A few years ago, Alex and I had a lunch date at Greenbelt. She brought me to a Japanese fusion restaurant where we shared a humongous plate of “Japanese carbonara spaghetti” and a pizza. I don’t remember the pizza anymore but I can still feel the silky texture of the spaghetti in my mouth. There was bacon, fish roe, bonito flakes and wisps of nori stirred in. This Japanese-inspired spaghetti pays homage to that plate of pasta.
This is a nostalgia meal then? Yes, it is. It made me recall a lot of details of our day together, Alex and I. She took a cab from school, I came from the house, we set a meeting place, she chose the restaurant and recommended what was good. After that, we had coffee and crepes at Cafe Breton. Then, we went window shopping. When we got tired, we had frozen yogurt somewhere while waiting for the clock to strike six. I was meeting friends in the area and I brought Alex along. Later, Speedy and Sam picked us up, we drove to Robinson’s Magnolia, had pizza and pasta for dinner and saw a movie. Some Marvel movie. It was on its last few days and there were only a handful of movie houses screening it. I remember that was the reason we drove all the way from Greenbelt to Robinson’s Magnolia.
It’s funny how I remember so many details from that day—including that “Japanese carbonara spaghetti” at the restaurant that has since closed (wow, I still have a photo!). Too pricey, perhaps? Or, maybe, Filipinos aren’t really into fusion cuisine. Too bad. It would have been nice if we could have gone back there as a family.
Well, the restaurant might have folded up but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our version of the delightful Japanese carbonara spaghetti. Alex cooked this pasta dish for lunch today. Note, however, that this isn’t spaghetti carbonara because there are no raw eggs in the sauce. There’s cream, Dijon mustard and Japanese mayo instead. And, yes, plenty of bacon. But what really makes this pasta dish such a delight are the garnishes. Bonito flakes and strips of roasted seaweed go on top before the spaghetti is served. If you’re not familiar with bonito flakes, here is a photo of a packet.
Roasted seaweed, along with bonito flakes, is sold in the Asian section of most groceries. If you have some fish roe on hand, you might want to add some too.
Alex's Japanese-inspired Spaghetti
- 125 grams fatty bacon
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/8 teaspoon thyme
- 1/8 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons tablespoons Japanese mayo
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- cooked spaghetti for 3 to 4
- 1 packet bonito flakes
- roasted seaweed cut into thin strips
- grated Parmesan
- Chop the bacon. Cook over medium heat until browned and crispy. Scoop out and set aside.
- Melt the butter in the pan. Add the thyme and oregano. Pour in the cream, Dijon mustard and Japanese mayo. Stir. Bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the half of the bacon and all of the cooked spaghetti to the sauce. Toss well.
- Divide the spaghetti among four bowls.
- Sprinkle the remaining bacon, bonito flakes and roasted seaweed evenly among the bowls of pasta. Garnish with grated Parmesan.
- Serve your Japanese-inspired spaghetti with buttered toast.