Mentai vs Mentaiko: What is the Difference in Meaning?

Have you ever heard of “Karashi Mentaiko (辛子明太子)”? Karashi Mentaiko is originally a traditional Korean food but now it has become a specialty of Fukuoka Prefecture in Japan.

Karashi Mentaiko

Karashi Mentaiko is made out of the roe of the ovary sacs of walleye pollock, also known as Alaska pollock, that’s been marinated in a liquid seasoning containing 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 of Karashi Mentaiko, “Karashi (辛子)” means “Spicy”, but what are the exact meanings or definitions of Mentai and Mentaiko? 

Mentai (明太)

Actually, walleye pollock or Alaska pollock is referred to as “myeongtae (명태)” in the Korean language, which is represented as “明太” using the Japanese Kanji (Chinese characters).

The Japanese reading of the Kanji characters “明太” is Mentai, so the original meaning of “Mentai (明太)” is walleye pollock or Alaska pollock.

Mentaiko (明太子) 

In the word “Mentaiko (明太子)”, “Ko (子)” has the meaning of child or children in the Japanese language, so Mentaiko originally refers to the roe of the ovary sacs 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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