Tarako (salted cod roe) (たらこ)

Tarako refers to the ovary (roe) of cod. In a broad sense, tarako includes roes of Pacific cod and fresh raw cod roes while in a narrow sense, it means exclusively salted "mako" (ovary of Walleye pollack).
Set forth below is the explanation about tarako of the narrow sense which means 'salted mako.'

The main production areas of tarako include Hokkaido. One example of processed food using the mako is karashi-mentaiko (spicy salted cod roe).

In case of making distinctions of species in fresh fish markets, roes of Walleye pollack are called sukeso-no-ko (or sukeso-ko) and roes of Pacific cod are called madara-no-ko.


Tarako is eaten raw or heated to be eaten as "yaki-tarako" (grilled tarako).

Tarako is also used as an ingredient in rice balls and as a topping on "chazuke" (boiled rice with tea poured over it [a bowl of rice and tea]) or dressed with squid meat for an appetizer to go with sake.

Thus, tarako is a popular foodstuff widely used in Japanese cooking. Also, tarako is used as the ingredient of tarako spaghetti (spaghetti with salted cod roe) and when heated, texture of tarako changes.

Tarako is salty. Tarako is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin B3 (niacin). Tarako consists mainly of about 65 % of water, 28.5 % of protein and 1.7 % of fats. Dark green stains sometimes found on the surface of tarako are bile.

Another name of tarako is momijiko (used in Hokushinetsu regions and Hokkaido).


Since the exclusive economic zone has been set, Japan's domestic production of raw material for tarako has decreased due to the regulations imposed on the sea zones.

Since the voluntary suspension of fishing activities in the Bering Sea started in 1993, Japan has been importing frozen raw materials for tarako from the United States and Russia. The domestic production of raw material for tarako has decreased to the 10 % level of the total amount used to produce tarako in Japan. Tsurimono tarako,' which is tarako produced from raw material fish, caught off the Sea of Japan coast of Hokkaido by haenawa-ryo (fishing by using haenawa) using tsuriko (a way of fishing), is very rare and not stably supplied in the markets.

The sales ratio of karashi-mentaiko to tarako is about 7:3, it is said that the market of karashi-mentaiko produced by marinating tarako in hot pepper sauce is larger than that of tarako.

Major production areas

-One of Japan's leading production areas of tarako. Tarako produced in Kojohama has become a brand product called 'kojohama-no-tarako' (salted cod roe made in Kojohama), which has been sold in television home shopping programs.

The Sea of Japan coastline of Hokkaido
-'Tsuritarako' produced in this region has high quality because each Walleye pollack is caught by Ippon-zuri (a way of fishing where a fishing line and a hook is used) in which the fish body is less damaged than fish caught by other methods. The price is relatively high due to its small production.


It is said that, the development of Walleye pollack fishing which replaced the Pacific cod fishing that stagnated around 1903 in Hokkaido, led the production of cod roes to begin, and by that, the tarako has become widespread.

Thereafter, tarako has spread all over Japan, and today Kojohama of Shiraoi-cho, Hokkaido has become the most famous production area of tarako in Japan.

In 2006, 'Tarako, tarako, tarako' was released as a commercial song for a processed food using tarako.

Tarako and mentaiko

Today the word 'mentaiko' is used to mean 'karashi-mentaiko' in most parts of Japan, but the word is tricky to use in that in some parts of western Japan such as Fukuoka Prefecture, the home of karashi-mentaiko, the word is used to mean 'tarako' without being marinated with hot pepper sauce, which is explained above in this article, and we need to pay attention since the word is clearly distinguished from the word 'karashi-mentaiko.'

Originally, the word 'mentaiko' (明太子) means cod roe. The original meaning comes from the combination of 'myonte'(明太), a Korean word, or 'mindai,' a Russian word, both meaning Walleye pollack with the last character "子"(roe).
Assumedly, as karashi-mentaiko became a popular souvenir and more and more karashi-mentaiko was brought to places where the word 'mentaiko' means tarako was not known, the word 'mentaiko' came to be used and spread as an abbreviation of 'karashi-mentaiko.'

Tarako in commercials

Tarako is featured in a mascot character named 'Tarako Kewpie' used in commercials for a product of Kewpie Corporation, and also used as a motif in 'Tarako Dai-sakusen' (The Blitz of Salted Cod Roe), a character of Crux (stationery company).

Commercial of 'Tarako, tarako, tarako'
-A group of elementary and junior high schoolers who sing the song above 'Tarako, tarako, tarako.'

Things named after tarako

Thick lips or people having thick lips are sometimes mockingly called "tarako-kuchibiru," because tarako look like thick lips.

Tarako is sometimes used for a derogatory term for the color (vermillion No. 5) of coating of diesel trains which former Japanese National Railway used in its late period.

-Voice actress and singer-songwriter.

A song by Southern All Stars. The title of the song comes from 'tarako' explained in this article.

-Singer-songwriter. Former vocalist of A kyu (band name).

[Original Japanese]