Shirako, Japanese Fish Milt, Sperm Sacs

What looks like little white brains or rather unappealing gooey blobs, is actually a Japanese delicacy called Shirako. 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 ShirakoAlthough milt is a very common dish in Japan, many people consider it a rather acquired taste. It could be describe 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 when it is cooked.

While caviar – the eggs of female fish – enjoys a wordlwide reputation as an exclusive and appetizing delicacy, milt is rather considered 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.

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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