Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tarako Spaghetti (The Great "Im-pasta")

Tarako Spaghetti
(sort of)

I was introduced to Japanese style spaghetti a number of years ago at a place in Gardena called Spoon House Bakery and Restaurant. I never knew the Japanese liked, let alone had their own version of Italian cooking. The first time I ever heard of such a thing was when the original Iron Chef program aired on T.V. and Iron Chef Italian, Masahiko Kobe the Prince of Pasta demonstrated his flair for incorporating various, usually Japanese ingredients into his hybrid Nihon-Italian style of cooking. Since then I've had the pleasure of eating at a number of Japanese Italian restaurants, most notably, Angelo Pietro in Honolulu and the now defunct Itameshi-Ya in Santa Monica.

At Spoon House you start off with a chunk of hot freshly baked bread, a dollar salad, which as the name implies, costs - you guessed it - a dollar and a Japanese spaghetti dish. For the uninitiated, some of the combination's they feature on their menu may sound unusual but I wouldn't hesitate trying any one of them. My favorite, though, is the tarako-Japanese cod roe and butter sauce with squid. It's a great combination-hot spaghetti noodles, bathed in butter and cod roe with little chewy bits of squid, just slightly fishy flavored and rich. Check out the Spoon House menu.

If you can't get to a place like Spoon House, your nearest Japanese market should carry packets of tarako pasta sauce that you simply add to hot spaghetti and toss. Although not the same experience as getting it in a restaurant, these instant packets will suffice if a craving should arise.

Equipped with nothing more than leftover spaghetti from the night before, I set out to create my own Japanese Italian pasta using what I had in the cupboard- I think with passable results. To the spaghetti I added- get this- Kewpie brand mentaiko (spicy tarako) salad dressing, salmon flakes and green onions.

Kewpie is the maker of the popular Japanese mayonnaise as well as condiments and other food products. While writing this post, I discovered that Kewpie also makes a tarako pasta mix. In fact, they have quite a bizarre advertising campaign going on in Japan featuring a horrified girl about to eat her tarako pasta fixated on a formation of kewpie faced tarako egg sacks marching to a hauntingly repetitive anthem. The whole thing is as strange as the idea of cod roe spaghetti might initially seem.

Watch the video at your own risk. You'll be humming the tune in your head and craving tarako spaghetti. You've been warned!!! Here's a link to the lyrics if you're inclined to sing along.

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