Friday, May 25, 2018

Wasabi

It bums me out that the stuff we take as wasabi is actually American horseradish.

Nothing against horseradish, it's great stuff, with many notable benefits. It grows easily. It grows too easily. It's invasive.

My dad loved horseradish. Put it on everything. He bought a live rhizome from the grocery store and planted it on the side of his house. Each plant with its own gigantic horseradish root. Way more horseradish than any household can use. Best to plant these things in a pot. Dad was constantly out there knocking back his horseradish takeover attempt. It would cover the whole neighborhood if allowed.

Wikipedia: ... a perennial plant of the Brassicaceae family (which also includes mustard, wasabi, broccoli, and cabbage). It is a root vegetable used as a spice.

Similar to wasabi, 'cept different.

Whereas horseradish is very easy to grow as perennial, even in Colorado, wasabi by contrast is exceedingly fussy. It's grown in very cold clear mountain water, a situation difficult to replicate artificially. Nevertheless, it's been done by an outfit in California. Their method is proprietary, for awhile they were selling their method. You could get into the wasabi business for $2,000 at the time. Now they're well established with an entire product line.

You can buy a wasabi plant for $25.00 and give it a go. Perhaps you could jury-rig an Aerogarden to accept the width of the rhizomes and chill the water to 54℉. Maybe plant them in stones among a cool water fountain.

A tall lanky friend of mine (died tragically) loved wasabi. We met at Sushi Den one afternoon and sitting there with his plate placed before him, facing me, he said, "I could eat this entire wad of wasabi."

I said, "I'll give you a dollar if you do."

He popped the green ball in his mouth. His eyes squinted then widened then watered and teared, his lips pressed together to a single point, his ears turned red, his eyebrows raised upward, his whole face contorted into a different more ugly face, and I laughed so hard and so loudly and boisterously it created a scene in the refined little upscale restaurant. I pushed back my chair, straightened my legs, reached into my pockets and pulled out all my cash and coins threw it on the table and pushed it all at him. "Here." It was so worth the show, my God, that was funny.

A whole chunk of horseradish all at once.

At that time this California hydroponic wasabi place sold fresh wasabi in various forms. I bought some for my friend. And some for myself. I think that I paid $18.00 for a metallic tube similar to toothpaste but larger. Maybe I paid more. It was horribly expensive. The distressing thing about fresh wasabi is it doesn't last long at all. It must be shipped immediately and just so, and stored just so, and it lasts only a few days. It's a picky difficult little plant and it loses its power very quickly.

Our samples were not so hot as the customary ersatz horseradish type that we're used to. We both could see it used on a lot of other things that you don't usually associate with horseradish. Like pizza, mashed potatoes, vegetables, nearly everything.

The website says authentic mountain grown but I believe they've replicated the conditions artificially. I could be wrong. Maybe it's a different place. Maybe they do this near mountains.

This video is long and a bit goofy. You know the guy's a hipster by his shirts and long scarf worn indoors. His behavior appears gay, but I think he's one of those guys you might have met with wealthy parents and a not so strong affinity for work who's just doing his own thing, pursuing his own interest. His Japanese is excellent and he's developed a way to ingratiate himself into another culture by assuming a childlike persona, his exaggerated facial expressions are intended to communicate clearly. It's how he connects, as a child, it's how he gets good interviews with foreigners. Watch his interaction with the old man at the end. Watch how the old man responds to him. I say all this because comments on YouTube are brutal.

If you choose to watch this, then you'll end up expert on a single plant well beyond the usual comprehension. You know how maniacal Japanese get over every irreducible detail.

4 comments:

ndspinelli said...

I was watching the local Twin Cities news and they said Star Prairie, home of Allen S, is getting its ass kicked by a storm.

ampersand said...

Sounds like Colorado would be a good place to try to grow Wasabi. I had some at a local Japanese restaurant (Chinese owned). It was very pungent, but how to know it's the real thing?

My mother made prepared horseradish. One whiff and it would burn your nostrils and clear your head. I haven't found any commercial products as pungent and I never successfully made my own. If you grate it wrong it comes out awfully bitter.

Here's hoping Allen S. stays safe and dry.

Sixty Grit said...

I had real wasabi once in Tokyo. My host ordered it, it was brought out and let me tell you, it was unlike any other "wasabi" I have had anywhere else, with the exception of the sushi I had at Candlestick Park.

ColoradoJim said...

I love the spicy flavors in horseradish and Chinese mustard. I especially like the nose punch and the body shudder when I get something a bit strong. I am not sure if I have ever had real wasabi since it is so easy just to add a bit of color to horseradish. I do have a pretty well stocked Asian supermarket not far from me so will look to see if they stock it. Good place to get exotic fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, I really can not handle the heat of chilies.