Spaghetti Carbonara with mushrooms - spaghetti in Japan

Spaghetti Carbonara with mushrooms; I made too much sauce compared with the volume of spaghetti ;-(
In the 21st century spaghetti is already an indispensable part of the Japanese daily food culture. I am sure that all Japanese people without exception know spaghetti and have eaten spaghetti in their lives. Japan has a long tradition of noodle eating and it is natural that we enjoy not only our own traditional noodles such as soba, udon, somen and kishimen but also noodles of foreign origin such as ramen, bihun, pho and last but not least spaghetti.

However, spaghetti was not introduced directly from Italy to Japan, but by the occupying American force after the WWII as soldiers ration. Therefore, the first menus known to Japanese people came also from the American style spaghetti such as "Spaghetti Meat Sauce" and "Spaghetti Neapolitan". "Spaghetti Meat Sauce" is the American version of "Spaghetti Bolognese". Another popular menu "Spaghetti Neapolitan" has little to do with Naples in Italy. What we call "Spaghetti Neapolitan" in Japan originated from a Japanese cook who got inspiration from American soldiers eating spaghetti seasoned with ketchup. "Spaghetti Meat Sauce" and "Spaghetti Neapolitan" became popular in the 1960s and Japanese people used to eat soft-cooked spaghetti served in coffee shops, restaurants of department stores or at home.

The American origin of early Japanese spaghetti menus is endorsed by the habit of sprinkling Tabasco sauce over spaghetti. I did not doubt that Tabasco was used with spaghetti everywhere in the world including Italy, and it was only when I ordered spaghetti in a pizzeria in South Germany, that I came to discover the truth; Italian people did not use Tabasco for spaghetti. There was no Tabasco in the pizzeria and I received a big green chili in place of Tabasco. Then, I made a painful mistake. When I cut the chili with a dull knife, a drop of its juice spit at my cheek, which soon began aching. Therefore I went to toilette to wash it. But, washing only spread the pain to all over my face and I could not see anything for several minutes. Only if there had been Tabasco, I would not have had such a mishap.
Hand smoked bakon by Family Takagi


Sauteed bacon and mushrooms

You can see the result of cooking on the top of this page.
All materials I used for Carbonara sauce; three kinds of mushroom are maitake (hen of the woods), hiratake (oyster mushroom) and European mushroom.


Dessert - Chevre cheese with maple syrup and balsamico sauce (Please see also this page).
In the 1970s spaghetti restaurants became very popular in Japan. They arranged Italian menus such as "Carbonara", "Vongole", "Basilicum" and "Pescatore" to adapt to the Japanese taste and their spaghetti were still very soft. "Hungry Tiger" at Toranomon is a good example and still attracts many clients. Some thirty years ago many friends of mine became addicted to its "Spaghetti Vongole" with thick and soft spaghetti seasoned with plenty of low-grade olive oil and garlic.

Spaghetti restaurants with Japanese style spaghetti menus became also fashionable in those days. A representative Japanese style spaghetti menu is "Spaghetti with cod roe sauce". Many other menus were invented using Japanese original materials such as seaweed, grated radish and fermented soybeans and seasoned for example with soy sauce. I personally often cook "Spaghetti with cod roe sauce" and "Spaghetti with salmon roes marinated in soy based sauce".

Then, around the end of the 1980s, when the economy was booming, original Italian style restaurants mushroomed in Japan and replaced the until-then popular French bistros. This brought about the popularization of "al dente" spaghetti, various types of purely Italian spaghetti menu and original recipe. From what I have explained by far, you might understand how much Japanese people love pasta. Frankly speaking, Japanese people love pasta and next to pasta Italian dolce, but not the main course. Spaghetti with side salad suffices to satisfy the appetite of most Japanese people. If tiramisu is added, it is a perfect lunch time treat. (La Piccola Tavola is one of those restaurants which offer authentic Italian cuisine.)

Today, I received a package of hand smoked bacon from Julia-san, a German married to a Japanese professor and living in Hokkaido together with their sweet daughters. When I unpacked the bacon, it smelled very nice of smoking. As I had promised Julia-san, I cooked "Spaghetti Carbonara" using her special bacon. I made a small deviation from the authentic recipe by using three kinds of mushroom which added extra autumnal taste to spaghetti. The result was, of course, very successful. This evening we had a dinner in Western style. Salad was served with balsamic sauce and olive oil. We opened a bottle of good Chardonnay wine produced in Chile and had fresh chevre cheese with Canadian maple syrup sauce for dessert.

Japanese kitchen is internationalized.