Mentai vs Mentaiko: What is the Difference in Meaning?

Have you ever eaten or heard of “Karashi Mentaiko (辛子明太子)”?

Karashi Mentaiko

Known as a specialty of Fukuoka Prefecture, it is made out of the roe of the ovary sacs of walleye pollock or Alaska pollock marinated in a liquid seasoning using ground red pepper. Actually, Karashi Mentaiko is originally a traditional Korean food.

Mentai and Mentaiko

Mentai or Mentaiko

As I mentioned in the past article, we Japanese sometimes call Karashi Mentaiko simply “Mentai (明太)” or “Mentaiko (明太子)”. The word “Karashi (辛子)” means “Spicy” in Japanese, but what are the exact meanings of Mentai and Mentaiko? 

The Meaning of Mentai in Japanese

Actually, walleye pollock or Alaska pollock is referred to as “myeongtae (명태)” in Korean, which is represented as “明太” using the Japanese Kanji (Chinese characters). The Japanese reading of the Kanji characters “明太” is Mentai, so “Mentai (明太)” originally means walleye pollock or Alaska pollock in Japanese.

The Meaning of Mentaiko in Japanese 

In the word “Mentaiko (明太子)”, “Ko (子)” has a meaning of child or children in Japanese, 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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