Emeril's Notes From the Kitchen
Catcher of the Rhizome
As the entire sushi eating populace knows, wasabi is a condiment traditionally served with raw fish (sushi and sashimi) and noodle (soba) dishes in Japan. The actual ground root-like rhizome flavors many foods in Japanese cuisine and its bright green color adds color contrast, for which Japanese dishes are famous.
Did you know that that green paste you've been spreading on your sushi or swirling in your soy sauce isn't the real deal? Most often, that clump of green is ordinary horseradish with food coloring added. Don't believe it? Check the ingredients on any tube of paste or tin of powder.
Real wasabi is one of the rarest and most difficult vegetables in the world to grow. Traditionally, wasabi is prepared by grating the fresh rhizome against a rough surface - like a ginger grater. Some Japanese Sushi Chefs will only use a sharkskin grater because it is thought that sharkskin gives grated wasabi a smooth, soft and aromatic finish.
Having had the good fortune of eating true Japanese wasabi, I must say the difference is enormous. The real deal has a tangy, citrus-like flavor and the heat that comes has a short, yet powerful finish. It's a beautiful thing and causes the powders to pale in comparison. There is a close second that my favorite sushi chef turned me on to and he swears by it, since getting wasabi from Japan is a no-no.
In the U.S. there are very few places where the climate and growing conditions mimic Japan and that have had success. Wasabi Japonica (the root) is being grown in an area of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where the weather and conditions are similar to Japan and favorable for growing wasabi root. Real Wasabi, LLC offers authentic powder, dresings, sauces and whole wasabi roots. www.realwasabi.com.
You'll be amazed at the difference in flavor when you revive mashed potatoes with fresh wasabi root and serve them alongside a great seared tuna filet or a hearty, beefy meatloaf.
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