Mentaiko Spaghetti: wafuu supagetti

I began to wonder if people in Japan like spaghetti. From the number and variety of noodle recipes on my blog, it should be obvious how much I love pasta, noodles, dumplings of all kinds.


The other evening I was on my own for dinner, and after work, I needed something quick and delicious: pasta puttanesca. It’s a favorite with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, anchovies, black olives, capers, and chili. The story is that “puttanesca” means “whore’s”, named in honor of prostitutes who’d make this pasta, the aroma of which would draw more gentlemen visitors to their bordello. Note: I ate alone.


After the war, spaghetti became popular in Japan: spaghetti Naporitan (Napolitan) was an exotic Western-style (wafuu or yoshoku) meal intended to be like the spaghetti and tomato sauce eaten by the American troops. Tomato pureé was not easy to find in post war Japan, so ketchup was used in the “authentic” sauce. The recipes I’ve seen usually include mushrooms, peppers, onions, hot dogs, tonkatsu sauce, and ketchup. One of these days, I’ll give it a try. next time when I’m on my own…


Some time in the ’70s people began to experiment with Japanese flavors. Essentially, things that are usually eaten with white rice were mixed into or put on top of spaghetti. Until recently, wafuu pasuta or wafuu supagetti was unknown in the West, and not seen on menus of Japanese restaurants frequented by tourists. I read in many blogs that it’s popular in homes and small cafés (kissaten) and as Japanese food has become popular in the U.S. we can now enjoy some very interesting flavor combinations.


One of the most delicious recipes I have seen is made with tarako (salted pollock roe), or mentaiko (spicy pollock roe). I am a long-time reader of Blue Lotus’s blog, and her descriptions of this spaghetti have intrigued me. She also had a post about preparing salmon roe preserved in soy sauce. The most difficult part of this recipe is finding the mentaiko! It’s not inexpensive, and perhaps I should have bought a different sort: the label said the mentaiko was “mashed.” It tasted good, though.

Mentaiko Spaghetti
wafuu mentaiko supagetti
3 servings

internet research
  • ½ cup mashed spicy pollack roe (mentaiko) (or use 6 to 9 egg sacks)
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ sheet of nori
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced into rings
  • 3 shiso leaves (a nice touch, but optional)
  • 12 oz thin spaghetti (capellini)
If you purchased the egg sacks, use a spoon to push the roe out of the sacks.
Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. Japanese-style would be to cook it a little softer than al denté, but I just couldn’t. Drain. Don’t rinse in cold water as you would with Japanese noodles.
Toss the butter, soy sauce, and mentaiko with the hot pasta.
Serve pasta in bowl garnished with green onions and nori (and shiso leaves).


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15 thoughts on “Mentaiko Spaghetti: wafuu supagetti

  1. I love mentaiko pasta, but i’ve never cooked by myself. I always end up buying mentaiko pasta instant mix at Japaese grocery stores which is pretty good.

        • Emi,

          Thanks. I’ll look for it! I used to spend hours at the stores in my town, looking at packages of Japanese products, and this would have caught my imagination.

          “UME-SHISO PICKLED PLUM & SHISO PASTA SAUCE 2SERVS.” also sounds very interesting. mmmm!

          There are stores in the Detroit suburbs where I have not been able to spend much time, so I hope I’ll see this sometime!!

  2. That’s a fascinating story about the “authentic” sauce. Using ketchup then was probably no different than people who made “tomato soup” with ketchup and hot water at the Automats in NY during the Depression. Hot dogs gave me pause, but I guess it’s not very different from adding them to tomatoey baked beans. I love that learning small things about other cultures reinforces how we are so similar, at heart, not different.

    BTW, the top photo is gorgeous! Well done.

    • I think that hot dogs are popular for home cooks in Japan—especially for bentos. I did a couple of posts about cutting them into birds and fish:
      And from a site Lucy referred to:


      If one considers ketchup as a sauce originating in Indonesia then it seems more exotic: something that would be delicious on noodles! And after the war, ketchup really was an exotic sauce for the Japanese who had never used it before. And it has the sweet-sour flavor of Japanese dressings and sauces.

      I thought I’d posted about a ketchup and rice dish I made, but can’t find it now. I’ll be trying out some of the wafuu spaghetti recipes in future. You are right that it’s interesting to learn about another culture…

  3. This talk of ketchup and pasta reminded me of this one recipe on a Hawaiian blog that had a creamy ketchup sauce with pasta. I was shocked because it had you using ketchup and adding milk in it to make it into a sauce. And it was flavored with a chicken bouillon cube! The recipe had arabiki sausages in it and I had extra after making some yummy and cute Tako-san weiners so after I boggled, I proceeded to make the dish myself. I just couldn’t resist and to tell you the truth, it was pretty tasty!

    • OK. So.
      What did you use to adapt this recipe? I can’t always find mentaiko here. I am curious?
      Not anchovies: too salty, I think.
      Not Russian sturgeon caviar: too pricy.
      yes, do tell?

  4. Pingback: Nerimono for Oden Hot Pot « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

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