expensive, but still considered a delicacy. More common roes, such as cod, pollock, and herring are everyday dishes. Salted cod or pollock roe on buttered bread is common breakfast fare and herring roe is often eaten smoked or fried. The roe of freshwater fish is also popular but the commercial availability is lower. Soft roe of various fishes is also widely consumed, mostly fried, and is a popular cantina-style dish.
Roe found in dried vobla fish is considered delicious; though dried vobla roe is not produced separately as a stand-alone dish, roe-carrying vobla is prized.
Cod and hake roe is commonly consumed throughout the country in many different forms: sautéed, grilled, fried, marinated, pickled, boiled and with mayonnaise, or in salad. Tuna and ling (maruca) dry brinned roe is traditional in Andalusia and the Mediterranean coasts since antiquity. In all the Spanish coastal regions, sea urchin roe is considered a delicacy and consumed raw.
Lightly salted roe of Siklöja (Coregonus albala) is called Löjrom in Swedish. It is naturally orange in colour. The most sought after type is from Kalix in the northern Baltic sea.
Most Löjrom consumed in Sweden is however imported frozen from North America.
Stenbitsrom, the roe of Lumpsucker or Lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus) is naturally a bleak unappetizing gray, but is coloured black (to emulate Black Caviar) or orange (to emulate Löjrom). Stenbitsrom sells in much larger volume than Löjrom, but it has two drawbacks: it tastes little more than its salt and artificial additives, and the colour additives tend to bleed into other parts of the food you serve it with (such as a boiled egg), or to discolour the porcelain dish.
There is also a trend to use more Laxrom (Salmon roe), which is a natural orange colour, and has large diameter.
United Kingdom 
Roe consumed within the UK is generally soft roe as opposed to hard roe. Though not popular, herring roe is sold within many British supermarkets. Battered cod roe can also be bought within many fish and chip shops. Various tinned roes are on sale in supermarkets e.g. soft cod roes, pressed cod roes and herring roes.
North and South America 
In North America, several kinds of roe are produced: salmon from the Pacific coast, shad and herring species like the American shad and alewife, mullet, paddlefish, American bowfin, and some species of sturgeon. Shad, pike and other roe are sometimes pan-fried with bacon. Spot Prawn roe (hard to find) is also a delicacy from the North Pacific.
In Chile, sea urchin roe is a traditional food known as an "erizo de mar". Chile is one of many countries that exports sea urchins to Japan in order to fulfill Japanese demand.
In Peru, roe is served in many seafood restaurants deep fried with a side of fresh onion salad. It is called Huevera Frita. Cojinova (Seriolella violacea) yields the best roe for this dish. Despite the fact that many people like it, it is hardly considered a delicacy. Upscale restaurants are not expected to offer it, but street vendors and smaller restaurants will make their first daily sales of it before they run out. Cojinova itself (considered a medium quality fish) is caught for its fish meal, not for its roe, which is considered a chance product. Sea urchin roe is considered a delicacy and it is used (at customer request) to add strength to ceviche.
- Roe of Marine Animals Is Best Natural Source of Omega-3 Science Daily, 11 December 2009.
- Bisogno et Al. (1997). "Occurrence and metabolism of anandamide and related acyl-ethanolamides in ovaries of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus". Biochim Biophys Acta 1346 (3): 338–48. PMID 9150253.
- 2. Sea urchins - Starfish, sea urchins and other echinoderms - Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand