Wafu Pasta, Japanese fusion pasta 和風パスタ
Looking for creative ways to level up your pasta game? Try wafu pasta (和風パスタ) literally “Japanese style,” it’s a fusion dish that has Japanese elements to your normal bowl of carbs. There’s no set definition to what constitutes wafu pasta, other than it incorporates Japanese flavors such as soy sauce, miso, herbs such as scallions, shiso leaves and more! While the combination may seem strange to those familiar with the Italian original, who knows, this may become your favorite comfort food!
You can find wafu pasta specialty restaurants but you can easily make it at home as well, no fancy ingredients necessary. If you already cook Japanese food regularly, you probably have many of these ingredients at hand.
Ingredients to have
Soy sauce (醤油): The ultimate umami booster, soy sauce emulsifies with olive oil and melted butter pretty well. For an aromatic touch, you can gently pour soy sauce on the side of the hot pan before seasoning the pasta.
Ponzu (ポン酢): The citrus and dashi sauce is another flavor and umami booster.
Miso (味噌): Miso, the fermented bean paste is a great addition to creamy pasta sauces without becoming overwhelming.
Katsuobushi (鰹節): Also known as bonito flakes, top your final dish with these wispy flakes to add color, aroma and flavor.
Baby sardines (しらす・じゃこ): Baby sardines (dried or raw) add protein and texture to the dish. Toss with the pasta or sprinkle on top of the final dish.
Umeboshi (梅干し): Add umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums) for a salty-tart flavor. It pairs well with aromatics such as shiso leaves and seaweed.
Shiso leaves (シソの葉・大葉): Also known as perilla leaves, shiso leaves have fresh, citrusy, minty, bitter flavor. As it browns quickly when exposed to heat, use the leaves as a garnish.
Seaweed (海苔): Tear up seaweed sheets and add directly to the pan or use as a garnish for color and aroma.
Scallions (ねぎ): Scallions add that wonderful spiciness and color to any dish. Add directly to the pan or use as a garnish.
Sesame seeds (胡麻): Use ground or whole sesame seeds to add a touch of nuttiness and nutrients to your dish.
Wafu pasta dishes
As mentioned above, the sky’s the limit when it comes to wafu pasta. You can be adventurous as you like, just be careful not to go overboard with adding too many ingredients. Balance is key!
Below are some of the vast wafu pasta dishes.
Tarako pasta (たらこパスタ)
Tarako is salt-cured pollock/cod roe. It’s usually eaten with rice, but the salty flavor also pairs well with a creamy sauce made with heavy cream or milk. Top with julienned shiso leaves, seaweed, chopped scallions, or more tarako!
Mentaiko pasta (明太子パスタ)
The spicy cousin to tarako, mentaiko is spiced pollock/cod roe that’s been marinated in a chili pepper sauce.
Butter-soy sauce pasta (バター醤油パスタ)
The combination of creamy butter and savory soy sauce is familiar to the Japanese that they use it to season grilled corn, proteins such as chicken and salmon, and even snacks like potato chips and popcorn. Add mushrooms, asparagus, bacon, eggplant or any vegetable you like.
A dish popular since the postwar era, napolitan is a dish consisting of spaghetti cooked until limp like udon noodles, stir fried onions, mushrooms, bell peppers and sausage seasoned with ketchup.