June 26, 2014

Mentaiko Spaghetti

If you've been to Japan, you'll know that the Japanese-inspired Italian cuisine there is amazing, especially the pastas. The Japanese has managed to take Italian food and tweak it to make it their own, creating a delicious fusion cuisine. You still get Carbonara and Bolognese, but slightly sweeter and creamier than the Italian version. Often there will be pastas made with Japanese ingredients, such as sea urchin and mentaiko. Mentaiko is marinated roe of pollock or cod with a little bit of spice. There is also a non-spicy version called tarako. Mentaiko is usually a side dish, eaten as a complement for rice or to season dishes. It can also be grilled or cooked into other dishes. In this case, into a pasta! 

This pasta is bursting with layers of umami - from the mentaiko, nori, and bonito. Great indulgent dish for a quick weeknight dinner.

You can get mentaiko from nice Japanese supermarkets. Remove the outer sac membrane before using it. Bear in mind that the mentaiko is very light colored on its own, so when mixed with the pasta you can barely see it. You can add more mentaiko if you wish, but it is quite salty on its own, so one sac is enough.

The recipe is simple. The sauce itself is just unsalted butter and mayonnaise mixed with mentaiko, but make sure you use Kewpie mayonnaise (Japanese kind) and not your average American mayonnaise. It won't taste the same.


For one


50g spaghetti or angel hair
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon Kewpie mayonnaise 
1 sac mentaiko
1/2 teaspoon mentaiko, for garnish
Nori (dried seaweed) cut into strips, for garnish
Bonito flakes, for garnish

  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, around 7 minutes or according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter and mayonnaise in a large pan over low heat. Make sure not to burn the mixture.
  3. Drain the cooked pasta and transfer it to the pan. Quickly coat with the butter mixture.
  4. Turn the heat off and add the mentaiko. Toss.
  5. Transfer to serving dish and garnish with more mentaiko, nori strips, and bonito flakes.

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