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Of Squid Ink, Fish Roe and Radish Spaghetti

By: Mike Liem

Date Posted: 2000-09-15

Okinawa is blessed with not just a few, but many Italian restaurants. Some of these restaurants are operated by chefs/proprietors who are formally trained in Italian cooking and have spent time abroad honing their culinary skills. Is it any wonder the food served in these Italian restaurants are as good as you can get anywhere? The ultimate testimony to this was offered by a guy I knew who himself hailed from the Little Sicily district in New York City. He told me of one Italian restaurant in Awase that he was particularly fond of, summing it up with ďthe pasta is great, just great.Ē

But great Italian food aside, Italian restaurants in Japan offer something else that you just wonít find anywhere else in the world: Japanese-style spaghetti. What on earth is Japanese-style spaghetti? Well, there are three kinds that I want to tell you about, and I hope that your intrigue will prevail over whatever your brain may manage to conjure up from the description.


Tarako spaghetti is the most popular of the Japanese-style spaghetti. Itís prepared with mentaiko, or fish roe, which is sautťd in a bit of olive oil in a pan. The freshly boiled spaghetti is then added to the pan and tossed until the mentaiko is well blended with the spaghetti. The salty flavor and lightness of the mentaiko goes surprisingly well with al dente spaghetti. I love tarako spaghetti, and itís easily one of my favorite pasta dishes.


Some foods taste much better than they look, and ikasumi spaghetti is no exception. You see, ikasumi spaghetti is made with squid and squid ink. The sight of pasta noodles smothered in black liquid is probably not particularly appetizing to most, but there are folks who will tell you that ikasumi looks as good as it tastes. I must admit that Iíve yet to try ikasumi spaghetti, but I love the squid ink soup I had in Hong Kong so Iím sure Iím going to like ikasumi spaghetti when I get around to sampling it.


Daikon, or Japanese radish, is one of the most universal of all vegetables. In Japan, itís used in stews, salads, and dipping sauces. Oh, and of course, as a spaghetti topping. In Daikon spaghetti, the daikon is finely grated to form a translucent paste, which is then added to the spaghetti. Iím not too wild about daikon spaghetti, although Iím told itís a healthy way to eat pasta. Give me tarako spaghetti any day!

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