From soba to ramen, udon to somen, hiyamugi to shirataki, Japanese cuisine is blessed with a wide variety of of noodle kinds. But if that wasn’t enough, they had to take Italy’s greatest export and make it their own in the form of ankake spaghetti.
Like miso katsu, tebasaki and doteni, ankake spaghetti (sometimes called ankake pasta) continues the long tradition of Nagoyan cuisine bucking the national trend for delicate flavors, and instead going for strong tastes and eye-catching colors in its ‘soul food’.
But if you are expecting something similar as to what you would find in an Italian restaurant, you may be in for a surprise.
Although ankake spaghetti obviously has its origins in the Italian dish, it was created with the Japanese palette in mind, with attempts to adapt a meat ragu or Bolognese sauce to make something more appropriate for Nagoya locals. While the sauce is often tomato based, it is instead rich, spicy and sticky as might be served up in Chinese restaurants. In addition, the thick spaghetti noodles are pan-fried and often have a texture similar to yaki-udon.
There are various toppings for ankake spaghetti, with the most popular being Weiner sausages, onions, and green peppers, making it a bright dish that looks like it could have been created for easily distracted children.
You can also get ankake spaghetti that is topped with, amongst other things, deep-fried prawn (ebi furai), bacon, cutlets served in a piccata style, hard boiled eggs or just mixed vegetables. Dishes that are meat based are called Milanese and those that are solely vegetables are country (or ‘miraneze’ and ‘kantori’ respectively) with combination dishes being ‘mira-kan’, a portmanteau of the two styles.
Although ankake pasta’s popularity has spread throughout Japan, with restaurants popping up all around the country, the best – and original – is still to be found in Nagoya.
Spaghetti House Yokoi is known for its particularly thick noodles and claims to be the first to serve the dish. There are a number of branches in the city, but the original restaurant is in Sakae.
Established in 1961 and another restaurant that it is thought could be the true originator of the ankake dish, Spaghetti House Sole is a true piece of Nagoyan culinary history.
Spaghetti House Ciao is one of the most popular ankake restaurant in Nagoya, and has been around since before the term ‘ankake spaghetti’ was even coined.