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March 22, 2019 9:27 PM   Subscribe

The Truth About Wasabi
75-year-old Shigeo Iida, the eighth-generation owner of his family’s wasabi farm in Japan, takes pride in his tradition, which is profiled in Edwin Lee’s short documentary Wasabia Japonica.
posted by Lexica (20 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
I'm going to assume that I've never had actual wasabi. But regular horseradish fresh out of the ground is seriously wonderful (until you get greedy and take too large a bite, causing your brain to literally explode in a pink greasy mushroom cloud not that that's ever happened to me personally), so if it's better than that I'd love to try it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:21 PM on March 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thank you.

The Atlantic has published many other amazing mini documentaries, like this one about the last chess shop in New York (prev).
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:28 PM on March 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

But regular horseradish fresh out of the ground

So way back when, before I was even a twinkle in neander-dad's eye, mom and pop were the gardeners, and one year, my old man, who looooooovvvveeees horseradish, decided to grow some. He was successful- took his bounty indoors, and started to grate it- either by hand or by early Cuisinart I'm not sure which. ( I suspect the processor) Reader, my dad essentially maced himself and my mother. The air was filled with nasal napalm and they had to, choking the whole time, throw open every window and door and chuck the offending root into multiple trashbags and throw it outside. It took hours before it was safe for my asthmatic mother to re-enter the house. And that is why I am forbidden to grow horseradish.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:55 PM on March 22, 2019 [19 favorites]

Beautiful. I hope his grandson will be able to pass this on to HIS grandson...
posted by DreamerFi at 1:04 AM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am not a fan of wasabi. That is the green-tinted horseradish that everyone calls wasabi. It has less of a flavor than a chemical reaction in my sinuses. Dijon mustard also belongs to this group, but I guess of the three dijon at least puts out some separate flavors.

BUT. A few times I have tried the Real Deal wasabi: at a restaurant my noodles came with an individual wasabi root and mini grater. Fresh grated wasabi is actually quite nice, with only a fraction of that sinus-attacking-sensation.
posted by zardoz at 4:06 AM on March 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

I recently dug some old horseradish root out of its half barrel to eat with corned beef and it is really delicious. I do advise growing it in a large container as we were long ago made personae non gratae after planting some in an acquaintance's garden. I believe he moved without ever extirpating it. Also, it is safe to grate indoors in very small quantities, otherwise heed H.neanderthalensis' warning.
posted by Botanizer at 6:42 AM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wayyyyy back in the day (like '80 or '81) there was this brand new restaurant over by my parents that served this exotic new thing (well, new to Indiana) called sushi. I'd heard about this stuff, but never had it, and I wanted to correct that issue. So, one night, my new bride and I went there to see what this was all about.

It was all very nice. The waiter was helpful in explaining the various fish varieties. We checked-off the pieces we wanted. I got an extremely tall can of (Japanese!!) beer.

Then the sushi arrived. It looked so exotic. It tasted amazing! But...what's this little pile of green stuff on the board? The waiter didn't mention this. Hmmm. I scoop it up with my sticks...examine it...neat green color...let's see what it tastes like. So I pop the entire mound of green into my mouth.

Heeeellllloooooooo wasabi!

In between labored breaths, I ordered another extremely tall can of (Japanese!!) beer.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:54 AM on March 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

A few years back, I went to Japan with my husband right before my first child was born, and we took a side detour based on an entirely offhand remark from one of the family members running a ryokan we were staying at in Matsumoto. We did this in lieu of going to Nara, which we don't regret at all.

Somewhat close to Matsumoto is the Daio Wasabi farm - it's a mile or two out from the station, which we took by cab one way and walked the way back - which is basically a wasabi farm/theme park. As in, you will see how wasabi is grown, and then eat all sorts of wasabi related items. Wasabi ice cream! Wasabi soba! Wasabi cookies! Wasabi beer! It was a wasabi theme paradise. I highly recommend going if you ever are around there.
posted by crankytalking at 8:11 AM on March 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

<sniff>no, I'm not crying, it's the wasabi...
posted by Reverend John at 9:27 AM on March 23, 2019

It's strange how often a new (to me) subject will appear, and then within days something related will also appear. Just last week I was watching a series of short videos from a series called Japan From Above, and one of the most beautiful is called Wasabi Roots
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:00 AM on March 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

The wasabi farmer in OHenryPacey's link: I like what he's wearing.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 10:48 AM on March 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have visited a wasabi farm in Japan, where I've tasted the legendary green-flecked wasabi ice cream. It tasted like vanilla; if there was enough wasabi added to taste, the flavor wasn't enough for me to detect.

Also in Japan I've had freshly-grated wasabi served with my sushi. Again, too subtle for me, as I've come to the grim realization that it's not wasabi, but green-tinted horseradish labeled "wasabi" that I like with my raw fish. At least the green tea is really tea.

Horseradish. How very European. I remember hating that stuff when I first tried it, as a kid at Arby's.
posted by Rash at 2:55 PM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

So it is apparently green horseradish that tastes very specifically like cocaine post-nasal drip? My apologies to wasabi; I’ve been unfair to you.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:02 PM on March 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Because I'm a savage and because I don't eat in high-end sushi places, I do this rather uncouth thing where i mix the "wasabi" in with the soy sauce in that little dish thing they give you and then i stir it all up like really good and then it turns into this slightly spicy soy sauce which is very nice if you quickly jab your sushi at it first before eating. Wasabi makes my sinus burn like no other too weirdly.. chillis and habenaro etc.. not so much sinus burn. but I like it if diluted in soy sauce.. Or mayonaise (hello HorseySauce! <3))
posted by some loser at 6:48 PM on March 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

I spent a month at the end of my senior year working at a Japanese restaurant as this weird quasi academic internship requirement and my job as lowest ranked person there was to mix the (fake) wasabi every morning. Opening that bag of green powder was dangerous - that shit would hang in the air and get in your nostrils and just burn for a couple of hours.

I do enjoy introducing toddlers to it though, because I am mean.
posted by olinerd at 8:48 PM on March 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Then the sushi arrived. It looked so exotic. It tasted amazing! But...what's this little pile of green stuff on the board? The waiter didn't mention this. Hmmm. I scoop it up with my sticks...examine it...neat green color...let's see what it tastes like. So I pop the entire mound of green into my mouth.

I did the same thing on my first visit to a sushi restaurant, also in the 1980s. I was trying hard to act like I knew what I was doing because I was there with a girl I had a crush on, but there's no way to be cool when you have a mouth full of (fake) wasabi.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:39 AM on March 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

some loser - nothing wrong with triturating some wasabi into soy sauce.

If you want to add some couth to your self-perceived uncouth-ness, tip your nigiri sideways, pick it up, and dab only the fish part into the soy mix.

It's only when you're doing high end omakase-level would it be disrespectful to add flavour to what you're served - for omakase, the chef prepares a morsel that should be perfect, no additional adjustments required.
posted by porpoise at 11:32 AM on March 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

As far as authentic (non-horseradish) wasabi goes, some people are apparently growing it in Iceland.
posted by acb at 1:54 PM on March 24, 2019

For the Aussie MeFites, they're growing wasabi in Tasmania in commercial quantities and will ship it to you (for some moneys). But I also saw this on the Bunnings website (of all places!) and am freaking out a little. About to go and investigate and see if any of the local stores have some.
posted by ninazer0 at 4:54 PM on March 24, 2019

Wasabi is also being grown in Nanoose Bay, B.C, as well as Washington and Oregon, since at least 2013.
posted by louigi at 5:57 PM on March 26, 2019

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