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Wasabi, I learn something new everyday!

October 18, 2009

I did not know that wasabi was a specific root similar to horseradish. I thought “wasabi” was a colored horseradish/mustard paste (which it can be). I was in one of the spice stores I like to frequent, Penzeys (great on-line ordering source for spices if you need one), and came upon pure wasabi powder. At $14 for a tiny .7oz container it is not cheap. I could not control myself. I had to try it. The moment you take the lid off you smell an earthy, seaweed perfume. The light, dusty green powder is airy and light green like powdered green tea leaves. I mixed equal parts of the powder and cold water. As the powder absorbed the water it took on a brighter color and the fragrance turned to a tickle your nose horseradish essence. The seaweed smell was now the backdrop.wasabi tuna The flavor is pure. I found myself napping it back and forth across my tongue to extract all the flavor. There is no way I want to add soy sauce to this. It has a “finish” like a great wine that just goes on and on.

Since I was feeling like a purist I kept it simple. I took a piece of Sushi grade Ahi tuna. Bright purple, firm, free of any blemishes and cartilage. I sliced it thin. Salted it and dotted the wasabi on top. The tender sweet tuna against the sharp, spicy REAL wasabi was magical. It was the essence of “surf and turf”.

I then took the rest of the ahi and made my version of Poke (the Hawaiian version of sashimi). I cubed the tuna and mixed it with a touch of mirin (sweet, low alcohol rice wine), soy, rice wine vinegar and salt. I took a rice cake and broke it up and toasted it in a dry pan with a touch of sugar. It became like tiny particles of caramelized rice. I then toasted some brown mustard seeds in a pan and sprinkled them over the top. The mustard seeds become so nutty when toasted. Just by changing the shape you cut something you change the entire mouth feel. The cubes of tuna had body but were tender. The outer layer absorbed the sweetness of the mirin, the saltiness of the soy and had a cleansing finish from the vinegar. The rice cake gave me the crunch and the mustard seeds created a depth of flavor from their nuttiness. I am sure you know soy well but try playing with mirin, rice wine vinegar, soy and some form of heat in different combinations. They play catch in your mouth so well. Enjoy!

Eat well, enjoy life, be happy.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 18, 2009 11:22 am

    nope, this is right up my flavor alley.

  2. October 25, 2009 11:35 pm

    Great piece on wasabi, Jeffrey. It is an incredibly addictive flavor. I agree with you about Penzey’s. I find this store a true helper for my cooking at their Santa Monica location frequently. Don’t you just love that you can open up all those sample bottles and take in the wonderful smells? It is quite a learning experience! A quick way to learn more about herbs and spices is to visit Penzey’s, start opening up some jars and doing some comparisons. Start with the Hungarian and the California paprika. Amazing difference. Different oreganos or vanillas. What fun.

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      October 26, 2009 5:48 am

      Well said Denise, that is exactly what I do! Thanks for reading. have a tasty week 🙂

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