Mentaiko Pasta (Spicy Cod Roe Pasta) 明太子パスタ

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Mentaiko Pasta Recipe | JustOneCookbook.com

If you know what Mentaiko Pasta (Spicy Cod Roe Pasta) is, were you surprised when you first saw the photo?  WHAT?  Udon noodles instead of spaghetti?  That’s how I felt when I went to my favorite Japanese restaurant Ginji and ordered their Mentaiko Carbonara (their version of Mentaiko Pasta).  Very unique, right?

Let me step back and explain about this dish in case you are not familiar with this Japanese-Italian fusion pasta.  I learned that it’s actually pretty popular in some Asian countries but otherwise, either you will have to find a modern Japanese restaurant or you have to fly to Japan to taste this pasta.  In short words, it’s not so common served in typical Japanese restaurants around the world.
Mentaiko Pasta | Just One Cookbook.com
So let’s begin by talking about the main ingredient.  Mentaiko (明太子) is chili-spiced salted roe of pollock or cod and it is usually used as a filling for Onigiri (rice ball).  You can find mentaiko in either refrigerated or frozen section of Japanese supermarkets.  Typical Mentaiko Pasta is spaghetti tossed with mentaiko, butter and sometimes cream.  It’s really a quick meal that only requires 15 minutes of preparation time.

Ginji, my favorite restaurant I mentioned earlier, adds squid to this pasta, and oh my that is a brilliant idea!  I had never seen Mentaiko Pasta with squid in it before, but it really gives additional complexities to the dish with different texture and flavor.  And the result was absolutely delicious.  I was making my Mentaiko Pasta without squid but now it’s a must have ingredient.

You might wonder if you can skip Japanese mayonnaise (a common brand is Kewpie Mayonnaise); however, I really think this is another must have ingredient.  I know some of you might have a hard time finding Japanese mayonnaise, but try finding it at a Chinese/Asian markets.  They usually carry Japanese mayonnaise (at least around where I live).

I hope you will enjoy this quick and delicious meal!

Please note that I did not use colored mentaiko because I want to avoid artificial coloring; therefore, my mentaiko pasta looks less pink/orange.  Also, the spicy level of mentaiko varies depends on mentaiko brand so adjust the spiciness with shichimi Togarashi (Japanese 7-flavor chili pepper) based on your preference. 

Mentaiko Pasta | Just One Cookbook.com

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Mentaiko Pasta (Spicy Cod Roe Pasta)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1.76 oz (50 g) karashi mentaiko (spicy salted pollock roe or cod roe)*
  • 1 Tbsp. Japanese mayonnaise**
  • ¼ cup (4 Tbsp) heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce – sorry I forgot to add in the picture below
  • 2 packages of udon (I like sanuki udon) ***
  • ½ onion
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (you can use salted butter, but you may not need to add salt later)
  • 4 oz (114 g) pre-sliced squid
  • 2 Tbsp. sake
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 10 shiso leaves (perilla) (optional)
  • Kizami nori (shredded nori), or cut nori sheet into thin strips
  • Shichimi togarashi (optional)

Instructions
  1. Make a slit through each sac membrane of the mentaiko lengthwise and scrape out the spicy roe with knife (or spoon). Discard the sac membrane.
  2. In a large bowl combine mentaiko and Japanese mayonnaise.
  3. Add heavy cream and soy sauce.
  4. Start boiling water to cook udon. Once water boils, cook udon according to the package. Frozen udon is pre-cooked so you just need to make sure udon is loose and hot. Drain well.
  5. While you wait for udon to cook, finely dice the onion.
  6. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the onion.
  7. When the onion is soft, add the squid and cook until it changes color.
  8. Add the sake and sauté until alcohol is evaporated.
  9. Add the onion and squid mixture into the mentaiko sauce. Mix well.
  10. Add cooked udon and toss well until the udon is evenly coated with the sauce. Adjust the taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  11. Julienne shiso leaves and garnish the pasta with nori and shiso leaves.
  12. Sprinkle shichimi togarashi if you like it to be spicy.
Notes
I did not use colored mentaiko, so my mentaiko pasta looks less pink/orange.

Please use Japanese mayonnaise. The taste of other mayonnaise is not the same.

Sanuki Udon has more al dente texture and different from typical pre-cooked udon in package. It does not break easily compared to typical udon and it’s more elastic and it has square shape. The texture is more similar to pasta. If you cannot find Sanuki Udon, please use spaghetti or your favorite pasta.

Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.

