Kani "Carbonara": Japanese Style Pasta

My brother flew to Japan recently for a business trip and gave me a pack of cheddar cheese strips from Tokyo.  I didn’t want to make the usual pasta given that the cheese was a little bit more special and unique.  I also wanted to go out of my comfort zone today, so I made a pasta dish with white sauce — Japanese style, of course.

The dish is a bit reminiscent of carbonara.  Perhaps this dish is a distant Japanese cousin of the Italian classic.  So I’m calling it Kani “Carbonara”.  Yes, with the quotation marks.

Kani “Carbonara”


Noodles — Linguine noodles, 150 grams, cooked


Garlic, 3 cloves, diced
Evaporated milk, 1 cup
Water, 1 cup
Bread crumbs, 3/4 cup (used as a thickening agent)
Butter, 1 tbsp.
(Imitation) Crab Sticks, 8 pieces (kani sticks)
Wasabi, 3/4
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Japanese nori, coarsely chopped, 1/2 to 1 cup


1) Using a pan, melt the butter and saute the garlic in low heat for about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the crab sticks and saute for about 2 minutes.    As you are waiting for the crab sticks to be cooked, add the lemon juice to take out any fishy taste.  Take out the crab sticks and set aside.

Instead of using a knife to chop the crab sticks, I use a fork or my hand to mash the crab sticks so that I have smaller strips.

Using melted butter, saute the crab sticks with garlic

2) Using the same pan and its oils and juices, make your sauce.  Simmer the milk and water for about two minutes.  Mix in the wasabi.  Add salt and pepper.  Add the bread crumbs to thicken the sauce).  (Instead of bread, you can use flour to thicken to sauce.  Just dissolve the 2 tbsp. of flour in 1/2 cup water and then add the mixture into the sauce).

3) Add back the crab sticks.  Slowly mix in 1/2 of your nori, so that the sauce can absorb the flavor of the Nori.

4) Mix in the noodles.  Once the noodles and sauce have already been mixed together, top the dish with the remaining nori.  You can chop the nori finely, or you can do a coarse chop, which I prefer so that I can taste it more.  I then put strips of cheddar cheese on top.  The truth is, you can omit the cheese because the nori already provides a lot of depth and flavor into the dish itself.

So how did it turn out?

The Finished Product!

I would say that the dish turned out good, although I believe it is still a work in progress.  My relatives liked it.  It was different.  Having tasted the final product, I just feel the need to add another ingredient or two to add kick.  Perhaps I could have put in pepper flakes.  Or may be, instead of putting in water, I could have put chicken broth for more taste.

Any suggestions?  So for now, it’s still a work in progress.  Still, it’s a good dish that I will do again and even eat again as is.  But after having been introduced to another Japanese term in business school — kaizen (which means continuous improvement) — I want to continue perfecting this dish.

Watch out for a sequel to this post!  In the meantime, douzo meshiagare!  Enjoy your meal!

4 Replies to “Kani "Carbonara": Japanese Style Pasta”

  1. Nice!!! this is something new that i can try when time permits. hmm, maybe we can add some shitake mushrooms and naruto in here? what do you think?

    • Hi, Jon! Thanks for the comment!
      Good idea! I believe shitake would be a good addition to the recipe. the naruto too. I’ll try adding these next time. 🙂 Thanks thanks!

  2. Maybe if you put in some chili oil or sesame oil, there will be more flavor? Although I’m more partial to the chili oil.. the heat may be more evenly distributed if you use this instead of the pepper flakes.. just an idea! 🙂
    you know, you might want to check out one of my fave blogs ‘coz she has amazing photos of her cooking (as in step-by-step) and she has this great recipe archive and she also has this great food/recipe community: http://thepioneerwoman.com

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