Wednesday, February 3, 2010

East vs. West: Two Types of Fish Eggs

Here's another east/west post. In this case, Italian spaghetti con bottarga goes up against mentaiko kimchi udon, a Japanese-Korean fusion dish I found on Momofuku for 2, one of my new favorite food blogs. Not only are the photos and food-styling on Stephanie's site major eye candy, but it's packed with fantastic tips, like the substitution of cast iron pans for stone bowls to make a crispy bibimbap-inspired dish. So smart!

Both of these dishes are super simple, with a cooking time of maybe 15 minutes apiece. The hardest part will be sourcing your fish eggs. I found the bottarga at Boulette's Larder. For those who don't live in SF, try your local Italian deli, or order it online. I used mentaiko from Nijiya in Japantown; look for it at your local Japanese or Korean market. The spaghetti is a classic: a perfect pairing of olive oil and garlic, with bottarga standing in for the salty hit usually provided by parmesan. The second dish is a surprisingly successful combination of creamy butter, spicy kimchi, and slippery strands of chewy udon. Both are winners, in my book.

Spaghetti con Bottarga (inspired by Mario Batali)
About half a packet of spaghetti (preferably artisanal)
1 oz bottarga
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Handful of chopped parsley
Lemon zest

1. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Because there are so few ingredients in this dish, use the best quality pasta you can find.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet and briefly cook the garlic until fragrant. Remove from heat.

3. Drain the spaghetti, toss with the olive oil mixture (and a spoonful of pasta water, if necessary). Sprinkle with chopped parsley and lemon zest and divide between two bowls.

4. Using a peeler or grater, shave half of the bottarga over each dish. I used a peeler in this case, but I think I would use my microplane grater next time, for more even distribution of the bottarga.

Mentaiko Kimchi Udon (inspired by Momofuku for 2)
2 bricks of frozen udon (or homemade, if you have time)
1 sac mentaiko
1 tablespoon butter
1 scallion, sliced thinly
1 sheet of nori, snipped into thin strips
2 tablespoons kimchi, roughly chopped

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, prep your other ingredients (chop onions, kimchi, nori). Place the tablespoon of butter in a small microwave-safe bowl.

2. Once the water is at a full boil, drop in your two bricks of udon. They should only take about a minute to cook. Microwave the butter for about 30 seconds (or until melted) and scrape the contents of a sac of mentaiko into the melted butter. Discard membrane.

3. Drain noodles and toss them in the mentaiko butter. Add the kimchi and mix well. Then divide between two bowls and scatter the nori and scallion on top.


  1. Hmm...never knew about fish eggs and pasta...I like fish eggs and pasta! I will have to give this dish a go!

  2. Finally something I can make! And my two favorite cuisines, italian and japanese. I remember you said once they are both based on the same principles.

  3. @steph, it would be great to be able to return the favor. We loved your mentaiko recipe! :)


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