 

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  1. Nami, Mentaiko & Tarako are my fave & I did a pasta post sometime ago too. Fell in love with this dish when I was living in Japan. Wish I could make this more often, but they’re quite expensive in the supermarket :<

    Interesting to see this with udon. Love to have a bite right now! Oh, love your new subscription service which I've already signed up so I won't miss your posts.

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  2. mmm.. this looks so appetising! must be so so yummy ^^ we are lucky there are a few places serving mentaiko pasta (minus the squids) over here.. at a price, however ^^ do wish mentaiko was more affordable ^^

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  3. I’ve never heard of this dish before so this is an eye opener for me. However, i love how udon is used instead of pasta and it makes it a proper fusion dish! :)

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  4. Lee G

    Hi Nami. I was a little surprised by the usage of Udon but it looks like it suits the sliced squid. I like mentaiko pasta. Thanks for sharing

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  5. Nami, one of these days, I am going to do three things:

    Hunt for a nearby Japanese store
    Make a long list of ingredients that you use here, (some of which I even have difficulty in pronouncing, even though I love the way they sound).
    Follow your recipes letter by letter.

    For now, I will go to the nearest Japanese restaurant and order mentaiko.

    When is your cookbook coming out again? I need to pre-order it.

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  6. Gosh, if i hadnt had dinner, i would have immediately gone out to get the ingredients to make this! Nami, this is gonna keep playing in my mind until i make it LOL. I first heard about this a few months ago, and have been wanting to make it. Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe, now you know what we will be having for dinner this weekend :)

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  7. I saw a group of japanese today and I had to think of u. ^.^

    About the pasta…

    maybe it should be called jewel pasta, since it is rather rare to get it served in a restaurant. At least i know about its existence now, so I can show off to some folks here. hehe

    Now whats that shichimi togarashi?
    I need to get hold of this. Maybe i can grow it in my garden?

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  8. Thank you, Nami, for exposing me to another unique part of Japanese cuisine that I’ve never heard of. I don’t see myself making it in the near future (pollock or cod roe are probably as scarce as hen’s teeth, I imagine) but I’m sure I’ll get some ideas of ways in which to adapt the dish to something more manageable.

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  9. This is why I love your site, you learn something new everyday …or every time you post. I has never heard of this dish and even though I am not a seafood fan, this sounds like a great fusion dish.

    I really need to get organised and visit my Asian store and get cooking with your recipes.

    Nazneen

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  10. Eri

    This is so interesting Nami, I will try to find this salted fish and make this dish, it is really easy! I find the idea of adding squid or other seafood great too!

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  11. Linda @ My Foodgasm Journal

    My hubby and I love Japanese food so much. This is such a delicious recipe and i love how they/ you use udon vs. spaghetti. So yum!

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  12. Nami, you have introduced me to some of the most unique and interesting dishes! I thought I knew Japanese food before I started following you. WRONG! I didn’t know anything about Japanese cuisine. So thank you! This is such an unusual dish for me and it sounds like something that this household would love!

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  13. As much as I love Japanese food and have frequented many Japanese restaurants in the Bay Area, I don’t think I have ever seen this fusion pasta dish before. But I am glad that you are sharing the recipe to this uncommon dish. It looks really yummy!

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  14. I think I better just show up at your doorstep so I can try this unique and delicious pasta! You make it all look so easy, Nami! I promise to bring dessert :)

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  15. I never imagine using mentaiko in food recipes. Let me explain, we eat mentaiko but fried, we just put some flour and fry in very hot oil. That is the unique way I saw it, but it’s great to know I can use in another way…!!!

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  16. omg Nami I LOOOOOOOVE this dish! I always order it at Japanese restaurants whenever I see it!! So delicious! Thanks for sharing this Nami! i gotta make it soon!! 😀

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  17. Eha

    An abolutely delightful recipe I hope to try soon. Living some 80-100 km from the closest Japanese store may just have a little difficulty in accessing some of the ingredients. On the other hand, the wonderful spice mix shichimi togarishi came onto our spice store lists over a decade ago [any Oz readers, try Herbies to begin with!]: I seem to use it in all kinds of fusion cooking! Oh that dish does look appetizing :) !

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  18. You know I just love udon Nami! This looks delicious. I know I’ve never had, and don’t think I’ve ever seen, a Japanese/Italian fusion dish. This is totally intriguing. I’m a huge sucker for pasta…can eat it all day every day if I could! I have a feeling I’d really enjoy this dish. :)

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  19. To find and taste this Mentaiko Pasta – (1) find a modern Japanese restaurant or (2) fly to Japan …or maybe (3) visit Nami if you are in the Bay Area 😛

    I do not know there are different types of pre-cooked udon….hmmm….Sanuki Udon is new to me. I hope this word “Sanuki” is indicated on the package if not I won’t be able to find it even if I visit a Japanese grocery store. I really like that you take a snapshot of all the ingredients and products. :)

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  20. Nami this dish looks so good and so different from what I am used to. Unfortunately I don’t think I can find many of the ingredients you give for this recipe here in Greece, so i just admire it from your pics!

