Dec 26, 2014

The Volatile Green WASABI Paste

Japanese Wasabi Paste
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Sushi lovers in Hawaii and all over the world, know all about this strange looking volatile green condiment paste that stimulates their nasal passages. It is typically served in nori rolls, or mixed into Tamari soy dipping sauce. Wasabi, also called Japanese horseradish, is a relative of the familiar white horseradish sauce used in our classic bloody marys or served along side prime rib here in the U.S.

Fresh green wasabi root is rarely seen in the U.S. because the plant grows next to highland mountain streams in Japan. It takes two years to reach maturity and is very perishable and therefore expensive to ship far from its growing patch. Actually to refer to the part used for wasabi as a root is actually incorrect, in fact the stem of the plant is the only part Japanese wasabi paste comes from. In some high-end sushi restaurants, the paste is prepared when the customer orders, and is made using a grater to grate the stem; once the paste is prepared, it loses flavor in 15 minutes if left uncovered.
$5.90 for a .88 oz / 25 g can
Also available in a 2.2 lb /1 kg bag
for $50.00

The wasabi we have seen served in many sushi bars in this country is probably not from the Japanese plant, but rather from Western horseradish mixed with mustard or daikon radish mixed with cornstarch or potato starch, that act as a binding agent. Cornstarch is chemically extracted and bleached. Both cornstarch and potato starch are commonly polluted with GEOs (genetically modified organisms). Most commercial wasabi powder is made with a mixture of blue and yellow dyes, to give it the classic green color of real wasabi. However for the purest foodie like me, there is an excellent, potent, wasabi powder that is completely natural and contains no dyes, starches, or preservatives. It is made with horseradish, mustard, and real Japanese wasabi, and is sold online by Eden Foods, Inc. (click here for more information or to purchase). Also sells "Namida Pure Wasabi Powder" for their "discerning" customers, at a little higher price than their more conventional blended wasabi powder.

Wasabi is valued for its fiery flavor and is essential not only for sushi, but it also adds zest to salad dressings, marinades, mayonnaise, vinaigrettes, and dips. Here are a few recipes for you to try:

Wasabi Ahi Poke
2 large sashimi grade Ahi tuna steaks (1 1/2 pounds)
1 shallot, sliced
1/2 cup chopped green onion
3 tablespoons Tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Pat the Ahi dry, then neatly cut it into small 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a bowl. Add the shallots, green onion, Tamari soy sauce, sesame oil, wasabi paste, honey and sesame seeds.

Gently toss. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate. Makes 6-8 servings.

Wasabi Ceviche
Not only a great dish anytime, but a great diet dish. Serve it in martini glasses like they do at the top restaurants, and this simple fish preparation becomes a luxury experience. You can also serve it with cocktails in shot glasses, with small seafood forks. The citrus juice (citric acid) cures the fish: you will see it change from translucent, raw fish cubes to white, “cooked” fish. Here, wasabi paste substitutes for the traditional serrano chile. You can serve this dish as a first course with a few gourmet tortilla chips (try blue corn) or thin slices of garlic bread.

1 pound* deboned firm white fish, such as snapper or cod, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 pound shrimp
1/2 pound scallops
1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 Bermuda onion, finely diced
1 cup of fresh peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon Wasabi paste
2 teaspoons of salt
Dash of hot sauce, e.g. Tabasco®
Chopped cilantro
Avocado for garnish (optional)

*Classic ceviche is all white fish, but we enjoy the variety of shrimp and scallops.

Combine the fish, onion, tomatoes, Wasabi paste, salt, and hot sauce in a glass or ceramic dish (don’t use metal). Cover with lime and lemon juice, coating fish thoroughly. Leave covered in the refrigerator for an hour, then stir again to ensure thorough coating of fish with the citrus juice.

Let the mixture sit for at least 6 hours, giving time for the flavors to blend. Garnish with an avocado slice and chopped cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise
This simple sauce is wonderful over salmon burgers, with fish tacos, or in a maki roll.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup prepared wasabi
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Combine everything in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Wasabi Sauce
This is a versatile and tasty sauce for fish, beef, sandwiches, or vegetables.

1 cup of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of Wasabi paste
2 tablespoons of lime juice
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley (optional)

Whip the cream, mix in the Wasabi paste. Add the lime juice and salt. Add the parsley just before serving.

