This mentaiko spaghetti post brings back quite a few sweet memories.
It’s 2006 and I’m an art student in Antwerp, Belgium. I’m studying at the royal art academy, which is also well known worldwide for its fashion design department. And that obviously attracts students from all around the globe.
The students in my class are for that reason from everywhere also: South Korea, China, Japan, Brazil, America and the UK. I become quite close friends with my Japanese classmates Yoko and Hitomi.
One grey spring Saturday afternoon we end up in Hitomi’s apartment after going shopping at IKEA. And even though I was just coming in for another 5 minutes, it is dark outside before we realise it and it is raining.
None of us really wants to break off the conversation and at one point Hitomi decides to cook pasta for dinner for us. She goes through her kitchen cupboards and puts a bag of spaghetti, fresh mushrooms and butter on the counter.
And also a flashy looking package with Japanese signs on it.
On top it says ‘spicy cod roe’ but back then my English wasn’t as good as it is now. She asks if I like cod roe, and I’m too shy to say that I don’t even know what it is so I just nod like mad and give her a thumbs up.
Mentaiko (Japanese Cod Roe Spaghetti)
Well long story short.
Hitomi places a bowl of buttery mentaiko pasta and mushrooms in front of me in the end. Gosh, it looks glossy and creamy. And the smell is just mouth watering. I say domo arigato and we dig in. Absolutely delicious.
I try very hard not to gobble down my Japanese mentaiko pasta dinner in 3 mouthfuls. Boy, this stuff is addictive. Where did you get this mentaiko roe sauce? I ask her, fearing she will say she brought it from Japan or the UK where she studied the year before.
She says at the Chinese Sun Wah supermarket near Antwerp Central Station, easy. I must admit that I go there very often but this mentaiko sauce never really caught my eye.
Needless to say that only a few days later I went back and bought my personal stash of the same mentaiko cod roe spaghetti sauce.
Since then I have eaten quite a few versions of mentaiko, also in Japan. The mushrooms are not an ingredient that is traditionally added, but it was nevertheless a very tasty and creative addition. Whatever you do, do add some sliced or shredded nori.
That really makes a difference.
Fresh or Canned Cod Roe for Mentaiko
In the recipe below I use canned cod roe instead of the instant package.
Believe me, I’ve made this mentaiko spaghetti numerous times before and I was able to finetune it until it matched the flavors I remember so vividly from back then. Goes without saying that you can also use fresh or frozen tarako cod eggs instead if you can buy them where you live!
Do you want to know more about mentaiko and cod roe?
Then read on!
- 6 oz dry spaghetti (170 g)
- 3,5 oz (canned) cod roe (100 g)
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp cream
- 1 tsp hot chili sauce
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise (Japanese kewpie)
- 1 tbsp nori seaweed thinly sliced
- Fill a large pan with water and add a good dash of salt. Place the pan over high heat until boiling. Then add the spaghetti and cook it until it is tender and drain it.
In the meantime add the butter to a small frying pan. Place the pan over medium heat until the butter has melted. Then add the cod roe, chili sauce and soy sauce.
- Gently fry the roe in the butter for 5 minutes. Then take the pan off the heat and stir in the cream and mayo.
Stir well with a balloon whisk until you end up with a nice sauce. Check the seasoning and add extra pepper or salt to taste. If you want the cod paste to be very smooth, push it through a sieve or blend it.
- Once the spaghetti is tender, drain it. Then transfer the spaghetti back to the pan and add the roe sauce. Stir well until the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce. Add the mentaiko spaghetti to a bowl. Sprinkle with the sliced nori and serve.
What is mentaiko?
So what is mentaiko?
Mentaiko is spiced pollock roe which has a bright orange to reddish color. It’s the eggs of an Alaska pollock, a type of cod fish. In Japan tarako is the unspiced plain roe and has a more beige like color.
Tara means cod, and ko means children.Do you see karashi mentaiko on a package or menu?
Then it means that the roe is spicy. Pollock roe is a popular culinary ingredient in Korean, Japanese and Russian cuisines by the way.
You can find these fresh sacks of roe in abundance in Japan. But this is Europe. And I’ve only seen it once, frozen. In my local Asian supermarket here.
Unfortunately that day I wasn’t planning on going straight home. So I decided not to buy it. The next time I went back, there was none at all. Which made me stick to the canned cod roe mentaiko version.
Which by the way is also perfect for this mentaiko spaghetti sauce!
It’s a popular Japanese dish like I said before. Spaghetti in a silky sauce with butter, cream and cod roe of course. Doesn’t sound very Japanese, I can hear you think. Because that’s exactly what I was thinking the first time I googled to find a good mentaiko recipe.
Mayonnaise, really? It works brilliantly.
Try it then! You’ll see.
More recipes with cod roe
Are you looking for more recipes with canned cod roe after trying out my mentaiko spaghetti?
Then here’s a handful of ideas to give you extra inspiration!
1. Taramosalata (Little Cooking Tips)
Greek foodies and chefs Panos and Mirella tell you more about cod roe and which one is just perfect to make this classic Greek taramosalata!
2. Chip Shop Style Cod Roe (Cookipedia)
Fresh cod roe is a seasonal product that is available throughout January to March in the UK and difficult to buy fresh outside of this period. Are you a fan of chip shop style fried cod roe? Then you’re lucky because almost all fried cod roe from the chippy is canned, and reasonably priced. Check this fried cod roe recipe!
3. Sautéed Spinach with Cod Roe (Cookpad)
4. Mentaiko Mayo Yaki Onigiri (Chopstick Chronicles)
This mentaiko mayo onigiri is going to be part of my next sushi and sashimi dinner with the family. They are just perfect to make ahead, and don’t they just look way too cute? Thanks for the inspiration, Shihoko! I’m sure that they will be a huge hit and a family favorite from now on…
5. Cod Roe Sandwich with Parmesan Crisp (Amazing Sandwiches
I love a good open faced sandwich for lunch. This cod roe sandwich looks just absolutely gorgeous. It’s like I can almost taste it!
The crunchy toasted slice of bread, butter, lettuce, cod roe, seeds and parmesan crisps. This one has my name on it…