Alaska pollock roe
Alaska pollack's liver (top, center), roe (left), and milt (bottom)
Korean name
Literal meaningAlaska pollock roe
Japanese name
Russian name
Russianикра минтая
Romanizationikra mintaya

Pollock roe, also pollack roe (also known as myeongnan and tarako) is the roe of Alaska pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus) which, despite its name, is a species of cod. Salted pollock roe is a popular culinary ingredient in Korean, Japanese, and Russian cuisines.


The purely Korean name for pollock, myeongtae had been assigned the Chinese character form 明太, which can be read as mentai in Japanese. But while the Japanese borrowed this name from Korean and called it mentaiko,[1] the term does not retain the originally meaning of plain raw roe, but specifically refers the chili pepper-added cured roe, while salt-cured only types are called tarako.[1][2][3]


As aforementioned, Alaska pollock in Korean is myeongtae (명태,明太), hence pollock roe is myeongnan (명란,明卵), a contracted form of the compound with +ran or +nan (란,卵) meaning "egg (roe)".

The salted roe dish is called myeongnan-jeot (명란젓), being considered a type of jeot () or jeotgal, which is a category of salted seafood.


In Japanese, (salted) pollock roe is called tarako (鱈子),[2][3] though it literally means 'cod roe',[a] while true cod roe is distinguished by calling it hontarako.[4][5] The pollock roe, also known as momijiko, are usually salted and dyed red.[4][5][b]

Pollock roe cured with red chili pepper are 明太子 (mentaiko);[5][2] to put it another way, mentaiko refers to chili-laced versions of tarako, generally speaking,[1] even if not qualified as karashi-mentaiko with the prefix meaning 'chili'[6]{Refn|group="lower-alpha"|Note that 'chili' is more formally tōgarashi[3] = 'foreign, Chinese' + karashi 'mustard'.[2][3]


In Russian, pollock roe is called ikra mintaya (икра минтая). The word is also used to referred to the salted roe. The Russian word ikra (икра) means "roe" and mintaya (минтая) is the singular genitive form of mintay (минтай), which means Alaska pollock. The word is also derived from its Korean cognate, myeongtae (명태).



Koreans have been enjoying pollock roe since the Joseon era (1392–1897). One of the earliest mentions are from Diary of the Royal Secretariat, where a 1652 entry stated: "The management administration should be strictly interrogated for bringing in pollock roe instead of cod roe."[7] Recipe for salted pollock roe is found in a 19th-century cookbook, Siuijeonseo.


A 1696 Japanese book records the use of Alaska pollock's roe in Northern land.[8]

The dish mentaiko originates from Korea, but after more than 100 years of modification, most of the pollack roe consumed in Japan is Japanese mentaiko.[9] [10] [11][12][13][14][15] Toshio Kawahara (川原 俊夫, Kawahara Toshio), who was born in the city of Busan, Korea during the Japanese occupation, founded the oldest mentaiko company in Japan called "Aji no Mentaiko Fukuya" (ja:ふくや) after World War II. He made several modifications to myeongnan-jeot to adapt to Japanese tastes and introduced it to Japan as "Karashi mentaiko" (ja:辛子明太子), its popular name is "mentaiko". The milder, less spicy version is called tarako (鱈子) in Japan. Eventually, Mentaiko is quite different from Korean myeongnan-jeot, and so much more is consumed. And Japan's mentaiko is also imported back to Korea.[9]


Alternative namesMyeongnan
Ikra mintaya
Place of originKorea
Associated cuisineKorean cuisine
Japanese cuisine
Russian cuisine
Main ingredientsRoe of Alaska pollock
Salted Alaska pollock roe
Korean name
Literal meaningAlaska pollock roe jeotgal
Japanese name
Russian name
Russianикра минтая
Romanizationikra mintaya


See also: Alaska pollock as food § Korea

Traditionally, myeongnan-jeot was made before dongji (winter solstice). Intact skeins of Alaska pollock roe are washed carefully with salt water, then salted in a sokuri (bamboo basket). The ratio of salt to roe ranges from less than 5:100 to more than 15:100. After 2–3 days, salted and drained roe is marinated for at least a day with fine gochutgaru (chilli powder) and finely minced garlic. myeongnan-jeot is usually served with sesame seeds or some drops of sesame oil.

Myeongnan-jeot, whether raw, dried, and/or cooked, is a common banchan (side dish) and anju (food served with alcoholic beverages). It is also used in a variety of dishes, such as gyeran-jjim (steamed egg), bokkeum-bap (fried rice), and recently in Korean-style Italian pasta dishes.

Myeongnan-jeot is a specialty of South Hamgyong Province of North Korea, and Gangwon Province and Busan of South Korea.


