Pollock roe

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.

Alaska pollock roe
Alaska pollack's liver, roe, and milt
Korean name
Literal meaningAlaska pollock roe
Japanese name
Russian name
Russianикра минтая
Romanizationikra mintaya


In Korean, pollock roe is called myeongnan (명란,明卵), while the salted roe dish is called myeongnan-jeot (명란젓), being considered a type of jeotgal (salted seafood). The Korean word myeongnan (명란) means pollock roe as myeong (명,明) came from myeongtae (명태,明太), the Korean word for Alaska pollock, and ran (란,卵), also pronounced nan, means "egg (roe)". As jeot () is a category of salted seafood, the compound myeongnan-jeot (명란젓) refers to salted pollock roe.

The Japanese word for pollock roe is tarako. Pollock food products are often called karashi-mentaiko or mentaiko, a compound of mentai (明太), borrowed from its Korean cognate myeongtae meaning Alaska pollock, and ko (), a Japanese word for "child (roe)". Alaska pollock are called suketōdara (介党鱈) in Japanese. Tara () means cod in Japanese. Tarako (鱈子) literally means "cod roe", but generally refers to smaller salted roe sacs.[1]

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."[2] 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.[3]

The dish mentaiko originates from Korea and is originally the Korean myeongnan-jeot.[4][5][6][7][8][9] 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 slight 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.

Salted pollock roe

Salted Alaska pollock roe
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


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,[4][5][6][7][8][9] 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.[10]

Tarako is served in a number of ways: plain (usually for breakfast),[11] 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.[11] 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 canned.

See also


  1. Gleyn, Bledsoe; Barbara, Rasco (2006). "Caviar and Fish Roe". In Hui, Yiu H. (ed.). Handbook of Food Science, Technology, and Engineering. CRC Press. p. 161-12. ISBN 978-0-8493-9849-0. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  2. Cha, Sang-eun (12 September 2015). "A hit abroad, pollock roe is rallying at home". Korea Joongang Daily. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  3. "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). Archive.wul.waseda.ac.jp. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  4. "Mentaiko and the Japanese People". JACAR Newsletter. 4 February 2016. Archived from the original on 14 October 2017. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  5. "Busan, the City of Pollock Roe". Lotte Hotel Magazine. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  6. "Fukuoka Food Guide". japan-guide.com. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Grace Keh (18 September 2014). "Mentaiko Spaghetti Recipe (明太子)". Sffood.net. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  10. Ahn Min-jeong (6 May 2011). "일본인 좋아하는 밥반찬에 한국의 그것?". JPNews. Archived from the original on 22 November 2011. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  11. 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.
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