Ever Tried The Japanese 'Pasta'? Tracing the Not-So-Italian Roots of Spaghetti Naporitan
- Sushmita Sengupta
Updated : August 25, 2022 03:08 IST
The Spaghetti Naporitan or simply Naporitan(Napolitan) is a pasta dish made with spaghetti, tomato ketchup, onions and peppers.
Japanese cuisine has emerged to be one of the most beloved cuisines around the world today. A part of its popularity can be traced to popular culture, when some of your favourite actors gulp down plates of sushis and baos, you want to do the same as well. But what those movies do not show you is the evolution of Japanese cuisine. Situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, Japan is an island country in East Asia, with incredibly rich history and culture. In between the countless invasions and revolutions, Japanese cuisine took shape to suit the palate of all those that once inhabited or dominated the country.
Today, you associated Japanese cuisine with choice meats like beef, pork, and chicken, but there was a time when non-vegetarian food was considered taboo in Japan. After the Zen school of Buddhism was introduced from China somewhere in the late 10th century A.D, slaughtering of animals was looked down upon. One could eat meat only on a select few occasions, like when sick. This apprehension towards meat pretty much continued till the end of the ‘Edo period’ (1867). The Meiji Period, was marked with modern industrialisation. It was the coming of age of Japan from a feudal state, to an advanced country, greatly influenced by the Western scientific, philosophical, political, aesthetic ideas. The inflow of foreign tourists and travelers also exposed Japan to their epicurean habits, giving way to ‘Yoshoku cuisine’, or West-influenced Japanese or simply fusion cuisine that became a rage, anything that even remotely resembled a 'western' looking dish was a hit. The Japanese Hambagu or Hamburger steak, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Salisbury steak or the Karokke (Japanese croquette) are some fine examples of 'Yoshoku' dish.
The Spaghetti Naporitan is also an iconic ‘Yoshoku’ dish. The Spaghetti Naporitan or simply Naporitan(Napolitan) is a pasta dish made with spaghetti, tomato ketchup, onions, mushrooms, peppers, sausage and bacon. To make it hotter, some chefs also add tobasco sauce. While Japan has no dearth of noodles dishes, this is perhaps their only ‘pasta’ dish, although there is not much difference in the ingredients.
The dish was conceived by Shigetada Irie, the general chef of the New Grand Hotel (Hotel New Grand) in Yokohama. It is said that he was inspired by one of the military rations of GHQ, where spaghetti was just mixed with tomato ketchup.
The chef chose to name the dish after Naples, Italy, hence the word ‘Napoli-tan'. And since phonetically, Japanese language does not distinguish between the ‘R’ and ‘L’ sounds, the word ‘Naporitan’ became popular. So in Japanese the dish is called Naporitan, which would be the same as 'Napolitan' in English.
The dish may not be as popular in say, a country like India, but it is surely a side of Japanese cuisine that proves yet again how versatile and wide the cuisine is. Here's a recipe of Spaghetti Naporitan that you can try at home.