Mentaiko, adapted from Korean myeongnan-jeot,[10][11][12][13][14][15] hence the name mentai (derived from the Korean myeongtae, 명태, 明太, meaning pollack) + ko (Korean 알, 子, meaning baby/roe), is common in Japan. It is made in a variety of flavors and colors and is available at airports and main train stations. It is usually eaten with onigiri, but is also enjoyed by itself with sake. A common variety is spicy mentaiko (辛子明太子, karashi mentaiko). It is a product of the Hakata ward of Fukuoka City. Milder version is called tarako (鱈子),

Recently in Japan, mentaiko pasta has become common. Mentaiko is mixed with butter or mayonnaise and used as a sauce for spaghetti. Thin strips of Nori (海苔) and Shiso leaves are often sprinkled on top.

Mentaiko was nominated as Japan's number one side dish in the Japanese weekly magazine, Shūkan Bunshun.[16]

Tarako is served in a number of ways: plain (usually for breakfast),[17] as a filling for onigiri, and as a pasta sauce (usually with nori). Traditionally, tarako was dyed bright red, but recent concerns about the safety of food coloring have all but eliminated that custom.[17] In Kyūshū, tarako is commonly served with red chili pepper flakes.


In Russia, pollock roe is consumed as a sandwich spread. The product, resembling liquid paste due to the small size of eggs and oil added, is sold as canned food.

As mentioned above, in Russian, the word for pollock roe is the same as for the caviar: "ikra". The same goes to a dish, known to the French as "caviar d'aubergine": "кабачковая икра", although it's a spread made of eggplants.

To make the pollock roe taste in a caviar-like way, one should make a butterbrot first e.g. to apply butter to the bread before adding the canned pollock roe. This will smoothen the excessive saltiness of the canned roe.

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ i.e., tara (, 'cod's') ko (, 'child'), however, since pollock bears the name suketōdara (介党鱈) it is linguistically understood to be subtype of the tara or 'cod', so this is not exactly a misnomer in the Japanese language.
  2. ^ Whereas hontarako is usually sold raw, to be made into nitsuke (simmered or braise) or made into the soy sauce preserved tsukudani.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Sugimoto, Tsutomu [in Japanese] (2005). Gogenkai 語源海 (in Japanese). Tokyo Shoseki. p. 288. ISBN 4487797438.
  2. ^ a b c d Uchida, Hirotsugu; Watanobe, Masamichi (2008). "Walleye pollack (Suketoudara) fishery managemnt in the Hiyama region of Hokkaido, Japan". In Townsend, R.; Shotton, R.; Uchida, H. (eds.). Case Studies in Fisheries Self-governance. Food & Agriculture Org. p. 163. ISBN 9789251058978.
  3. ^ a b c d Mouritsen, Ole G. [in Danish]; Styrbæk, Klavs (2023). Rogn: Meget mere end rogn. Gyldendal A/S. ISBN 9788702392029. karashi-mentaiko (mentaiko) - krydret variant af tarako, som er saltet torskerogn.. med.. japansk chili (togarashi) [karashi-mentaiko (mentaiko) - spicy variant of tarako, which is salted cod roe...with.. Japanese chili (togarashi).]
  4. ^ a b OECD: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2009). "Caviar substitutes". Multilingual Dictionary of Fish and Fish Products. John Wiley & Sons. p. 39. ISBN 9781444319422.
  5. ^ a b c d Koizumi, Takeo [in Japanese] (2002). Shoku to nihonjin no chie 食と日本人の知恵 (in Japanese). Iwanami Shoten. pp. 401, 662. ISBN 9784006030520.
  6. ^ That is to say, the sources treat mentaiko and karashi-mentaiko are synonyms, and thus interchangeable.
  7. ^ Cha, Sang-eun (12 September 2015). "A hit abroad, pollock roe is rallying at home". Korea Joongang Daily. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  8. ^ "遠藤元閑(1696年)『茶湯献立指南』、「鱈の子は北国より出る名物也」" (JPG). Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  9. ^ a b "I asked store owner of Fukuya why the mentaiko is a local specialty of Hakata". dailyportalz. 2 April 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Mentaiko and the Japanese People". JACAR Newsletter. 4 February 2016. Archived from the original on 14 October 2017. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Busan, the City of Pollock Roe". Lotte Hotel Magazine. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  12. ^ a b "Fukuoka Food Guide". Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  13. ^ a b Preston Matt (27 October 2015). The Simple Secrets to Cooking Everything Better. Plum. ISBN 9781743547618. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  14. ^ a b Yuto Omura (28 July 2021). "Japanese Mentaiko Pasta (Cod Roe Spaghetti)". Sudachi Recipes. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  15. ^ a b Grace Keh (18 September 2014). "Mentaiko Spaghetti Recipe (明太子)". Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  16. ^ Ahn Min-jeong (6 May 2011). "일본인 좋아하는 밥반찬에 한국의 그것?". JPNews. Archived from the original on 22 November 2011. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  17. ^ a b Ashkenazi, Michael; Jacob, Jeanne (2003). Food Culture in Japan. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 58–9. ISBN 0-313-32438-7. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.