Mentaiko (also called Mentai) is a famous delicacy from the Kyushu region of Japan, which is salted pollock roe. It’s a savory treat enjoyed as part of many dishes and by itself. It’s also a go-to flavoring for all kinds of snacks you’d expect to find at supermarkets and convenience stores across the country.
One mentaiko maker based out of the city of Fukuoka has gone the extra step, by combining the fishy flavoring with a favorite Japanese sweet, making for one of the more clever confections you’ll encounter in 2020.
Get To Know Roe
Mentaiko is among the most famous foods in all of Japan. This dish is heavily inspired by a similar Korean creation, which takes the roe of the Alaska Pollock fish and salts it to boost the taste. It came to the country from Japan’s neighbor several centuries ago, and rose to prominence primarily in the Kyushu region of the country, especially in cities such as Fukuoka, where many mentaiko manufacturers sprung up in the years after.
Mentaiko has even become one of the most popular flavor options for a range of goods, from french fries to sauces to potato chips.
They Know Their Roe
Fukuoka mentaiko maker Yamaya has been specializing in the dish since their founding in 1974. They sell individual servings to people while also provide it wholesale to companies, becoming a notable name in the production of mentaiko.
The delicious mentaiko is not only spicy and salty. The sauce Yamaya uses is consisted of yuzu from Kyushu, Rausu kelp from Hokkaido, Fukuoka's famous sake "Kitaya", and Yamaya's special chili powder which is spicy but does not affect the aroma and taste of mentaiko. Finally, after 168 hours of aging, the rich and delicious Yamaya's mentaiko is completed.
They know roe well, and accordingly they have decided to try some more creative applications of the flavor. Say, for a snack that is traditionally seen as a sweet, and something people wouldn’t ever associate with a taste originating from the sea.
Late last year, Yamaya released a new mentaiko rusk snack, modeled after their mentaiko french bread creation and riffing on a crispy snack that usually comes in sweeter varieties. While this was originally released only at the local airport and major bullet train station, it is now possible to get it (including in our own prefectural box).
It’s a crispy snack featuring the rich taste of mentaiko in every bite without being too overwhelming, presenting it in a clever way that reminds just how much is possible with the flavor.
Classic Taste, New Tricks
Companies like Yamaya have been perfecting mentaiko for decades, but just because they’ve nailed the dish doesn’t mean they’ve stopped trying out new ideas. This mentaiko rusk is one reminder of how so many Kyushu creators are seeing just what’s possible with a classic flavor.
Want to taste this Mentai Rusk? Get this month's "Prefecture Box" by 10/31 to enjoy 6 Fukuoka delicacies including the Mentai Rusk!
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