Tarako consists of plain, salted sacks of pollock or cod roe. The tiny eggs are packed tightly together and encased in a very thin membrane. The Japanese word "tarako" translates to "children of cod": “tara” meaning cod, and “ko” which means children. Tarako is typically sold raw and usually identified by its neutral color, which is a nude, almost beige with light pink undertones. Tarako is highly appreciated, difficult to find, and thus very expensive.
Mentaiko is identical to tarako in that it is a sack of salted cod roe, but differs from tarako as the roe is marinated in powdered chiles and spices to create an array of subtly different flavor profiles. Raw mentaiko is offered in different colors, ranging from a muted pink to bright red, depending on the food manufacturer.