A Tale of Wasabic Victory

It is a landmark day, today. In the future humanity will look back on July 13, 2009, and rejoice — enjoying a respite from the ongoing desertification of planet Earth. They will put down their dishes of Soylent Green, put on their respirators and UV-resistant clothing, and run outside and lift their voices in song.

just enough wasabi(ko). Because on this day, I didn’t make too much wasabi.

Yes, on this remarkable day, at approximately 9:45 p.m., it became clear that I would not have too little wasabi to go with my sushi, nor would I have way too much. But, as the photograph illustrates, there was very little left — perhaps enough for one more piece, had I one. It is a glorious thing.

And in case you’re thinking “That’s a crap photograph, Mr. Wannabe Photographer,” ┬áIt was taken with the crap camera on the Nokia 6086 — actually considering the lighting, it’s a pretty impressive. But I didn’t think this warranted getting out the big gun — a Canon, if you will. I slay myself.

But I digress. See, the little blob of wasabi that comes with the vegetarian sushi (I’m not a hardcore vegetarian anymore, but I still generally eat vegan/vegetarian fare, and I generally don’t eat seafood unless I’m near the sea, as a rule) at the local IGA just isn’t enough — oh, maybe for two or three pieces, perhaps. But then, when I buy a tub of wasabi, it is too much, and it ends up going bad before I can use it all up. Being marginally employed at the moment, I feel bad wasting food/money (somewhere, my parents are smiling).

wasabi-ko desu ka Thus, much to my delight, the other day while perusing the foreign food section at said IGA, I discovered an answer to this dilemna: Wasabi-ko, or powdered horseradish. Just mix with water and/or soy sauce, and voila: wasabi. It is indistinguishable from the horseradish-based wasabi we get here in the United States; I managed to send my sinuses into spasms three or four times while dining.

If you have this same wasabi dilemma, just look at the ethnic/foreign food section of your local grocer. No luck? No worries; Amazon sells Wasabi-ko (of course).

And just a note, in case you weren’t aware. Wasabi outside of Japan really isn’t wasabi, but horseradish. True wasabi is a similar plant, however, that is native to certain parts of Japan. I discovered this a back on my first or second trip to Japan (I don’t remember which) and remarked to a colleague while dining on sushi that not only was it the best sushi ever, but even the wasabi was noticeably better. She enlightened me as to the truth (which I could handle) and shall now enlighten you via Wikipedia. To wit:

Wasabi (Wasabia japonica , Cochlearia wasabi, or Eutrema japonica) is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes cabbages, horseradish and mustard. Known as “Japanese horseradish,” its root is used as a spice and has an extremely strong flavour. Its hotness is more akin to that of a hot mustard than the capsaicin in a chili pepper, producing vapors that irritate the nasal passages more than the tongue. The plant grows naturally along stream beds in mountain river valleys in Japan. There are also other species used, such as W. koreana, and W. tetsuigi. The two main cultivars in the marketplace are W. japonica cv. ‘Daruma’ and cv. ‘Mazuma’, but there are many others.

Few places are suitable for large-scale wasabi cultivation, and cultivation is difficult even in ideal conditions.

In North America, a handful of companies and small farmers are successfully pursuing the trend by cultivating Wasabia japonica. While only the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains provide the right balance of climate and water for natural cultivation of sawa (water grown) wasabi, the use of hydroponics and greenhouses has extended the range.

The Wikipedia entry on wasabi is actually quite enlightening, if you’re interested in such things.

Okay, so I know this isn’t earth-shattering news. But I’ve given up blogging on politics because a) everyone is a moron but me when it comes to politics; b) it makes my head come perilously close to exploding; and c) other people prattling on about politics are almost always boring, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite. Said in my best British cockney punk accent: “Politics is boring, Sydney!”

Also, while I’m sorry he’s dead, in the sense that I would be sorry for anyone, generally speaking, that has died before old age caught up with them (with a few notable exceptions, like, say Dick Cheney — d’oh! politics snuck in after all), I don’t care about Michael Jackson. Yes, I know I’m one of seven people across the globe, but then I’m used to being in the minority — as much as a white, middle class, college-educated American dude can ever be in a minority, that is (queue that classic Ben Folds song, “Rockin’ the Suburbs). Sham-on.

So I shall rejoice in my wasabic victory. Of course, be careful during your Wasabi Day celebrations, lest you use too much and it becomes a Pyrrhic victory.

P.S. I think I might have to rename my site Cochlearia wasabi. I didn’t study Latin, so I’m guessing, but … wasabi ear? Ear of wasabi?