One of my favourite foods in the world is mentaiko pasta. It’s a dish I’ve written about previously on more than one occasion. When I first tasted the dish quite a few years ago, at the house of a Japanese friend of mine, finding mentaiko pasta on a restaurant menu was a rarity. There was, back then, only one place in Singapore that I knew of (which was introduced to me not so coincidentally by the same Japanese friend) that made it… and made it really well. In fact, it was my repeated mentaiko pasta indulgences at Kandagawa, the wonderful and relatively unknown restaurant in the rather daggy Hotel Royal, that motivated me to learn how to make it for myself.
Finding a recipe, however, was a bit of a challenge. None of the many Japanese cookbooks my wife S and I owned had one. When I trawled the Internet, I did find a few, but most of them were quite distinct. Eventually, I took a few of the better sounding ones and experimented, coming up with what I believed was my own delicious variation. Friends liked it too, which as you can imagine, pleased me to no end. But, as you might expect from this fat fella, the recipe that I had developed was a tad on the unhealthy side.
These days, mentaiko pasta is slightly in vogue (in Singapore). I see it on menus all the time. And, of course, I order it almost as often as I spy it. Sadly, however, most of the time I have been left disappointed. The only two versions, in fact, that I find exceptional are the ones at Kandagawa and at Macaron. The mentaiko pasta at Macaron is as particularly interesting as it is delicious. Chef Pang makes his with reduced white wine and cream.
Because I had enjoyed Chef Pang’s mentaiko pasta so much, I decided to try making my own version using white wine and cream. And because I enjoy being overly-indulgent, I topped it with a softboiled (mollet) egg. It was a rich and sumptuous dish. And one I’m definitely going to be using for future dinner parties.
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An updated Mentaiko pasta
150g angelhair pasta
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
3 tablespoons of dry white wine
4 tablespoons chicken jus (or reduced stock)
1 teaspoon Japanese mayonnaise
1/4 cup thickened cream
3 sacs of mentaiko
Softboil 4 eggs (directions below) so that the whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Peel them and set them aside.
Carefully cut open the mentaiko sacs and scrape the roe into a large mixing bowl.
In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook slowly, stirring, for a few minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the white wine. Cook until the wine is reduced by half. Then add the chicken jus (which you can create by reducing some chicken stock until it is thick and a tad syrupy). Cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then turn the heat off. Add the cream and stir it into the onion sauce vigorously. Then add this to the mentaiko and mix everything together. Add a small handful of shredded nori into the mentaiko sauce.
Cook the pasta until it is al dente. Drain it and add it to the mentaiko sauce, mixing well to ensure that all of the pasta is coated evenly in the sauce.
Plate the pasta. Place a softboiled egg on top of each portion and sprinkle a bit of nori over it. Serve.
4 eggs (at room temperature)
Place the eggs in a saucepan, cover with tap water and set over a medium flame. Remove them 3 minutes after the water starts to simmer (if the water starts to boil, reduce the heat). Once they are done, remove the eggs and place them in a bowl filled with ice and water. Stand for 10 minutes before peeling them.