Shirako: All About Cod & Fish Milt (Cooking, Taste)
Milt is the seminal fluid of fish and amphibious animals, which is soft and creamy with a slightly fishy taste. It can be compared to pork brains but has a more delicate and light texture that melts in your mouth. Some compare the texture to custard, but with a slight oceanic taste. The unique appearance can easily be identified but is most well known for its rich and creamy umami taste.
Whilst the idea of eating milt is not that popular, it is prepared in numerous ways and enjoyed in many cuisines across the world.
Where is Milt Eaten
In Sicily, there is a famous pasta dish that uses fish sperm known as lattume. In Russian cuisine, it is pickled (known as moloka), which is similar to their traditional dish of pickled herring. In British cuisine, it is fried with butter and spread on toast.
The idea of eating milt is still bizarre and unknown to many around the world despite it having been around for centuries. Many other reproductive parts are consumed, such as caviar, and milt is no different.
In Japanese cuisine and in other South-East Asian countries such as Singapore, the cod milt (also known as shirako) is a delicacy and is consumed throughout the nation. However, shirako can also be defined as the testis of fish and shellfish such as blowfish, salmon, and squid.
Since it is milt, it can only be taken from male fish and shellfish. They are harvested in winter from the cold Sea of Japan. As milt does not develop until the spawning season, not much can be harvested from one fish. Therefore it is generally treated as a delicacy, which can be quite expensive.
Shirako is commonly enjoyed in izakayas (Japanese-style pubs), sushi bars, and at fish market stalls.
How to Prepare Milt
To eat milt safely, it needs to be carefully prepared. Preparation varies from fish to fish; however, for shirako, which is most commonly eaten, it is as follows:
1. Fill a bowl with cold water and gently wash the milt.
2. Cut it into bite-sized pieces.
3. Fill the bowl with saltwater and rub gently to remove any sliminess.
4. Rinse the milt under running cold water and then drain.
5. Boil for about 30-40 seconds, then place in iced water to stop the cooking process.
Different Ways to Eat Milt
Whilst cod’s sperm is used throughout the world, these are just a few examples of shirako, which eaten in Japan.
One of the most common ways to eat shirako in Japan is with ponzu sauce, a citrusy soy sauce. The shirako is served raw in a small bowl, sprinkled with green onions, and topped with the ponzu sauce. It is commonly served with shiso and grated daikon.
The shirako has a mild, creamy texture with a fresh oceanic taste. It balances perfectly with the acidic and salty ponzu sauce, which cuts through that creaminess.
Similar to shirako ponzu, for for gunkan maki sushi the milt is placed on top of vineyard rice and wrapped in seaweed. The sushi is topped with ponzu or soy sauce, along with some wasabi. The creamy shirako compliments well with the slight acidic rice and umami nori, making it a popular choice in sushi restaurants during winter.
Tempura is also another popular way of enjoying shirako. The natural creaminess of the milt is balanced with the crunchy tempura batter. The prepared milt is dipped in the tempura batter, made from flour, water, and eggs. Then, it is fried in oil at around 170-180 °C until the batter is crispy. Tempura is garnished with sea salt, a squeeze of lemon, or a special sauce called tenstuyu.
A traditional Japanese hotpot called nabe is one of the most delicious winter dishes. A mixture of vegetables are stewed in stock, which can vary in flavor from dashi to kimchi. Typically, meat is added along with vegetables, but shirako makes for a tasty seafood nabe.
First, the vegetables are boiled in the broth and the shirako is added. This helps it retain the shape and texture of the shirako.
Shirako is lightly covered in seasoned flour and simply fried in oil. The flour helps add texture and a slight firmness to the shirako, which becomes deliciously creamy and sweet when cooked. In Japan, it is common to add soy sauce while frying to add further umami.