Things I Love: Roe Rocks My Boat
August 13, 2015
This is Mentaiko – spiced pollack roe. Originally Korean, it's become a Japanese staple. I think of it as soft Asian bottarga with a little chile kick. And I use it in almost everything I'd use bottarga in. Sometimes it stands in for uni, although more for texture than for flavor, and it makes a really delicious pasta dish. You can find mentaiko at most Asian markets; I bought mine at Sunrise Mart.
But my favorite way to eat mentaiko? Very simply. Squeeze the roe out of the sac onto a small bowl of hot rice and mix like crazy.
If you're looking for a good pasta recipe, here's one I like very much from Grace Keh: it's not only an excellent recipe, but a very good explanation of exactly what to expect when you're using mentaiko.
And while we're on recipes I like…. A recent post on Zester about savory peaches intrigued me too much to resist. I've never thought of using peaches as if they were a vegetable and the result was really fantastic. The peaches I used were hard as rocks – so hard I peeled them like apples – but in the end they were tender, fragrant and absolutely delicious. If you've never thought about peaches with ginger and garlic, they're a fine surprise. They made a perfect accompaniment to a bowl of spicy Chinese noodles.
Categorised in: Snacks and Beginnings, Things I Love
Your blogs are amazing! I love love reading them, and always forward them to folks who appreciate great food writing. But in a zillion years, I never expected to find Mentaiko as a subject. I discovered it in the late 80s at a place called Edo Garden. The sushi chef took some pleasure in educating me about sashimi, and would serve it as a roll (but using thinly sliced cucumber, instead of seaweed), then he would slice the roll. That is the only way I have had it. When I ask have asked at other sushi bars they just laugh. That sushi chef opened Sushi Zen in the Theatre District. I was in the neighborhood, so I dropped in for some sashimi, which was top notch. It did not occur to me to ask for Mentaiko. I wish there was someplace near Mamaroneck, NY that made it.
When I was a child in the 70s, my Japanese grandmother taught me to spread mentaiko on top of hot buttered toast and then place a piece of nori on top. I loved the combination of all the flavours and textures. Now that I think of it, it was a pretty progressive use of mentaiko for a grandmother in Japan at that time.