When I was growing up and started learning about different cuisines, I fell in love with sushi. Not only for the Eastern mystery of unknown culture and ceremony in its way but mainly for the chef’s respect to each ingredient used to make the little nibble full of incredible history and flavour.
The gentle, unexpected, pleasant spicy yet sweet undertones got me. When I asked the chef what it was, he smiled and said: “That my friend I only share with you for a glass of good whisky.” I said “chef give me 5 mins, and I will be back” and I immediately brought back a glass of whisky. He laughed and pulled up a stem from a drawer underneath. I immediately said “no way, horseradish??” he laughed again and said, “this is fresh wasabi.” Since then we have had several great supper conversations since I used to run a bar next door… 🙂
Wasabi is a cousin of cabbage, horseradish and mustard. It’s stem or root, if you like, is used as a condiment for its incredibly sharp pungency which teases your nose rather than burn your mouth. There are two main cultivars of wasabi called “Daruma” & “Mazuma.”
Growing wasabi is very difficult even in ideal conditions due to the high demand of water and cold climate. Thus there are very few places that are suitable to cultivate wasabi. These include the Iwate prefecture, Izu peninsula, in Shizuoka prefecture together with the world’s largest commercial farm called Daio Wasabi farm in Nagano prefecture. There are several other regions in Japan as well as in Korea, Israel, Thailand, New Zealand, North America and UK which produces wasabi in small quantities.
Because wasabi is hard to grow, real wasabi is rare and expensive. Wasabi we know is a blend of horseradish, mustard and food colouring.
Japanese cuisine widely uses wasabi as a condiment. How would you use it in cocktails, you ask? Here is a recipe I made back while I was working at Tippling Club.
40 ml London dry gin
10 ml Good quality of peach liqueur
20 ml Fresh lemon juice
15 ml Sugar syrup 1:1
20 ml Fresh Egg white
½ bar spoon of good quality wasabi paste
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and hard shake, add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with an edible flower such as a pea tendril.
Bartender’s note: “Real wasabi is white”