Shirako – No Brains, But A Curious Traditional Delicacy Nevertheless

Shirako, Japanese Fish Milt, Sperm Sacs

What looks like little white brains or rather unappealing gooey blobs, is actually a Japanese delicacy. Shirako literally translates to ‘white children’ but refers to what is known as ‘milt’ in English – the sperm sac of fish filled with seminal fluid.

It is usually harvested from cod (tara) but can also be found from anglerfish (ankō), salmon (sake), squid (ika) and pufferfish (fugu). Shirako is mainly available in winter as this is when most types of the seminal fluid are in season. During this time, it is served in both raw and cooked form in restaurants all over Japan, sometimes also under the names ‘kiku’ or ‘tachi’. The most common way of preparing the sperm sacs is to boil or steam them for a short time. Apart from this, they can also be found pan-fried or deep-fried as a snack or as toppings for other dishes.

Fried Tempura ShirakoSo what does Shirako taste like?

Although milt is a very common dish in Japan, many people consider it a rather acquired taste. It could be describes as sweet and custardy; very subtle and delicate with a slight fishiness that makes it easily distinguishable from similar-looking dairy products.

The texture of the sperm sac highly depends on the way it is served. While the raw Shirako is soft, creamy and slippery, it becomes slightly more firm and the individual sections become more defined after cooking it.

While caviar enjoys a worldwide reputation as an exclusive and appetizing delicacy, milt is rather a strange curiosity. Even though Shirako is simply the male version of caviar – basically the ‘eggs’ of male fish – its appearance and the knowledge of what it actually is often creates a feeling of disgust with many people.

You love discovering extraordinary delicacies like Shirako? Then check out our collection of the most curious foods from around the world!


Similar to:

Lattume from Italy
Lapți from Romania
Moloka from Russia

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Find more food and drinks from Japan here.

Photos by Tokyo Times, takaokun

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