Wasabi Salad Dressing
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons wasabi powder
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red chile powder
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (peeled)
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup vegetable oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and wasabi powder. let stand for five minutes. Whisk in the remaining ingredients until well blended. Use on any combination of Asian salad ingredients such as Chinese chicken salad, or pear salad with spinach, red onion, topped with slivered almonds, or on an Asian cole slaw with shredded napa cabbage, radishes, carrots, red onion, avocado and chives, topped with roast pork and sesame seeds, or simply on thinly sliced Japanese cucumber with toasted sesame seeds. Makes 1/2 cup of dressing.

Wasabi Noodle Salad
Dressing/marinade ingredients:
3 tablespoons wasabi powder
2 tablespoons warm water
5 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice

Remaining noodle assembly ingredients:
8 ounce, weight dry soba noodles (or favorite noodles or pasta)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1/3 cup cucumber, seeded and diced/ chopped
garnish with fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

For dressing/marinade, whisk together wasabi powder, warm water, honey, sesame oil, lime (or lemon) juice, and soy sauce until well combined. (Note: Makes about 8 ounces. Only half will be used for per 8 ounce package of noodles.)

Cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain noodles. While still warm, gently toss with 4 ounces of dressing/marinade. Gently! Cover and refrigerate until cooled.

Once cool, add chopped cucumber, toasted sesame seeds. Gently toss to incorporate. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired. Makes 2 servings.

Grilled Pork-Wasabi Tacos
1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
6 flour tortillas
1 - 2 teaspoons prepared Wasabi paste
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 of a head napa cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 Japanese cucumber, thinly sliced

Thread pork on skewers*. Brush with hoisin sauce. For charcoal grill, cook pork on rack of uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 12 to 14 minutes or until no pink remains (160˚F), turning once. Add tortillas the last 1 minute of grilling time, turning once to heat through. (For gas grill, preheat. Reduce heat to medium. Place pork over heat. Cover and grill as above.)

Meanwhile, for wasabi oil, in small bowl combine Wasabi paste, water, oil, vinegar, and sugar. Whisk to combine.

Serve pork and vegetables on tortillas. Drizzle with wasabi oil. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Soak skewers 30 minutes before using.

Wasabi Asparagus Spears
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon Tamari sauce or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Wasabi powder
16 spears fresh asparagus, or 1 large bunch
1 pinch sea salt

Place the first four ingredients into a small bowl and whisk to dissolve the wasabi. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Place the asparagus spears on a baking sheet and evenly brush the wasabi mixture over the asparagus. Bake for about 15 minutes until tender. Remove, place on a serving platter and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Variation: place the seasoned spears on a hot grill and grill for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and grill another 2  minutes or until tender. They can also be broiled in a similar manner on a baking sheet.

Spicy Soba Noodle Soup
6 oz. soba noodles
1 medium onion [chopped]
3 tablespoons olive oil
24 ounces vegetable broth
3 baby bok choy (separated, washed, and cut in half long ways)
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons Tamari sauce
2 medium carrots (thin sliced)
4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon Wasabi paste
pinch Shichimi Togarashi (see Note below)

In a medium pot, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and soba noodles. Boil for 5-7 minutes. Drain noodles and set aside.

In a large pot, sauté onions and garlic in oil.
Add broth, tamari, carrots, bok choy, noodles, Wasabi paste to pot with onions and garlic.
Bring the pot to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve with a pinch of Scichimi Togarashi spice. Makes 2 servings.

Note: “Shichimi Togarashi” (or simply “Shichimi”) is a Japanese chilli-based condiment. As the word of “Shichimi” means “seven tastes”, its blend includes several spices like red chilli pepper, black sansho pepper, dried mikan orange peel, black sesame seeds, poppy seeds, nori (dried seaweed) and hemp seeds. Being available in most supermarkets, Shichimi is used to spice up not only hot noodles, but yakitori and other savoury dishes. I love the stuff!

Sake-Wasabi Bloody Mary
handful ice cubes
2 fluid ounces sake
1/2 inch piece pickled ginger (available in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
pinch Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese red chili pepper powder)
1/4 teaspoon Wasabi paste
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 1/2 fluid ounces tomato juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fill a tall glass with ice and add the sake. Mix the pickled ginger, shichimi, Wasabi paste and soy sauce in a small dish. Add this mixture to the glass. Top up with the tomato juice. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Makes one cocktail.

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