We all know that pasta is universally beloved, and the ultimate in convenience. So it is always a good idea to have several quick and easy pasta recipes that you can whip up at a moment’s notice. Tarako Spaghetti is one of the most popular pasta dishes in Japan. With its briny and garlicky flavor, it’s easy to see why. It’s so simple and really shakes up your noodle routine, let me show you how!
Tarako is a very common ingredient in Japan. It’s fish roe, or caviar, from Alaskan pollock from the cod family. The word actually means child of cod, which is a pretty poetic way of saying eggs. It has a distinctly briny salty flavor that adds a lot of flavor to simple foods. So tarako is often eaten as a side dish to steamed rice, as a filling for omusubi, or a seasoning for snacks like crackers.
If you are a caviar fan, this is definitely the recipe for you. A lot of recipes for Tarako Spaghetti add soy sauce or cream. I prefer to let the clean ocean flavor of the roe shine through without a lot of embellishment. Also, depending on the brand, tarako can be lightly salted or aggressively salty, so I would wait until the end to adjust the seasoning.
Tarako is sold in its membrane-like sac, which is edible (and yummy!) Some people split the sacs open, and spoon out the eggs, but I like the extra oomph and texture it adds to the spaghetti by just cutting it into coins. My daughters love Tarako, so they get an extra thrill when there are big chunks swirled into the noodles.
Tarako is preserved in salt, and is usually sold frozen in Asian markets here in the US. It will last indefinitely (or until freezer burn hits) in the freezer, so that’s where I keep mine. It defrosts pretty quickly, so I just take it out when I’m ready to start cooking or transfer it to the fridge the night before. If refrigerated, it should be used within a week.
Making Tarako Spaghetti
This is one of those uber-easy pastas where it’s basically ready when the noodles are cooked. I start with a quick prep of the ingredients.
I like a combination of olive oil and butter for this dish. The bright fruity olive oil mixed with the creamy lushness of butter is amazing. The amount of garlic may seem like a lot, but sliced garlic is actually more subtle than minced garlic and few things are as heavenly as garlic bubbling in olive oil.
When cooking the tarako, keep the heat on medium. High heat tends to create a lot of steam, which will send bits of tarako flying all over the place.
Normally when I cook western style pasta, I salt the water. Since tarako is already preserved in salt, I skip this step, but I do reserve some of the cooking water to help loosen up the sauce.
Tarako Spaghetti, with its mix of Western and Eastern ingredients is such a fun and satisfying pasta dish. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Rate and comment on the recipe below; we love hearing from you! And show off your creations by tagging us @funkyasiankitchen.
- 8 ounces tarako
- 3 large cloves garlic
- 3 scallions
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 pound Spaghetti
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the tarako into ¼ inch slices. Set aside.
- Trim the ends off of the scallions and then cut the scallions on an angle into thin ⅛” pieces. Set aside.
- Thinly slice the garlic and set aside.
- Heat a large 12” skillet over medium heat (you can also do this in a dutch oven). Add the olive oil and the butter. Swirl the pan to coat with the oil.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, moving it around the pan to cook evenly. Add the tarako and let it cook for one minute undisturbed. Using chopsticks or a heat proof spatula, stir-fry the tarako gently for another minute. Turn off the heat and set the pan aside while you cook the pasta.
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the spaghetti and cook it according to the instructions on the package for al dente pasta.
- Before draining the pasta, reserve ¼ cup of cooking water.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the pan of tarako. Turn the heat to medium high and using a pair of tongs, toss the pasta and the tarako together.
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of pasta water to the pan to loosen up the sauce and help coat the strands of pasta. Season with ground black pepper and stir to combine.
- Taste a strand of pasta and add a little salt if needed. (Different tarako brands have varying degrees of saltiness and can be quite salty.)
- Add the scallions, toss one more time and then pile the pasta onto a platter or individual serving plates. Serve immediately.