If you’re going to cook Japanese at home, you’re going to need some pointers! Join chef, food writer and MasterChef UK winner Tim Anderson on a journey back to the country that inspired him to learn to cook. You’ll love this mentaiko pasta, also known as wafu pasta or Japanese carbonara.
Believe it or not, there is a whole world of Japanese pasta dishes, collectively known as wafu (Japanese-style) pasta. Almost invariably based on spaghetti (which is not so different from ramen, in a way), Japanese pasta often resembles traditional Italian or Italian-American pasta dishes, but with innovative touches based on indigenous Japanese flavors. A classic example is mentaiko pasta, which uses pollock roe cured with chilli to flavor a buttery sauce – the flavor of mentaiko is kind of like a combination of Italian bottarga and chilli, so it makes sense.
There aren’t really any rules when it comes to Japanese pasta, so feel free to play around with this. It is remarkable how well most Japanese flavors work stirred through spaghetti.
- 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 7 ounces oyster or shiitake mushrooms (stems removed), thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, grated or very finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons sake
- A few pinches freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons miso
- 4 tablespoons dashi
- 2 eggs, beaten
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 pound 2 ounces dried spaghetti
- toasted sesame seeds
- 1/2 sheet nori, cut into fine shreds with scissors
- 3/4 ounces-1 ounce Parmesan or pecorino
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- 2 ounces ikura (salmon roe), optional
For the carbonara
Melt the butter in a large frying pan (skillet) and add the onion and mushrooms. Fry until the onion and mushrooms are just golden brown, then add the garlic and cook until soft. Add the sake and black pepper and stir through. Reduce the heat to low.
In a bowl, whisk together the miso, dashi, eggs and lemon juice, ensuring that no lumps of miso remain.
Cook the pasta at a rolling boil to your liking, then drain well and return to the pan. Add the onions and mushrooms and the miso-egg mixture, and stir through – be quick with this, so the residual heat from the pasta cooks the eggs and thickens the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt as needed. Garnish with sesame seeds, the shredded nori, Parmesan and chives, and a nice dollop of ikura, if using, in the middle.