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  21. Your step by step pictures are so great Nami. I absolutely love coming over here and learning about your cuisine. Now I just have to get my hiney in gear and start making it.

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  22. Looks like I am heading out to the kitchen again after this… you are making me hungry (just had breakfast ;))
    My daughter who loves pasta and Japanese food would definitely loves this Italian-Japanese fusion :)

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  23. Wow, I’ve never heard of this and I’m very intrigued! We have a terrific Asian market here, so I’m sure I can get all the ingredients. We don’t eat squid, though, so could I substitute another fish? Thanks for sharing!

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  24. Gorgeous! I tasted onigiri with spicy mentaiko for the first time in my life a couple of days ago and loved it! I was wondering how they make the mentaiko taste so spicy and I see it’s the shichimi togarashi! I love the squid idea too (I love squid everywhere!), so your pasta is already bookmarked.
    Do you think I could try making it with cod roe sold here not spiced, but only salted, and then spice it up on my own?

    64
    • Sissi, I’m not sure if the salted cod roe there are processed/prepared the same way, but if it is, why not? I’m not fully sure how karashi mentaiko is made, but I assume you can add shichimi or ichimi togarashi to spice it up. :)

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  25. I love Kewpie mayonnaise (although I think the doll on it is creepy). Never heard of this dish – but I’d definitely give it a shot, it looks like a great mix of ingredients and perfect for a weeknight.

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  26. This looks absolutely wonderful, and I promise I’m not just saying that because it has mayonnaise (omg yes!) in it :D. I think I can imagine the flavour… is it maybe a bit like tarama, with udon, but more creamy and saucy? I’d love it, I just know it, but where to find mentaiko…? :( I think the chances of getting it here are slim to none!

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  27. I had heard that there is a Japanese dish that uses roe, just like Sardinian spaghetti con bottarga which I absolutely love. This must be it. Would love to try it sometime. I don’t mind the use of udon noodles at all. Now I have another thing to look for on my next visit to Nijiya.

    BTW, I’ve been meaning to ask you where you get your boneless pork belly? The Asian markets in Daly City and Foster City don’t have it. I ended up with side pork which I don’t know is a decent substitute.

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    • How interesting! I didn’t know about that Italian dish using mullet roe for pasta. We do eat mullet roe (we call it Karasumi) but not in pasta. After blogging, I start to notice and learn a lot of similar ingredients in Italian and Japanese cuisines.

      Boneless pork belly is in Nijiya too. I usually buy several blocks of pork belly from there on the 29th (it’s 20% off every 29th). Whole Foods have frozen one too. You have to order one if it’s at Piazza in San Mateo. :)

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  28. So rich and decadent! I haven’t tasted this kind of pasta, but one day, when I’m feeling brave and adventurous, this is going to be in my must-try list. I admit, I’m a little intimidated with using roe in carbonara. I love my traditional bacon, hehe. But live to try new things…!

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  29. Yayyyy you wrote your mentaiko pasta recipe!! I will so go out and get that pack of mentaiko I saw at the grocery store. :) It was one of the most delicious pastas I’ve tried when I was in Japan…so creamy and so good. 😀

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  30. Dear Nami,

    I think fish roe adds so much flavour and complexity to a dish, this is a like adding bottarga to pasta except you have also used udon which is something different. I love udon style noodles in northern Chinese stir-fries too.

    80
  31. vivala-b.bird

    Hi Nami,

    I made your recipe tonight and it was incredibly delicious! I have never had mentaiko pasta with squid before and I couldnt believe how well it turned out despite forgetting to add the sake.
    My brother in law is vegetarian so I mixed the mayo with the soy sauce and cream, set some aside before adding the mentaiko. Same with the butter and onions before adding the squid. I was worried that the dish wont have enough flavour for him, but he said it was delicious!
    Thank you! (I also made Gomaae to go with the pasta and it was to die for!)

    82
    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it and how wonderful that you made vegetarian version at the same time for your brother-in-law! I’m really happy to hear you made two of my dishes on the same day! 😀 Yay! Sake is for removing fishy smell from squid, so if it wasn’t bothering, that’s okay to omit. Thank you so much for taking your time to give me feedback and I really appreciate it! :)

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  32. Hyok Kim

    Thanks for the recipe. I became a recent convert to mentaiko pasta. Your version looks like the most refined version of all the recipes available.

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