When we think about “Yoshoku dish” (western-style food arranged to match the Japanese palate), “Napolitan” Spaghetti is one of the most popular ones. Bear in mind that it is different from the “Spaghetti alla Napoletana”, as it is not using tomato sauce, and uniquely Japanese in origin. ”Napolitan” is spaghetti noodles combined with tomato ketchup, worcestershire sauce, olive oil, mushrooms, garlic, onion, green pepper and sausage. One might also find it with bacon or an egg added as well.
During the immediate post-war period, American soldiers stationed in Japan would often substitute ketchup for tomato sauce when trying to cook up a plate of spaghetti. Inspired, Chef Shigetada Irie, head chef of the Hotel New Grand in Yokohama, created a new spaghetti dish which he dubbed “Napolitan” since this dish reminded him of spaghetti served in a stall in the city of Naples.
Later, when spaghetti began to be appreciated across Japan in the 1970’s, it was “Napolitan” which was enjoyed on a popular level by the regular Japanese public. Today one can often find it at a “kissaten”; cafés where one can enjoy light yoshoku meals and snacks.
Hearty yet simple, “Napolitan” is still much loved and enjoyed by many Japanese. Next time you visit Japan, try “Napolitan Spaghetti” and taste this savory pasta born in Japan.