Japanese made spaghetti their own by mixing it with tarako cod roe

JAPAN - (THE JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) In this column, we look back over changes in Japanese cuisine by featuring popular recipes carried in The Yomiuri Shimbun over the past century.

Pasta began to spread in Japan after World War II, with macaroni appearing on the market in 1955, quickly followed by spaghetti.

Japanese spaghetti today is entirely made of durum semolina flour, just like spaghetti in Italy, according to Nisshin Foods Inc. However, when spaghetti was first introduced, strong flour meant for bread was used, making the spaghetti thick, similar to udon noodles.

Naporitan (Neapolitan) spaghetti flavored with tomato ketchup and spaghetti with meat sauce were popular for some time in the nation.

Spaghetti entered a new phase with Japanese-style spaghetti, and spaghetti mixed with tarako salted cod roe was introduced in the lifestyle pages of The Yomiuri Shimbun in 1976.

In the bubble economy era in 1980s, the so-called "itameshi" (Italian cuisine) boom arrived, and various authentic Italian pasta dishes came to be known here. The newspaper's lifestyle section began to carry recipes for various pastas such as fettucine and penne.

  • SPAGHETTI WITH COD ROE

  • INGREDIENTS

    300g spaghetti
    1 piece of cod roe
    1 tbsp lemon juice
    Soy sauce
    1 onion

    METHOD

    1. Boil a generous amount of water in a large pot.
    2. Add a pinch of salt and put spaghetti into boiling water, spreading it widely.
    3. Boil for 13 to 14 minutes, stirring with chopsticks to prevent spaghetti from getting scorched on the bottom of the pot.
    4. Pull out one noodle and check its hardness. When the spaghetti feels slightly soft, drain the water. Put it in a bowl.
    5. Remove the membrane from the cod roe, pressing down with the back of a knife, then drag back to expose the eggs.
    6. Put the eggs in a small bowl, add lemon juice and soy sauce.
    7. Chop onion. Wrap with a dishcloth and rub them well, adding a little salt. Wash with water and squeeze.
    8. Mix onion with cod roe, and then mix into spaghetti. Serves four. 

In the recipe, other ingredients get mixed in with the boiled spaghetti, departing from the conventional way of cooking spaghetti at that time - frying the noodles after they were boiled.

The dish based on the recipe is good for its simple taste, but it is not entirely satisfactory as the amount of tarako called for is too small.

Japanese-style pasta became the talk of the town during the 1960s. Kabe no Ana, a spaghetti specialty restaurant that opened in Tokyo's Shibuya district in 1963, created a number of spaghetti dishes making good use of Japanese ingredients such as natto and shiitake mushrooms. In 1967, the restaurant introduced tarako spaghetti.

"I heard the staff of the restaurant made spaghetti using caviar brought by a customer, and it was fabulous," said Masayoshi Iizuka, an executive of Kabenoana Co. "They studied how to make similar spaghetti more easily and came up with the idea of using tarako."

At that time, tarako was usually served after being grilled. As the new dish was made by mixing raw cod roe with boiled spaghetti, "People hated it at first," Iizuka recalled.

Over time, however, people grew to love the flavor, and the spaghetti became one of the most popular menu items at the restaurant for its surprisingly simple but great flavour.