Mentaiko spaghetti is my favorite of the Japanese-Western fusion cuisine known as Yoshoku. It takes
marinated salted cod or pollock roe—briny little pink bits bursting with umami—and incorporates it in a creamy pasta that’s like a carbonara of the sea.
I don’t know how many of you have whole sacs of roe sitting in the fridge, but I find myself craving mentaiko spaghetti at inopportune times. Sure, you can find roe in the freezer section of better Japanese supermarkets. But short of that, consider visiting your local Asian grocery store, which may have ready-made mentaiko from a brand called S&B Foods in stock.
For about $4 a pack, you get shelf-stable mentaiko in two sealed packets. It also comes with two sachets of dried and crumbled nori seaweed, which furthers the savoriness of the dish. For me it’s as convenient as boiling a cup of spaghetti, squeezing on the mentaiko and sprinkling on nori, and enjoying an easy late-night snack.
Of course, that’s the base-level enjoyment of mentaiko. You can augment the spaghetti experience by incorporating the mentaiko with butter and soy sauce. I’ve even been known to squeeze a few squiggles of Kewpie mayonnaise on top and a spritz of lemon juice.
Essentially, approach this as a creamier, less-intense version of bottarga. I find it as satisfying as any pasta I know.