Tarako pasta is one of the most beloved pasta by Japanese people. Tarako, salted pollock roe, is common seafood that you can find in a fish section at every grocery store in Japan.
It’s my favorite quick and easy pasta for weeknight meals. Because it will be ready in 10 minutes and calls for only 5 ingredients: Tarako, butter, light cream, soy sauce and pasta spaghetti.
My family also loves the pasta so much that they come to a dining table earlier than usual.
What is Tarako?
There are 2 types of salted pollock roe.
- Tarako (たらこ): marinated with salt.
- Mentaiko (明太子): marinated with salt and chili powder.
Their difference is only spicy or not. So If you like to make this pasta spicy, choose Mentaiko for this recipe.
Although they don’t have a big difference except spiciness, Mentaiko has more advantage over Tarako when it come to brand marketing. There are famous Mentaiko companies, such as Kanefuku and Fukusaya, selling good quality Mentaiko for a higher price. Their Mentaiko is a popular souvenir in Fukuoka. In my opinion, the expensive Mentaiko is comparatively soft and less salty.
Going back to Tarako, I bought this for about 3 $ at my regular grocery store. It’s dyed with red color, but don’t worry, there is also natural undyed Tarako. Normally we eat them as is as an accompaniment for rice.
Tips for successful Tarako pasta
Tip 1: The amount of salt varies depending on Tarako. So It’s better to add a little soy sauce at the start, then adjust the taste later by adding soy sauce if needed. In my recipe, the amount of soy sauce is already moderated.
Tip 2: Quickly incorporate the sauce into the cooked pasta spaghetti. Because the cream sauce will be thicken as the sauce heating up. The perfect timing to remove from the heat is when the sauce just starts to thicken.
I think the most common toppings for Tarako pasta is dried seaweed and Shiso leaves. This Japanese herb has distinct flesh and tangy flavor which goes well with the creamy sauce. But my children don’t like the taste. So my alternative choice for the topping is chopped spring onions. You may want to change the taste in the middle of eating the pasta. In the case, squeezing lemon makes the pasta so refreshing and delicious.
Japanese Creamy Tarako Pasta
- 60 g (3 1/2 tbsp) Tarako / Mentaiko without skin
- 2 tbsp diced butter / olive oil
- 3/4 tbsp soy sauce
- 200 ml heavy cream / single cream any cream containing about 36% fat
For cooking pasta
- 180 g (6 1/3 oz) pasta spaghetti
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 L (8 cup) water
- Cut tarako in half and squeeze roe out with the back of a spoon to remove the thin skin. Then prepare 60 g (3 1/2 tbsp) of tarako for the recipe.
- Pour the water and add salt in a large pan and bring to boil.
Making tarako pasta
- Cook the pasta spaghetti according to the packet instructions.
- Meanwhile cooking pasta, place the Tarako, butter, soy sauce and cream in a large frying pan. Then lightly mix without heat.
- Add strained hot spaghetti to the frying pan and mix together over medium heat. Taste it and add a little more soy sauce if needed.
- Remove from the heat when the sauce just starts to thicken. Then immediately serve the pasta with toppings of your choice.
Best topping is some shiso leaves rolled up and then sliced into thin strips! The perfect flavor combination.
I wonder if a vegan version can be made. Maybe soaked cashews blended for the cream, and some sort of substitute for the roe- maybe sesame seeds and some ume. To taste fishy, maybe kombu dashi too. Hmmmm. I want to try!
It sounds interesting! Maybe quinoa would be nice for the texture of Tarako. Actually, I sometimes add Kombu dashi powder to get deep and fishy flavor. I hope you will arrange the recipe!
@melissa – I have found vegan caviar is sold online. Usually it is made from seaweed. Furikake might make a nice topping.
My partner made vegan tarako with amaranth, umeboshi, konbu, and soy sauce. We made tarako spaghetti with them and it was delicious!