Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Home Japanese Spaghetti Naporitan

Made a Japanese Spaghetti Naporitan for fun with it's red, white and green festive colors.(?) Despite the name, the Naporitan is a specifically Japanese adapted dish of seared spaghetti noodles seasoned mainly with a little tomato ketchup. Yup. Odd what things you start to crave when you grow up with certain foods but I feel recently the dish has been having a small comeback with adults rediscovering Japanese retro-nostalgia cuisine. If it sounds confusing that's quite alright. Despite the sounding though, the searing process (with a little help of butter) transforms the seemingly sharp ketchupy flavor to something much rounder and surprisingly palatable (at least imho). I always felt the pan-seared Napo with its accessible ingredients made the dish much closer in spirit to the Yakisoba than anything else.

Although I've seen "upscale" Napo's include shrimp and additionally fortified with demi glace, even scratch made chicken & beef tendon bouillon, I feel in its natural state the more simple the ingredients the better. Typical are thinly sliced onions, bell peppers, sometimes mushrooms (often canned), a high in flavor inexpensive protein such as deli ham (sliced into strips), wieners, occasionally bacon. I did think of using the suspiciously pink all-fish gyoniku sausage to send the dish into an even yet super-elite category and league of frugality, but that would be for another post.

I ended up using, deli ham, onions, Japanese Piiman bell peppers and Shimeji mushrooms. Piiman are the thin-walled Japanese bell peppers. I've successfully substituted Green Pasilla Chile Peppers in the past in a few recipes that call for it if you don't mind ending up with something with a little heat (but the texture is surprisingly similar). Otherwise you can save yourself some trouble and just use regular bell peppers.

Have your spaghetti precooked past its al-dente state (important) awaiting in a strainer. I discovered noodles done al dente actually become a little too toothy after being pan-fried. The softer cooked will regain much of its texture in the sear, a classic high-heat stir-frying so have everything ready and at arm's reach. The entire process isn't going to take very long.

- With oil of choice (I used garlic oil) sear your sliced ingredients in high heat (best in a wok).
- In a minute or two at the ingredients' par-cooked state, add the spaghetti, lightly S&P. Continue to sear and toss to further incorporate.
- Before seasoning with ketchup, add a drizzle of white wine or in my case Japanese Sake. I love how the Sake infuses a subtle Wa-fu note to the dish. Sizzle toss a few more times.
- Now add some ketchup! Not a whole lot, about 2~3-tbsp depending on the quantity of noodles but I prefer a dryer end product. For once I'm not recommending Heinz brand here (and maybe not Hunts either) but instead Del Monte which isn't as on the sweet side. If you like, the ketchup can be cut with some tomato sauce/paste or even demi glace for something richer flavored. Here I kept it only ketchup. Make sure to sear well as this caramelization with the oil/butter is what transforms the ketchup's flavor.
- After you achieve a good color the second most vital part is too add a pad of (real) butter to finish things off in the end. Toss some more to unite flavors and it's done.

Tobasco and grated green tube Parmesan are common condiments but I prefer my Napo plain. I probably really don't expect anyone to make this but man was it good! ;)