It’s only natural that a month after returning from my Tokyo holiday, I have a distinct hankering for Japanese food. Fortunately, my local Asian grocer seems to be ever increasing its range of Japanese groceries so a taste of Japan is never too far away. There are of course still many Japanese foods that are hard to come by in Australia but I was pleasantly surprised by a gift of salted cod roe (tarako) this month.
In Japan, tarako comes from the Alaska Pollock but most cod produce roe of a similar nature. Tara itself means cod and the Ko refers to offspring. Tarako is generally eaten raw but it can be cooked gently to use as filling in rice balls (onigiri) or char grilled. Most Japanese people enjoy tarako but it is perhaps an acquired taste for others. It’s therefore no real surprise that most fishmongers don’t sell it though I wonder how Greek people get hold of their roe for taramasalata?
Luckily for me, my Japanese friend happened to find some tarako at Perth Kimchi in Myaree and brought some over to me the other weekend. Tarako is actually very tasty on its own with a bowl of steamed white rice or with rice with tea (ochazuke), but it would have been remiss of me to not use some of the roe for a serve of Tarako Pasta, which I normally only have by using a ready-made sauce. So stuck at home with a nose cold one afternoon, I made up a serve of my ultimate comfort food from scratch.
Tarako Pasta is certainly a popular dish in Japan but I’m discovering that a lot of people seem to know about it here in Australia too, and love it! Who can blame them? Tarako Pasta is an addictive flavour sensation and even those adverse to eating fish parts would find this dish intensely tasty. Apparently the dish was invented in 1967 at a pasta restaurant in Tokyo, when someone made a request for a bowl of spaghetti with caviar in it.
There are many ways to make Tarako Pasta and most recipes are very simple. The hardest part is getting hold of salted cod roe. Nippon Food Supplies in Subiaco often has some frozen tarako in stock but given it’s not eaten widely in Australia, and cod only spawn for a short period of time each year, you’d need to hunt around for it at good seafood shops and even then, the roe may not be salted and ready to use.
If you do manage to get hold of some fresh salted cod roe then please try my recipe. I learnt that it’s best not to heat the roe too much or it will clump up so please keep this in mind regardless of which recipe you decide to try :) Also, the best way to extract the content from the membrane is to treat it like a vanilla pod; just slit it along the side and scrape out with a blunt knife.
- 1 portion of tarako/salted cod roe (ie - a pair), scraped of content
- 2 tbsp butter
- ⅓ cup of cream (I used the low fat, cooking cream with success)
- squeeze of yuzu juice (or lemon)
- option - smoked fish or eel, chopped/shredded into small pieces
- enough spaghetti pasta for four people
- thinly cut roasted seaweed and chopped chives to garnish
- Place butter in small saucepan and melt gentle on low heat.
- Add cream to butter and increase heat to a low simmer until cream and butter is combined and bubbling slightly.
- Allow mixture to cool enough so that it is warm to the touch. Cook pasta while mixture is cooling.
- Add tarako to mixture and whisk until well combined. Add optional smoked fish or eel and toss through. Add yuzu/lemon juice to taste. Mixture should be salty enough. If too salty, add a little more cream and heat through gently.
- Drain pasta, return to pot and toss 2 tbsp of tarako mixture through the pasta.
- Serve pasta on plate and top with a generous heap of remaining tarako mixture per serving.
- Garnish with nori seaweed and chives. Another squeeze of yuzu/lemon may be added at the end too.