I’m a big fan of Italian-Japanese fusion (two of my favorite cuisines… in one? Say no more!), so these glossy, saucy, udon noodles with tobiko hit all the right notes in my book. Loosely inspired by mentaiko pasta (another Japanese-Italian hybrid involving cod roe and lots of cream), this dish utilizes tomato, miso, and chili pastes to boost umami. The subtle briny pop from the tobiko (aka itty bitty fish eggs) adds the perfect contrast to the creamy sauce.
What is tobiko and do I need to use it?
- Tobiko, aka flying fish roe, is often used often as a garnish for sushi and sashimi. Tobiko is slightly larger and crunchier than masago, but much smaller and milder than salmon roe.
- Now, these noodles will be delicious with or without fish eggs, so if you are particularly roe-opposed, feel free to omit.
- You can find tobiko at your local asian market (or if your grocery store sells sushi, ask if they have any in the back!). Masago would be a fine substitute in a pinch.
Sourcing Udon Noodles
- This recipe utilizes fresh jumbo udon noodles, which usually come in individually wrapped packs of 3 at your local asian market (in the refrigerated section).
- Now, if you cant find fresh, check the frozen section. For frozen udon, you will still need to blanch them in hot water, but for a little bit longer. The noodles should be fully defrosted but still quite chewy when you add them to the sauce.
- You do not want dried, thin, udon noodles.
Udon with Spicy Tomato-Miso Cream and TobikoCourse: MainDifficulty: Easy
Loosely inspired by mentaiko pasta, this dish utilizes tomato, miso, and chili pastes to boost umami. The subtle briny pop from the tobiko (aka itty bitty fish eggs) adds the perfect contrast to the cream sauce
One 1 pound 5 oz package of fresh jumbo udon noodles (they usually come with 3 smaller packages), see note about using frozen noodles.
2 tbsp butter, or more to taste
3 large shallots, thinly sliced
4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp white miso paste
½-1 tbsp crushed calabrian chilies, or any other chili paste of your choice (sambal oelek could work)
⅔ cup heavy cream
Toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions for garnish (See this link for how to toast sesame seeds)
- Start to bring a pot of water to a boil that would just comfortably fit the noodles.
- Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the butter, then enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Once melted, add the shallots and garlic and turn the heat to medium low. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is very soft with some golden fried bits, about 15 minutes. Adjust the heat if you think things are moving too fast.
- While the shallots cook, mix together the tomato, miso, and chili pastes. Start with ½ tbsp chili paste, you can always add more later.
- Once the water comes to a boil, add the udon and, using chopsticks, try to quickly separate the strands. Immediately drain, reserving a mug full of pasta water, and “refresh” the noodles by quickly running them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside. (If using frozen noodles, you may need to blanch them for a little bit longer. You want fully chewy, but fully defrosted).
- When the shallots are done, add the miso/tomato mixture and saute for 1-2 minutes over medium heat.
- Add the cream and stir until a thicker sauce forms. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Add the noodles to the sauce along with a splash of pasta waster and 2 tbsp of tobiko. Simmer briefly until the noodles are glossy and fully sauced, adding more pasta water to thin out the sauce if needed. You can add another tbsp of butter here if you want things extra creamy. Taste a noodle to ensure it is chewy and warm, then add more chili or tobiko if desired.
- Split the pasta into 2-3 bowls and top with toasted sesame seeds, slivered scallions, and an additional dollop of tobiko.
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