Iwashi mentai are grilled sardines stuffed with mentaiko, the chilli-cured pollock roe famous in Fukuoka. Whenever I go back to Japan I buy some to take home, because somehow they’ve found a way to package them so they’re shelf-stable, and it’s not easy to find mentaiko products that will survive the long, unrefrigerated journey home.
I chopped up an onion, a carrot, three cloves of garlic, and six iwashi mentai after carefully removing their spines. I fried everything in a very hot wok along with a can of corn and some dashi powder, soy sauce, sesame oil, and kabosu juice for added flavor. I cracked a couple of eggs in at the end and lastly added the rice. To ramp up the fishy/spicy flavor I garnished it with shichimi and grated dried mentaiko. I also added a little fresh yuzu zest to clean it up. The result was deeply savory, a little spicy, and less fishy than I expected. It was also surprisingly sweet, mainly, I think, because of some sort of glaze the sardines had been packaged in. It was hearty, dirty, and delightful. I served it with broccoli cooked in dashi with a little mentaiko mayo to complete the meal.