Mentaiko – The Japanese Offspring of Fish Roe Kimchi

Mentaiko consists of marinated pollock eggs spiced primarily with chili, although some versions may include karashi,  a mixture of ground mustard seeds and horseradish.  The rich and spicy flavor of mentaiko is often eat straight with a dollop of rice,  accompanied by cold sake. At Hurry Curry of Tokyo we combine mentaiko with lightly sauteed calamari (ika) and toss with steaming hot pasta “wafuu” style.

Fukuoka, a major seaport city in the southern island of Kyushu,  claims the title to Mentaiko Capital of Japan”  .  Toshio Kawahara, founder of the grocery chain Fukuya takes credit for creating the culinary craze. Born in Busan, Korea, Kawahara crafted a Japanese version of the cod roe kimchi he ate in his youth. He also derived  the word “mentaiko” from the Korean word for Alaskan pollock (mentai명태 : myeongtae in Korean) and the Japanese word for “child” (子 ko? ). Kawahara  introduced mentaiko to his customers at his first grocery store in 1949, located in a corner of Hakata.  Today, approximately three hundred mentaiko producers call Fukuoka home.