Japanify: Mentaiko Mayo Pasta with Shimeji Mushrooms
Hi everyone, Kayoko here, filling in for Yoko's column today. Yoko has set the bar quite high for tips, techniques and recipes on Japanese cooking, so I really thought hard about what I would be writing about. I browsed through all my Japanese cookbooks and magazines for ideas, and even consulted with some folks about recipes for potential dishes. I wanted to geek out, Japanify-style.
But as my mama always says, "Simple Is Best." Sometimes you gotta go with what you know, and what you do best. As a noodle connoisseur, I make excellent pasta. How does this relate to Japanese food? Well, Japan-- a culture that has mastered the art of appropriation-- has taken Italian pasta to a whole new level. They add all sorts of ingredients to create their wafu (Japanese-style) pasta: anything from shoyu and sake, to umeboshi and shiso, to UNI. Yoko found these sea creatures in her pasta in Tokyo back in 2007.
Pairing seafood with pasta is nothing new-- they do it all over Italy, especially in the north, like Spaghetti ai frutti di mare. But how about with... mayonnaise??? Anyone? Anyone?
Yes, the Japanese have been shamelessly adding Kewpie (aka Japanese mayonnaise) to their pasta for years now. (Actually, they add mayo to everything, not just pasta, but we'll leave that for another time). Yamahomo adds furikake into his pasta with Kewpie. Oy.
Sicilian nanna, weep for us.
Today, I present to you Mentaiko Mayo Pasta with Shimeji Mushrooms. Mentaiko, or spicy cod roe, is often eaten with white rice in Japan (the perfect onigiri filling), and has become a staple pasta dish when adding Kewpie mayonnaise. You can just about find this at any "family-style restaurant" (think upscale diner) in Japan. There are lots of pasta restaurants that have mentaiko pasta on the menu too, but fancier joints leave mayonnaise out and opt for a more civilized combination of olive oil and garlic.
How boring. We all know by now that Kewpie makes everything magical! As Yoko has taken note, Kewpie even created a branding craze in Japan with the concept of the mentaiko mayo pasta-- check out these commercials.
Yield: Per person
Time: 15 minutes including prep
- Linguine pasta (dry pasta per person measurement tutorial here)
- 2 slices of mentaiko (you can buy them pre-packed any Japanese or Korean market. Yamaya is an excellent maker from Japan, if you can find it)
- Handful of Shimeji mushrooms (I found this packet at the Japanese market for $3)
- 1 tbsp. Kewpie mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp. Cooking sake
- 1/2 tbsp. Unsalted butter
- 1/4 tsp. Salt and pepper each
Optional: Stalk of green onion, Shiso
1. Prepare a pot full of water and turn the stove on for the pasta. Add salt to water if you prefer.
2. While you wait for the water to boil, prepare shimeji. I also added green onions because I basically put them in everything. Slice onions diagonally like this. Mushrooms do not need any cutting.
3. Heat pan. Add butter. Once it melts, add onions and shimeji right away. Turn the heat on medium-low, as you don't want the butter to burn. Sprinkle in salt and pepper here. Sautee.
4. Add sake when mushroom begin to brown a bit.
5. Turn heat off once all the sake has evaporated. The mushrooms should be soft but not mushy. Put off to the side, in the pan.
6. Prepare mentaiko. I keep a pack in the freezer, as it only takes moments to defrost, and keeps for a while. Mentaiko is absolutely one of my favorite foods and will definitely be at my L'ultimo Cena.
It is spicy, salty and quite pungeant-- therefore you don't need too much of it.
7. Cut a couple slices, about a quarter inch thick.
8. By now, your pasta should be boiled. Add to the shimeji still in the pan.
9. Add mayo and mentaiko here. Turn heat on low.
10. Stir around so the mayo and mentaiko is evenly distributed. You'll see the roe start to turn light pink. It is cute. At this point, turn the heat off.
11. Cut up some shiso, or parsely. We need some green for color (and of course, another flavor dimension).
Serve with a glass of white and set your table up nicely. No paper napkins allowed.