The Product: Mentaiko and Deviled Eggs Squared

by Emily Bell
Will Blunt
April 2013

Mentaiko Stats


Purveyors:
New York Mutual Trading Company and Yamaya USA

Storage:
High-quality mentaiko arrives fresh or frozen in pollock or cod roe sacks, and should be stored as such; fresh mentaiko should be used as quickly as possible.

Alternatives:
Tarako, pickled pollock roe, is the closest cousin to mentaiko, but it’s prepared without chili; cheaper varieties of mentaiko use red dye and MSG and should be avoided.

Prep:
Gently scrape the eggs from the center vein before service and hold in a refrigerator in a container set over ice.

Cost:
$5 to $11 for 125-gram portions

Combining a deluxe Asian product like mentaiko with a retro southern staple like deviled eggs is the least of Do or Dine’s mix-and-mash-up offenses—if you want to call them that. By this point, Chefs Justin Warner and George McNeese have built a name for themselves as comparatively untrained but extremely successful cooks with no qualms about stuffing foie gras into savory doughnuts or repurposing frozen gyoza (that’s right Brooklyn—not house made) for gouda-drenched “nachos.”

Not that the name of the game at Do or Dine is shock value. Sometimes it’s about fearless new perspective on the familiar. To McNeese and Warner, the familiar includes eggs and caviar, but putting Petrossian on a boiled egg is nowhere near extreme enough for Do or Dine.

Mentaiko Eggs
Mentaiko Eggs

In walks mentaiko, the spicy cod or Pollock roe that’s marinated in a mixture of chili, salt, sake, konbu, and yuzu. The components of the marinade change from brand to brand, but the umami funk is a must. For all its sexy culinary allure, mentaiko’s actually a pretty simple product—it’s essentially an Asian pickled caviar or bottarga cousin with a lot more wiggle and kick.

“Mentaiko is kind of a no-brainer. Deviled eggs should be a little spicy, hence the name, so really, mentaiko was almost made for it,” says McNeese.

Traditionally a Korean product, Japan fell in love with mentaiko in the 1950s and stocked its pantry, pairing mentaiko with shots of sake, onigiri rice rolls, and pasta dishes. Warner fell in love with mentaiko while working at a Japanese restaurant as a waiter/manager/sushi roller, and when planning Do or Dine’s menu, the chemistry between deviled fish eggs and deviled chicken eggs was too hard to resist.

For their Mentaiko Eggs, Warner and McNeese combine creamy Kewpie-enriched yolks with mentaiko, sesame oil, and Dijon to echo the heat. That mixture is scooped into its egg white home and topped with a disc of blood orange gelatin—which not only rounds out the flavor profile with deeper citrus notes but, as Warner puts it, “gives things a sexy mouthfeel and plate-able form.”

When building the recipe, Warner and McNeese settled on was a relatively high ratio of yolk to mentaiko: 2:1. “An easy-to-remember ratio that just worked,” says McNeese. What they wanted most was for the mentaiko to shine through, ideally to get customers quickly addicted to the hot and fishy pungency they never knew they needed—until now.

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