Saturday, March 10, 2012


My perfect home...

I am neither a powder nor a paste. I am more like a water cabbage. Pollution in Japan's once pristine rivers and streams pretty much wiped me out. Clean, moving water is essential to my survival. Scarcity increases price, and my case is no different. You have probably never encountered me, even at your fanciest Japanese restaurant. I am now more expensive then the seafood I was originally intended to garnish.

Real wasabi root with traditional sharkskin grater

For the price you pay, you won't want to waste me! I'm delicious from the tips of my leaves, down my stalks to the tip of my spicy hot root. If you have the opportunity, add some wasabi leaves to a salad for a kick of pepper and heat.

Wasabi root is best known as a side to sushi and sashimi. Real wasabi starts to lose it's heat as soon as it is grated. That's why in Japan, your Itamae (Sushi Chef) will add the wasabi himself and sneak it in between the rice and the fish in your sushi. He knows how much you need for the fish you have ordered, and limiting the wasabi's exposure to air preserves it's heat and flavour. But even in Japan, it's rare to get the good (real) stuff.

There's nothing really wrong with my "imposters". They pack a punch and will give you the necessary quick sinus sear. Unlike chilis, wasabi's burn goes up through your nose, not down your throat. While intense up front, it fades quickly. Like real wasabi, wasabi mixes contain high amounts of sulforaphane which is believed to have cancer-fighting properties.

You can find many different "wasabi" powders and pastes at Mori Mori Grocery or your local Asian grocery. Wasabi mayo is a great dip for veggies or tempura yam fries. Wasabi flavoured snacks are also popular. Wasabi peas, rice crackers and seaweed are common.

I've made some influential friends over the years. My leaves feature prominently on the family crest of one of Japan's most poweful clans.

Tokugawa "kumon"(family crest)
Tokugawa Ieyasu was Japan's first Shogun and responsible for unifying modern Japan and moving the capital to Tokyo. Wasabi was presented to him as a gift in the early 1600s. He was impressed. Rumour has it that those who grew and consumed me recieved his protection...

Keep checking back for more on Japan's fascinating food and culture!

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