Updated: Jul 31, 2019
Lately, I have been obsessed with Italian food, and I realized that there is a lot of potential in terms of culinary fusion and hybridization. One of my favorite Italian dishes besides the Fettuccini Alfredo is Pasta Carbonara; however, while I love the dish, I do not like the spaghetti itself. That led me to pursue another type of Noodle or Pasta, that could be a good fit for this dish.
Furthermore, I went on a small journey around the city and its surroundings in search of a good Pasta Carbonara; sadly, while there are many restaurants whose owners are of Italian descent, none of them served any Pasta Carbonara, besides from Olive Garden and other non-traditional restaurants.
I did some research, looked up a few courses, and trained myself to cook this traditional dish. Which leads to the following information!
How does a Traditional Pasta Carbonara differ from a Non-Traditional Pasta Carbonara?
The traditional version does not use cream, as opposed to its non-traditional counterpart. Also, it´s non-traditional counterpart usually has a lot of green and red peppers for some reason, while the traditional does not. Furthermore, the non-traditional version usually has a lot of chicken fillets, and cornstarch or flour to help emulsify the cream sauce.
Traditional Pasta Carbonara
A Roman Traditional Pasta Carbonara, in particular, uses Guanciale instead of Bacon or Pancetta. Also, it uses Pecorino Romano Cheese (Goat) instead of Parmesan Cheese(Cow). A Roman Traditional Pasta Carbonara, in particular, uses Guanciale instead of Bacon or Pancetta. Also, it uses Pecorino Romano Cheese, made with Goat´s Milk instead of Cows Milk.
As mentioned before, no cream is used, which means that its creamy sauce is the result of emulsification. So how does the water first gets emulsified with the oil, egg, and cheese? Simple, the first step of emulsification is the reaction between the hot oil, and the medium hot pasta water (containing flour from the pasta). The sizzling and flour from the pasta water are enough to create mild emulsification. In the next step, the final ingredients are cheese and egg-yolks, which will help bind the sauce into a creamy mixture.
However, you have to BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THIS STEP! Since it can either create or destroy your dish! If your pan is too hot, the cheese with become stringy and hard, and the egg yolk will transform into curds.
Inspiration and Inception
At first, I thought about using ramen noodles for this dish; unfortunately, thanks to cheap 89 cents ramen noodles, there is a lot if misconception regarding the value and importance of this dish. After, I considered using Udon; however, it is not yolky enough. In the end, I ended up using Low Mein noodles (Chinese), which are yolky but do not contain as much flour as opposed to its Italian counterparts.
When it came to the sauce, I really wanted to add and bring out a Japanese Flavor to the Traditional Dish. It was the right time to Hybridize it and turn it into a whole new different beast.
I decided to use thick cut bacon, which contains a high amount of fat and a decent smoky undertone while being accessible & affordable. On the other hand, Bonito Flakes have a predominant smoky flavor with a mild fishy undertone. If you like Japanese Food, you most likely are a fan of the flavors produced by the Bonito Flakes without even realizing. Just like in many cultures, Chicken Stock is used as a base for flavoring foods, the Japanese use a combination of Bonito Flakes and Kombu or Dashi Powder.
Ultimately, I choose to add some Japanese flavors to this dish because I think that Italian Food & Japanese Food can create a miraculous harmony. When you try this dish, you will realize that both flavors go so well together, it is hard to believe it is not a modern classic.
Thank you for reading this section! The recipe is yours to try!
1/3 Cup of Pancetta or Bacon
2 Tablespoons of Minced Garlic
1 Tablespoon of Minced Ginger
1/4 Bonito Flakes
200 Grams of Low Mein Noodles
600 Ml Water
1/4 Pasta Water
3 Egg Yolks
1/4 Cup of Pecorino Romano
Pancetta or Bacon: Slice them into cubes 1x1 cm.
Bring 600 ml of water to a boil and add 200g of Lo Mein Noodles.
Add the Lo Mein Noodles and Stir carefully to prevent them from sticking.
In the previous step, you can use 1 1/2 Tablespoons of oil to prevent them from sticking.
Once the Lo Mein Noodles have been cooked al dente, remove the saucepan from the heat.
Tip: Make sure you don´t let the Cooked Noodles and the Pasta water sit for too long; otherwise, the Cooked Noodles will absorb the water, they will become swollen, doughy, and will lose its texture and consistency.
Sauce Step 1:
Mix 3 Egg yolks and 1/3 Cup of Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Cheese Pan
Cook the Pancetta or Bacon thoroughly and allow it to release as much oil as possible. Once it has turned almost brown in color, add 2 tablespoons Garlic and 1 tablespoon of minced ginger. After all the oil is released and its almost cooked thoroughly, add 1/4 tablespoon of Bonito Flakes.
While at high heat, add the Noodles with 1/4 Cup of pasta water (The strong sizzling is a good indication) and stir rapidly. Remove the pan from the stove and continue mixing rapidly.
Once the pan has cooled to low heat temperature, add the mixture of 3 Egg yolks and 1/3 Cup of Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Cheese to the pan and continue to mix rapidly. At this point, the water, fats, cheese, and egg yolks will start to emulsify into a sauce.
Place the Carbonara into a plate, add salt & pepper (Optional), and decorate with bonito flakes and sliced seaweed.
Optional: Add Sesame Seeds and two drops of Sesame Oil.
If you want to give your everyday pasta carbonara an amazing twist then this recipe is perfect for you! Be adventurous and experience Pasta Carbonara like never before! The Asian twist on this pasta will help you understand how the world is better when we open our minds to new possibilities; after all, life is about transcending barriers.