One of the unique fusion (Japanese mix with Western) food that I love is Wafu Pasta (和風パスタ) – Japanese style pasta. Today I will share with you a very popular and easy Wafu Pasta recipe, Mentaiko Pasta (明太子パスタ).
How to make Mentaiko pasta?
It might seem like an odd pairing, but the salty and spicy mentaiko goes really well in a buttery creamy sauce. The roe of pollack/cod is much smaller, refined, and softer than tobiko (flying fish roe), which are often used for sushi. If you close your eyes while eating, you probably won’t notice you’re eating tiny pollack/cod roe from the texture. However, its flavor definitely packs a punch.
The reason why this recipe is quick and easy to prepare is that you don’t need to cook mentaiko and the cream sauce. Simply prepare the cream sauce while boiling pasta, and toss and coat the mentaiko mixture with cooked pasta and you’re done! The hot cooked pasta will heat up the mentaiko cream sauce.
This sauce is not very “saucy”, but if you prefer you can double the amount of the sauce and pollack/cod roe. Don’t increase just creamy sauce (milk + heavy cream) because the balance between spicy/salty roe and creamy sauce will be off.
Top the pasta with strips of nori seaweed and julienned shiso leaves (perilla) to give it nice distinct aroma and flavor, just like how julienned basil provides the final touch for some Italian pasta dishes.
Substitute Ingredients for Mentaiko Pasta
Mentaiko: I know mentaiko is not easy to find unless your nearest Japanese grocery stores carry it. Unfortunately, the only substitute that would work is tarako (たらこ), the cod/pollack roe that’s not prepared with chili (so your children can enjoy too). Again, this is something you should be able to find in most Japanese grocery stores, but not common ingredients to find elsewhere.
I apologize that there is no good substitute, but I still wanted to share this recipe and introduce a popular and easy Japanese-style pasta (wafu pasta) with you today.
Milk & Heavy Whipping Cream: In Singapore, we have “half and a half” (one part milk one part heavy cream) and I sometimes keep them in my fridge for our coffee. You can use half and half instead of mixing milk and heavy whipping cream. If you want to keep the pasta healthier/lighter, skip heavy cream and use whole milk (or reduced-fat milk) only. If you like more creamy pasta, you can use heavy cream only. The result of “creaminess” will vary depending on the ratio of milk and cream.
Butter: If you like to keep it healthier/lighter, you can replace the butter with extra virgin olive oil.
Shiso Leaves (perilla leaves): This Japanese herb goes really well with this pasta. I highly recommend to include if you can find it, but it’s fine to skip if you can’t find it locally. Don’t use basil or other types of herbs for this recipe as they don’t give the same effect.
I hope you will enjoy making this Mentaiko Pasta recipe! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @leplaincanvas on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
Creamy Mentaiko Pasta
Mentaiko Pasta (明太子パスタ) is a delicious Japanese-style cod roe pasta that comes together in a matter of minutes from just a handful of ingredients. With a rich, creamy sauce that’s loaded with umami, it’s no wonder this new classic has become a household staple in Japan.
90 gramskarashi mentaiko (about 2 pieces)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cuphalf and half (half cream, half milk)
9 gramsParmigiano Reggiano (grated)
200 gramsdry spaghetti
1/4 sheetnori (cut into thin strips with scissors, for garnish)
- Boil the pasta according to the package directions in well-salted water (about 1 tablespoon salt per 5 cups of water).
- Whole mentaiko comes in the roe sacks which have a tough outer membrane. Pierce one end of it and then squeeze the roe out of membrane into the bowl, like you’re squeezing toothpaste out of the tube.
- Add the olive oil, half and half, and Parmigiano Reggiano and then whisk to combine.
- Prepare the garnishes.
- When the pasta is done, drain it and then add it immediately to the bowl with the Mentaiko sauce. Toss to coat the pasta evenly.
- You can plate it using tongs and a small bowl or ladle and then garnish it with the nori and shiso.