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 (mentai, 명태 : 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.