Herring roe. 数の子.
Herring eggs are very small, but they stick together: the roe forms a single, cohesive mass (10 by 2 cm), with a firm, rubbery texture. The color is usually yellow. The roe is dried and then pickled in salt. It is rather expensive, but a fixed item in the New Year kitchen (osechi-ryori).
Herring also leave there eggs on kelp (konbu); this is called komochi konbu ("konbu with children") and is used as a very exclusive topping for sushi.
Kazunoko is first mentioned in documents of the 16th century, when it was offered as a present to the then shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru.
Because "kazunoko" means "numerous offspring," it became a typical New Year food with a lucky name.
[Photo Ad Blankestijn]