10 Must-try Wasabi Combo Menu Recommended by JapaneseFoodies

10 Must-try Wasabi Combo Menu Recommended by JapaneseFoodies

We, Japanese love wasabi, the quintessential condiment in Japanese cuisine, characterised by its pungent ‘bite’ and green colour. A member of the same plant family as mustard, horseradish and cabbage (would you believe!), wasabi grows naturally beside mountain streams. It can take two years or more for the plant to mature and is difficult to keep once harvested. For this reason, it is expensive to transport. The common misconception is that wasabi is a root. It is, in fact, the stem of the plant that is used, finely grated before use. The dried stems are also sold as a powder, usually to the catering and food preparation industry, but most people in Japan buy wasabi as a paste in tubes. Wasabi leaves are also eaten, and have the same spicy flavour as the stems. Here, then, are my top ten must try wasabi menu suggestions with the Western palate in mind:



 

10 Must-try Wasabi Combo Menu Recommended by JapaneseFoodies

 

1. Sashimi and Sushi

This is how most people first experience the ‘bite’ of wasabi. Sashimi (raw fish) is typically served as small strips along with a small dish of soy and a dab of wasabi for dipping. Sushi is essentially a vinegered rice dish served in bite-sized portions that are often topped with sashimi. With sushi, the wasabi is put between the rice and the fish because wasabi loses its flavour very quickly when exposed to air. For me, there is never enough wasabi on sushi, but one can can add more to the soy for dipping!

Note: The ‘bite’ of wasabi is different to that of other spices in that it stimulates the nasal cavities, not the tongue. The effect will be stronger the more wasabi you use; I like enough to make my eyes water!

 

2. Fish

Any fish can benefit from wasabi, though recipes may say more about the cook’s preferences than the conventions of Japanese cuisine. A favorite of mine is teriyaki glazed white fish or salmon where the wasabi provides a zesty counterpoint to the sweetness of the teriyaki. Or try combining a little wasabi with a hollandaise sauce; this goes well with fresh water fish.

 

3. Noodles

A common wasabi menu in Japan is to mix it with cold soba noodles. In this case, wasabi compliments the subtle flavor of the noodles, and the salt taste of the dipping sauce. Try this in combination with nice, crisp shrimp tempura!

 

4. Beef

Just as Westerners eat roast beef with horseradish, so too can Japanese style beef recipes benefit from wasabi. Beef teriyaki makes for a tasty wasabi menu, again to compliment the sweetness of the teriyaki. Fillet steak and saikoro steak cubes with a soy, garlic and wasabi sauce are delicious!

 

5. Wasabi Karaage

Everyone loves karaage chicken, those deep fried, bit-sized chicken portions with the crispy outer. The trick to using wasabi with karaage is to mix wasabi powder with the potato starch you use to coat the ready marinaded chicken, just before frying.

 

6. Crab as a Starter

It isn’t customary to serve starters in Japan, but I thought this side dish might appeal to Western cooks experimenting with a wasabi menu: fresh crab meat served with a wakame (seaweed) salad and wasabi mayonnaise. Whether you make your own mayonnaise or use a ready made type, add a little wasabi to taste for a unique crab dressing.

 

7. Wasabi Kamaboko

Often referred to as Japanese fish cake, kamaboko is a cured ‘surimi’ seafood product that comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes depending on how it is used. There can be many added ingredients to kamaboko, including vegetables, fish, octopus and shiso (the leaf herb usually served with sushi), but my favorite is wasabi kamaboko.

 

8. Wasabi Legumes

Not so much a wasabi menu item, but peanuts, soybeans or peas can be roasted and coated with wasabi powder and eaten as a crunchy and spicy snack. Wasabi peas are quite common around the world today.

 

9. Wasabi Chocolate

I don’t know where this combination originated, though it has been known in Japan for many years, especially in the omiyage (souvenir) shops close to wasabi growing areas. These days, we can buy wasabi Kit-Kat in Japan, but even famous Swiss chocolate maker, Lindt, now makes a wasabi chocolate bar. Adventurous cooks might like to try adding wasabi to their chocolate cakes, puddings and brownies!

 

10. Wasabi Ice Cream

Just when you thought ice cream makers couldn’t get any more inventive with their flavorings, along came wasabi flavored ice creams and sorbets. This unexpectedly piquant combination of creamy cold texture and pungent sharpness has been a winner, becoming popular around the world!

 

Conclusion

Wasabi is clearly a very versatile and tasty ingredient with a wide variety of uses in both Japanese and international cuisine. There are also many proven and suspected health benefits to consuming wasabi. Its anti-microbial properties are suggested as a reason why it was first used with raw fish, while its anti-inflammatory properties can help combat seasonal allergies. Research is being conducted on wasabi’s potential health benefits in heart disease and cancer, and wasabi has long been considered as a super food and powerful herbal remedy responsible, in part, for a long and healthy life. Obviously, wasabi is one of the most important ingredients to have come from Japan and I hope you will try it and enjoy its spiciness as much as we Japanese do.

 

10 Must-try Wasabi Combo Menu Recommended by JapaneseFoodies

1. Sashimi and Sushi
2. Fish
3. Noodles
4. Beef
5. Wasabi Karaage
6. Crab as a Starter
7. Wasabi Kamaboko
8. Wasabi Legumes
9. Wasabi Chocolate
10. Wasabi Ice Cream