12 Types of Wafu Pasta (Japanese-Style Pasta)
Japan is known for its unique take on Western cooking, with Japanese-style Western dishes being known as ‘yoshoku’ or ‘wafu’ food. Some examples of these dishes are Japanese-style hamburg steak, omuraisu (omelette with rice), korokke (croquette), pizza with unconventional toppings, and wafu pasta.
Italian pasta, became popularized in Japan during the Meiji period of internationalization, and continued to spread throughout the post-war period. Today, pasta is a favorite food in Japan, available everywhere from Japanese homes to family restaurants and convenience stores. While more authentic Italian-style pasta is eaten in Japan, uniquely Japanese-style wafu pasta is also popular.
Wafu pasta features ingredients typically eaten with white rice that are instead mixed with spaghetti noodles. Here’s a guide to some of the most popular varieties:
Japanese Pasta Ingredients Make for a Unique Pasta Dining Experience
Katsuoboshi (Bonito Flakes) Wafu Pasta
Katsuoboshi is a condiment made with dried bonito (skipjack tuna) flakes. It’s a common topping for all kinds of Japanese food, including savory okonomiyaki pancakes, yakisoba noodles, and takoyaki fried octopus balls. For wafu pasta, try katsuoboshi with gently poached egg and spring onion.
Uni (Sea Urchin) Wafu Pasta
Uni, or sea urchin, is a huge delicacy in many countries, but especially in Japan which is home to several high-quality species of sea urchin. Uni pasta with cream, sake, and butter are a delicious type of Japanese pasta.
Hijiki Seaweed Wafu Pasta
Hijiki is a type of wild seaweed that has been part of the Japanese diet for centuries. It grows on rocky coastlines and is sold dried and then reconstituted with water before eating and cooking, and has an earthy, nutty flavor. Try hijiki in an olive oil based pasta with crunchy pickled ume plum and diced spring onion.
Mentaiko Wafu Pasta
Spicy mentaiko is an ingredient that came to southern Japan via Korea, and is made by marinating cod or pollock roe with chili peppers. When mixed into pasta, mentaiko creates a delicate pink colored pasta with a creamy, briny flavor and touch of spice that goes well with shichimi togarashi red pepper.
Ume Wafu Pasta
Pickled plums, known as “umeboshi”, are a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine that can be eaten raw or cooked. Ume plums are very sour and make a deliciously tart paste for pasta sauce. Try it with a chiffonade of shiso (perilla herb) and toasted sesame seeds.
Shirasu Wafu Pasta
Shirasu is a popular ingredient for home cooking that consists of tiny baby sardines or anchovies. It can be eaten raw or boiled and dried as a delicate crunchy topping that goes well on pasta with roasted red peppers and cherry tomatoes.
Sakura Ebi Wafu Pasta
Sakura ebi are tiny dried shrimp harvested from Suruga Bay in Shizuoka prefecture that are called “sakura” for their delicate pink color. The drying process concentrates the umami savoriness of the shrimp, adding a boost of flavor to any dish. For a tasty Japanese fusion food, try sakura ebi tossed in olive oil and diced chives.
Sashimi Wafu Pasta
Sashimi is thinly sliced raw meat, fish, and seafood. While sashimi is typically eaten alone with soy sauce or ponzu dressing, salmon sashimi makes an excellent topping for black squid ink pasta.
Saki Ika (Shredded Squid) Wafu Pasta
Pasta made with squid is not unknown in Italian cooking, but in Japan there is a uniquely Japanese style of pasta made with dried seasoned squid shredded into thin strands. Known as “saki ika”, Japanese dried squid can be eaten as-is with beer or used as an ingredient in cooking. Saki ika goes excellently in wafu pasta with sauteed cabbage and spring onions.
Soy Sauce Wafu Pasta
Soy sauce and butter are frequently combined in many Japanese dishes, so it was only natural for it to be applied to wafu pasta. Try spaghetti tossed in soy sauce and butter with tender sauteed mushrooms and blackened prawns.
Miso Wafu Pasta
Miso is a fermented soybean paste that’s full of umami flavor. It makes an excellent base for sauces and glazes and is delicious in pasta. A creamy miso sauce pairs well with ingredients like crispy bacon, grilled scallops, and potato.
Natto Wafu Pasta
Natto, or fermented soy beans, is a food that many people either love or hate. If you’re a fan of natto, then you’ll be sure to enjoy it in wafu pasta with sliced okra, yuzukosho (yuzu paste), sesame oil, and mentsuyu noodle sauce, garnished with nori seaweed strips. It’s a combination that tastes great whether it’s on Italian spaghetti or traditional Japanese noodles like thick udon, soba buckwheat noodles, and thin somen.
Wafu Pasta is a Tasty Example of the Creativity of Japanese Fusion Food
Wafu pasta is a unique and delicious spin on Italian pasta. If you’re a fan of pasta, and interested in Japanese food, this is a match made in heaven for you!