Mentai vs. Mentaiko: What’s the Difference in Meaning?

Have you ever heard of Karashi Mentaiko (辛子明太子)?

The food is of Korean origin. But now, it has become a specialty of Fukuoka Prefecture in Japan.

Karashi Mentaiko

For the unfamiliar, Karashi Mentaiko is a delicacy made out of the roe of the ovary sac of walleye pollock, also known as Alaska pollock,

marinated in a liquid seasoning with ground red chili pepper. 

Mentai vs. Mentaiko

Mentai or Mentaiko

As I mentioned in this article, we Japanese sometimes call Karashi Mentaiko simply Mentai (明太) or Mentaiko (明太子).

In the word Karashi Mentaiko, Karashi (辛子) means Spicy. But what are the exact meanings or definitions of Mentai and Mentaiko? 

Mentai (明太)

In the Korean language, Myeongtae (명태) is the word for walleye pollock or Alaska pollock, which is represented as 明太 using Chinese characters or Kanji.

As the Japanese reading of the Kanji 明太 is Mentai, the original meaning of Mentai (明太) turns out to be walleye pollock or Alaska pollock.

Mentaiko (明太子) 

In the word Mentaiko (明太子), Ko (子) means child or children in Japanese.

So Mentaiko originally refers to the roe of the ovary sac of walleye pollock or Alaska pollock.

(Reference Page: Wikipedia 辛子明太子 )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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