Yukimura Eishoten (幸村英商店) mentaiko shop at Yanagibashi Market, Fukuoka/Hakata
Earlier this year, before the show was finally cancelled, there was an episode of Dotchi no Ryori Show (Dotch Cooking Show) which pitted Hakata (Fukuoka) specialties against specialties from Nagoya. The special ingredient (tokusen sozai) for Hakata was mentaiko, and the mentaiko they chose was from a shop called Yukimura. The owner of Yukimura, as we see from the episode, makes bi-monthly trips to Hokkaido to purchase the most premium tarako (cod roe) with which he makes his mentaiko in the back of his shop in a special mix of chili powder. I was careful to take mental notes as I watched the show, and as we walked through the Yanagibashi market, I instantly recognized the owner from his profile on TV, and decided we had to buy some mentaiko. It was a stroke of good fortune, since I was trying to figure out what to get for my relatives in Tokyo and Hiroshima, and this turned out to be the perfect solution, since they ship overnight to just about anywhere in Japan. We also had our purchase shipped to Hiroshima (where we would be in a couple days) so we didn’t have to carry it around with us.
Now I’ve been eating mentaiko for as long as I can remember, in onigiri (rice balls), or ochazuke, or just on top of rice. So I thought I knew a thing or two about mentaiko. But since I grew up in LA, and live in NYC, the mentaiko that’s mostly available is the mass-produced stuff in the boxes in the freezer section at Japanese and Korean markets. Let me just say that when I tasted this mentaiko, I realized that what I had been eating all that time was merely a facsimile of what mentaiko is suppose to be. If you grew up eating Wonder bread and found it a revelation after eating a good crusty yeasty bread for the first time, then you know what I mean.
The evening we returned to Hiroshima, we had a mellow evening of eating in, but we first ripped into the package from Yukimura. I had my hunk of mentaiko on top of plain white rice. I remember being so excited about eating mentaiko when I was a kid, and having it on plain rice took me back to that feeling. Except now I was appreciating it at another level.
When we told the owners that we were from NYC and saw them on TV (rented the video, actually), they were completely blown away that we had even heard of them, and they were ever so helpful to get us anything we needed, along with tastes. Here are some photos: