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Image: SoraNews24

Japanese pasta dish ranked 24th worst food in the world, but does it deserve that dishonor?

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

In recent years, Japan has earned a reputation as one of the very best places on Earth to be if you’re feeling hungry. The modern foodie knows that Japan offers not only amazing sushi, but dozens of delicacies including mouthwatering ramen, wagyu beef, curry rice, okonomiyaki, and far, far too many others to list here.

And yet, Japan also shows up in a recent ranking of the world’s worst foods. This week, English-language food website Taste Atlas updated its 100 Worst-Rated Dishes in the World list, and sitting not too far from the top, at number 24 (i.e. among the lowest-ranked) is Napolitan.

Also known as “Naporitan” (since the Japanese language lacks an L), Taste Atlas rates Napolitan with only 2.5 stars out of 5, and describes it as: “A combination of overcooked spaghetti, ketchup, onions, green bell peppers, mushrooms, and sausage, ham or bacon.”

“Overcooked” might have you imagining that Napolitan’s noodles are limp and soggy, but that’s usually not the case. Instead, what Taste Atlas seems to be referring to is that Napolitan is always finished by sauteing all of the ingredients together in a frying pan.

Despite taking its name from Naples, Napolitan was created at Yokohama’s Hotel New Grand during the Allied occupation of Japan following the end of World War II. In those days, the hotel was used as housing for members of the American military, and Napolitan came about as a result of the New Grand’s chefs combining foreign recipes with locally available ingredients and tastes at a time when authentic Italian cuisine had yet to make inroads into Japan’s dining scene.

▼ Two plates of Napolitan

Image: SoraNews24

The combination of Napolitan’s ingredients and cooking techniques means that it’s unlike anything you’re likely to be served in Italy or the U.S. There’s nothing too weird about it, but it’s just different enough from pasta in the Western world to feel a little “off,” and that feeling gets amplified by the strong flavors of the dish and how the sauteing seals them in. Tabasco or a similar hot sauce is also a popular added accent, which is yet another flavor that can feel out of place if you’re used to traditional Italian cooking.

Even within Japan, Napolitan is a somewhat divisive dish. As the Japanese palate has become more cosmopolitan and internationalized, more faithful recreations of Italian food as it’s made in Italy, or at least less localized than Napolitan, have become increasingly popular, and you’re unlikely to see Napolitan at dedicated Italian restaurants in Japan, and it’s now considered an old-fashioned dish, something that was a bigger hit with the older generations than the younger ones.

And yet, Napolitan fans aren’t especially rare in Japan either. In addition to dedicated Napolitan specialty restaurants, you can find Napolitan at non-traditional pasta joints (alongside, say, spaghetti with spicy cod roe sauce), and you’ll also see it on menus of casual restaurants that don’t really feature any other pasta or Italian dishes. Its low price and hearty flavors appeal to kids and teens with big appetites and small allowances, and while it’s pretty sure to disappoint anyone who’s got their heart set on spaghetti Bolognese, Napolitan’s unique flavors produce their own specific craving among fans.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Taste Atlas’ list of the 100 Worst-Rated Dishes in the World doesn’t include any mention of the methodology used to compile it, so it’s unclear if Napolitan is sitting in 24th place because of the collected voice of worldwide foodies or because of a panel of judges’ personal preferences. Either way, if you decide to try Napolitan for yourself, it’s probably best to think of it as its own entity, separate from other types of pasta, so that you can give it a fair chance of winning you over.

Source: Taste Atlas via Yuruku Yaru

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- We try Brozer’s ridiculous Tomato Spaghetti Burger because we love carbs and can’t help ourselves

-- We try to eat almost 9 pounds of food at a Nagoya spaghetti shop, succumb to the power of carbs

-- We drink Japan’s spaghetti popsicle (seriously)

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Taste Atlas is a US site, this is the country that thinks spray cheese from a can is a good idea so I have reservations about this list. There are a number of perfectly nice dishes that purportedly are among the worst in the world bur without an sensible explanation why.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

My own is much more appetising.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

A spaghetti burger and spaghetti popsicle sound much worse.

The Napolitan looks as if it is based on Heinz canned spaghetti, which is what spaghetti was to many in Britain in the early 1950s.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I’m surprised Filipino spaghetti with banana ketchup didn’t make the list… much more of an acquired taste.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The photo of the pasta should be pixilated.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The combination of Napolitan’s ingredients and cooking techniques means that it’s unlike anything you’re likely to be served in Italy or the U.S.

...or Japan.

There are plenty of good Italian restaurants in Japan.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Spaghetti Napolitan is nothing short of awful. This dish is living proof that even Louis Vuitton carrying, Mercedes-Benz driving, cosmopolitan Nihonjin are capable of obsessing over things that are gaudy and lame. Why they like Napolitan so much, I have no idea. I find it to be excessively sweet in its taste, and rather gooey in its composition. I've given it several chances, and unlike natto, this one appears as though it will never eventually win me over, period. I actively avoid it as much as I can.

Having said that, not all pasta in Japan is bad. A lot of Italian food here is actually pretty good. For example, as ubiquitous as it is, I find the occasional dinner at Saizeriya to be rather enjoyable, especially for the price. Mentaiko spaghetti is also pretty good, and incorporates ingredients that give it an actually unique flavor.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I love napolitan.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

i have had the best pasta of my life in japan. but i am biased for japanese food being the best in the world. and next best are the fusions such as italian food by good japanese chefs

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Nothing wrong with it if done right. I have encountered worse at the local KFC!!! Ginza Lion does a fried egg on their napo, which is pushing the limits of the "what goes where " logarithm.

Pineapple on pizza though is a crime.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I don't like Napolitan at all, It's fine to put ketchup on things but not to cook them in it. I'm the same with mayonnaise, so I don't like savoury breads or pizzas with mayonnaise on them. Lots of heat does not do good things to ketchup or mayonnaise.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Who cares what the strange tongue bearers from the BigMacs and KFC factions think about Japanese Napolitan spaghetti? Everyone in Japan likes the Showa era taste of well prepared Napolitan , from kids to grandparents. And I think that’s self-sufficient for that delicious and unique dish, whatever other unrelated rankings try to tell us.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

it depends on how it's cooked and who is cooking it.

I love my local cafe's Napolitan, and I'm Italian! :D

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Absolutely deserves that dishonour. It’s offensive. Why does everything have to be “so sweet”?!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Right up there with Corn Mayo Pizza and Yakisoba Sandwiches, and Teriaki Cheeseburgers.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

It looks appetizing enough but that could be deceiving. And there's some things you should never put on pasta.

OlrikFeb. 19  05:57 am JST

Looks good to me, but I still enjoy Chef Boyaredee spaghetti from a can once in awhile…

So do I. It's got a tanginess that makes it unique.

Elvis is hereFeb. 18  04:48 pm JST

Nothing wrong with it if done right. I have encountered worse at the local KFC!!! Ginza Lion does a fried egg on their napo, which is pushing the limits of the "what goes where " logarithm.

Pineapple on pizza though is a crime.

I happen to like pineapple on pizza, as long as it's small pieces, not whole slices. And have ever heard of the 'Bowl' that KFC in America offers once in a blue moon? It's the yummy chicken nuggets mixed into the yummy mashed potatoes + gravy (this makes an awful mix!). Then they pile canned corn on top and lace it with sliced cheese over it. Yeeeccchhh!!!! Of course as the name suggests, it's all mixed up in a bowl and you eat the gloppy slop with a spork. THAT'S what I call a crime - in fact, it's just plain horrible. A culinary travesty.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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