|☛ Tiny round, salty, spicy and soft against the tongue, mentaiko (明太子) is a staple in Japanese homes. Mentaiko is cod roe marinated in a red chili pepper sauce. Its rich flavor goes well with rice. One can also enjoy it with drinks. Mentaiko are used in rice balls, salad dressings, on gunkan sushi, okonomiyaki, and on pizza. But perhaps one of Japan’s best loved dishes made with this spicy roe is a creamy wafu spaghetti dish most often served at home.
☛ Mentaiko is the most popular and regular souvenir from Fukuoka. (Fukuoka (福岡市) is the capital city of Fukuoka Prefecture and is situated on the northern shore of the island of Kyūshū in Japan.) Mentaiko cures may contain sake, yuzu, kombu or any number of other ingredients, or they can be as simple as salt and chili powder. The eggs are tiny and can range in color from light pink to a bright orange-red from the seasonings. Many companies boast their original tastes. (Tarako is roe which is simply salt cured.) They are available in Japanese supermarkets here in the United States—most often frozen.
☛ Mentaiko is often referred to as cod roe. Cod, or “Tara 鱈” in Japanese is known as “Snow Fish” because of its beautiful white flesh, and because it is at its best during winter. Perhaps some mentaiko is made with cod roe, but most of it is made with Alaskan (or possibly Russian Federation) pollack. According to the Montery Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, the population of North Pacific cod may be over-fished. The Alaskan pollack is a recommended substitute for cod.
☛ The Alaska pollock fishery is one of the largest single-species fisheries in the world. A member of the cod family, pollock reach maturity at an early age and produce plentiful young—traits that help them withstand intense fishing.
☛ Pollock populations are moderately healthy, but their numbers have been declining. Pollock are now at their lowest levels in over 20 years.
Pacific cod is found throughout the North Pacific and its bordering waters.
☛ The U.S. has its own Pacific cod fishery, and also imports product from Japan and the Russian Federation. These fisheries use bottom longlines, bottom-set gillnets (which have high bycatch), bottom seines and bottom trawls (which cause severe seafloor habitat damage and result in bycatch).
☛ Management in these fisheries is ineffective, as indicated by the lack of population data. The only known assessment is for a single population in Japan and the data suggest that it has been overfished in the past and that overfishing is likely occurring.
☛ The first time I tried mentaiko spaghetti, I bought “mashed spicy mentaiko” but this time I bought the ovum sacks. To release the tiny eggs, you can either slit each pouch down the middle then use a spoon to get them out, or nip one end of the sack and use fingers or chopsticks to squeee the eggs out!
more info about Alaska pollack from Wikipedia:
☛ Alaska pollack has a mild taste, white color and low oil content.
☛ High quality, single frozen whole Alaska pollack fillets may be layered into a block mold and deep frozen to produce fish blocks that are used throughout Europe and North America as the raw material for high quality breaded and battered fish products.
☛ Single frozen Alaska pollock is considered to be the premier raw material for surimi; the most common use of surimi in the United States is “imitation crabmeat” (also known as crab stick). It is the main ingredient in the surimi-based sandwich product called “Seafood Sensation” sold by the Subway fast-food chain.
Alaska pollock is commonly used in the fast food industry, for example the Filet-O-Fish sandwich at McDonald’s. It is also used by Dairy Queen, Arby’s, Long John Silvers, Carl’s Jr., and Burger King.