Mentaiko Spaghetti is another non traditional Japanese dish that originated from a restaurant in Tokyo named Kabe-No-Ana (“hole in the wall”) which opened in 1963 serving italian pasta with Japanese-style sauces.* This is another example of a Japanese fusion success as it is widely popular in Japan and loved by Japanese foodies. But what is it exactly made of? Why the slightly pink hue? (Altho the light was too yellow when the photo was taken).
Mentaiko is made of pollock roe or fish eggs– yes fish eggs. Altho this sounds a bit odd, it actually gives off a slightly sweet taste that is pleasing to the palette. Here is how mentaiko looks like from the Japanese grocery shelf:
Normally, you’d find this in Japanese grocery or korean grocery stores with names like: Myeongnan
Myeongnan-jeot,Tarako, Mentaiko, Ikra mintaya.
Now this is something some people like, and some people don’t like. But if you have no idea what it tastes like and you are curious to try, I would suggest for you to keep your mind open and throw the “fish egg” notion out the window, if it helps.
There are different ways to make this one, others prefer their mentaiko slightly cooked (it will turn into a lighter color like the specks on the photo below), I prefer it raw as it has a more delicate taste and a better texture.
The version that I am going to show is for the raw mentaiko. I added a few non traditional, more familiar ingredients as well. If you want it cooked, you just need to saute the mentaiko in the butter as opposed to the method I will discuss below.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
• 500g spaghetti
• About 6-8 sacs of salted pollack roe or mentaiko or a little less than 1/2 cup of mentaiko (when removed from egg sacs)
• About 3 knobs of butter (depends on how buttery you want your pasta).
• 1/4 cup bacon diced into small pieces
• 1/8 cup spring onion or leeks, sliced very thinly
• 2 tbsps Mirin
• 1 tbsp Sake (if available)
• 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
• Salt and pepper to taste
• A dash of sesame oil
• Nori sliced into thin pieces
1. Boil the pasta according to package instructions and drain, set aside to cool.
2. While pasta is boiling, melt 2 or more knobs of butter (depends on how buttery you want your mixture to be)
3. remove the mentaiko from its containers by slitting the sac open and spooning the contents out. Add all the mentaiko into the melted butter. Ensure that the butter is not too hot if you don’t want it to get cooked and tougher.
4. Add sake, mirin, soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil.
5. On a separate pan saute the bacon and half the leeks in 1 knob of butter.
6. Add the pasta to bacon and leeks butter on the pan and mix well and turn off the heat.
7. Slowly add the mentaiko mixture into the spaghetti, mixing well so that the mentaiko doesnt cook.
8. Season with salt and pepper
9. Serve with more mentaiko sauce on top, leeks and nori slices on top.
Sources on history of mentaiko: https://www.zagat.com/b/what-the-heck-is-mentaiko-spaghetti