Mentaiko Spaghetti with Clams and Parmesan

My friend Luiz is a terrific cook. He is also a blogger and food writer, that is how we are friends. He runs a wonderful supper club in his house (one of the best in London and in the most beautiful space). Last year his first cookbook was published, on Nikkei cuisine called Nikkei, Japanese Food the South American Way.

The Origins of Nikkei Cuisine

Luiz is from Sao Paulo in Brazil, of Italian and Japanese heritage. There was much immigration from Japan to South America, centred primarily in Peru, from the end of the 19th century. These Japanese immigrants are credited with refining Peruvian ceviche, which used to be left in the citrus marinade for hours. Now it is more like minutes and is a more delicate affair. Over the years a South American – Peruvian cuisine evolved, called Nikkei.

The origin of fusion pasta in Yokohama, Japan

Luiz has written a beautiful book showcasing this cuisine. There are many wonderful recipes in it, it was difficult to choose which to share. I couldn’t resist this spaghetti with mentaiko and clams. Some years back I visited Yokohama and the hotel where fusion pasta originated. Japan was a closed country for a long time, and as the countries biggest port, Yokahama had a greater exposure to the outside world. They discovered pasta and developed their own take on it, which is still very popular today. 


One of my favourite things that they do with it, and what Luiz does here, is to incorporate mentaiko (chilli marinaded cod or pollock roe). It is a wonderful ingredient and used in many dishes in Japan. It gives a gorgeous depth of flavour, a zing and a bright sweetness. It goes particularly well with clams and an umami rich ingredient like parmesan. Japanese mayo is used to emulsify the sauce, I recommend you seek it out. It has more of a salad cream flavour and is terrific. Luiz includes a recipe for making it from scratch in his book, Nikkei, too.

Mentaiko is available in Japanese food shops, often in the freezer section. You can also order it from specialists online.

This is a wonderful recipe, and perfect for summer. Enjoy it! 

Recipe below from Nikkei Cuisine: Japanese Food the South American Way by Luiz Hara. Published by Jacqui Small (£25). Jacqui Small sent me a review copy.

Mentaiko Spaghetti with Clams
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Mentaiko Spaghetti with Clams


  • 300g (10½oz) clams
  • 35g (1¼oz/2¼ tbsp) butter
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 340g (11¾oz) dried spaghetti
  • 125g (4¼oz) mentaiko (chilli-marinated cod or pollock roe)
  • 50g (1¾oz/¼ cup) ready-made Japanese mayonnaise (it has more of a salad cream taste)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tsp shichimi pepper, plus
  • extra to garnish
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan
  • 4 tbsp finely chopped chives
  • a little kizami nori, to garnish
  • 1 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds, to garnish


  • Using a colander, wash the clams under plenty of cold running water, discarding any clams that are broken or permanently open.
  • To cook the clams, choose a medium pan with a tightly fitting lid. Heat the butter and olive oil in the pan, add the clams and cover with the lid. Cook on a medium heat for 3–4 minutes, covered all the time. If a few clams have still not opened, cook for a further minute then remove from the heat and let it rest for 1 minute more. Set aside. If any clams remained unopened after resting, discard them.
  • Cook the spaghetti until al dente in plenty of boiling salted water, this should take about
  • 10 minutes. Drain the pasta.
  • While the pasta is cooking, prepare the pasta sauce. In a bowl large enough to fit all the sauce and the cooked pasta, squeeze in the mentaiko, add the mayonnaise, egg yolk, soy sauce and mirin and mix well.
  • Drain the clam juices, oil and butter into a medium pan (the one used for cooking the pasta could be used here), heat it through and fry the drained pasta for 30 seconds, season the pasta with the shichimi pepper.
  • Transfer the fried pasta into the bowl with the mentaiko sauce, mixing it well into the sauce. Next, add the grated Parmesan cheese, the chopped chives and the clams (reserving a few clams for garnishing) and mix gently again.
  • Using a fork and spoon, divide the pasta and clams onto each of the serving dishes in a tight circular mound (this shape will help the pasta retain its heat for longer), place a couple of clams over and around the pasta, sprinkle over some shichimi pepper and top with some kizami nori strands and toasted white sesame seeds. Serve immediately.



    Written by Niamh
    Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.