Sunday, 8 November 2015

In the Kitchen : Japanese Pasta Naporitan

A few weeks ago, I had a craving for pasta, so I decided to make Pasta Naporitan. I was inspired by one of my favourite YouTube Channels: Cooking With Dog. The recipe can be found here, and a history of the dish in this video.

In case the video is too TL;DR for you, in a nutshell: Pasta Naporitan was created by a Japanese chef just after World War II. The hotel he worked in was full of American officers, and he wanted to cook dishes that they were used to. Unfortunately, tomatoes weren't grown in Japan at that time, and proper pasta sauce (passata) was unobtainable, so he used ketchup from U.S. Army rations to create the dish.

I'd heard in the past of making a tomato pasta dish using tomato sauce (ketchup), but I have to admit, I just thought this was something made up by University students with no money and even less cooking skills. Once I saw the video and learned the history behind the dish, I was eager to try it, and I was pleasantly surprised!

I made a few substitutions as I didn't have half of the ingredients from the recipe. This is quite common in my household, but it always seems to turn out well in the end! Firstly, as per the history video, I cooked the pasta, tossed it in oil and put it in the fridge for an hour. This gives the pasta a chewier texture.

I tried to do that thing you always see on cooking shows where the spaghetti is fanned out as it goes into the water. I think I did an OK job!

While the pasta was in the fridge, I gathered together the rest of the ingredients: ham, onion, olives, pickled vegetables, rocket leaves, garlic, and dried herbs.

Frying the onion, ham and garlic:

Adding the pickled vegetables and rocket leaves:

Adding the pasta. The fridge trick really seemed to work in giving the pasta an al dente texture. I'll remember that one in future.

Adding the tomato sauce. This really felt quite wrong, like I was breaking all the rules of 'good' cooking. But I ploughed on.

Adding an unhealthy sumptuous amount of butter and Parmesan cheese:

The end result. I sprinkled on some fried onion as a garnish, to enhance the East-West theme.

I was very pleasantly surprised with how this dish turned out. I don't like strong tomato taste in food, and using the tomato sauce/ketchup rather than passata or tomato paste gave it a more subtle flavour. The butter and cheese added a satisfying richness, too. I will definitely make it again.

A final note:
While I was cooking, Husband chose a Bluray to watch while we ate. He just happened to choose Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. A Japanese anime set in a vaguely Italian Duchy, complete with kitschy Italian restaurant scene? The perfect accompaniment.

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