Wafu Pasta (和風パスタ)



As a Westerner living in Tokyo—and especially as someone whose ultimate comfort is food—I, like anyone else living far from home, was occasionally struck by the need for a familiar meal. Although Japanese cuisine offered delicious and intriguing alternatives to the meals I was used to at home, I was still struck by the feeling of homesickness when it came to food. Back in the UK, living as a student, I was well familiar with pasta as a quick and easy meal. And although British takes on pasta are probably enough to make any Italian weep with despair, for me, it was a warming, nostalgic food. So, when a friend of mine offered to take me out to an Italian-style restaurant after school one day, suffice to say I was excited. However, upon arriving, I was greeted with a menu of unfamiliar pasta dishes alongside the usual carbonara and spaghetti bolognese.
Just like many places in the world, Japan is no stranger to the allure of Italian cuisine. Similar to the home staple of noodles, pasta serves as a wonderful base for a variety of condiments, toppings, and sauces. With the introduction of Western Italian food chains like Wendy’s and Seizariya that offer a distinctly Japanese take on pasta dishes, wafu pasta has been making waves in the food scene, captivating taste buds with its unique blend of flavours. The term “wafu” translates to “Japanese-style,” and when applied to pasta, it results in a uniquely delicious combination of Japanese and Western elements. 
Today, I will introduce a wafu pasta, as well as a few popular iterations that you’re sure to find in any Japanese-Italian fusion restaurant.

The History of Wafu Pasta

The roots of wafu pasta can be traced back to the creativity of Japanese chefs who sought to infuse pasta with distinctly Japanese flavours. This sentiment has given birth to a diverse range of dishes that blend soy sauce, mirin, sake, dashi, and regional ingredients with classic pasta.

Types of Wafu Pasta

What sets wafu pasta apart is its ability to combine umami-rich Japanese ingredients and the familiar taste of Italian pasta. The umami notes from soy sauce and the subtle sweetness of mirin create a symphony of flavours that elevates the pasta experience.

Soy Sauce Butter Pasta:

A classic wafu pasta dish that features a brilliant combination of soy sauce, butter, and garlic. The umami from soy sauce enriches the buttery sauce, creating a velvety texture that coats each strand of pasta.

Mentaiko Spaghetti:

Mentaiko, or spicy cod roe, adds a punch of flavour to traditional spaghetti. The briny, peppery kick of mentaiko transforms a simple dish into something to tantalise the tastebuds. 

Wafu Pesto:

A Japanese twist on the Italian pesto, wafu pesto incorporates ingredients like shiso (Japanese basil) and miso, offering an aromatic variation of the sauce.

Making Wafu Pasta at Home

For those eager to try their hand at wafu pasta at home, it is accessible and rewarding. Try experimenting with different combinations of soy sauce, mirin, and Japanese seasonings to create your signature wafu pasta dish. Add a touch of creativity by incorporating fresh vegetables, seafood, or proteins from your region in Japan or globally!
Wafu pasta is a testament to the evolving nature of global cuisine. It blends ingredients and techniques from two distinct cultures. This fusion not only reflects the creativity of its makers but also showcases the openness of food lovers to embrace new and exciting flavour combinations.