"Code Name" tha Nullsoft finally picked for WinAmp 3.0. The name has gone though many generations; with each name accuratly describing the amount of confidence the developers have it the project: Wasabi is so hot it's unbearble, but people love it. The previous code name, "Tempura", indicates the project was nice and crunchy, but not yet amazingly lustful.

How to mix the perfect wasabi...

It's often the case in sushi restaurants that the wasabi comes out on the same tray as the sushi.
This is unfortunate because many people bide some of the time between placing the order and the arrival of the sushi by preparing their dipping tray. But you have no wasabi yet, right? So what do you do? You fill it with soy sauce. Resist this urge at all costs. Wasabi floats, as you've no doubt discovered if you do this often, and it's damn near impossible to get those last few wasabi bits properly dissolved and incorporated. Now, if you like surprises, by all means keep doing it this way. If you prefer not to have your jaw fall off and your nose explode at random times during the night, read on.

If you absolutely must do something with your tray at this point add a small amount of soy sauce and roll the dish around to evenly coat the bottom.

The secret to the perfect wasabi fusion is to add the soy sauce to the wasabi.
Get an appropriate amount of wasabi and put it in your dipping tray. What's appropriate for you can be determined by experience. Use as little or as much as you dare.
Poke the wasabi repeatedly with your chopsticks. The main idea here is to break up the surface of the wasabi and not so much to get it flattened to the bottom of your tray. Increase the surface area of your sample, right? Right.
Now add a little soy sauce. Not too much! Mix this in with your wasabi until you've got a nice thick paste.
Add a little more. Mix. Repeat until desired consistency or color is achieved.


20020922182309, Node Tending.

This is in response to mowph's write-up below.
To those that would consider the source, Ryuichi Yoshii has a reported tendency not to offer wasabi on the side when sushi is served in his restaurant... because it already has the perfect amount as determined by the chef. Uh-huh.

I've no clue why mowph mentions sensei's writeup in regards to the "green slurry" question, as there's no deprecation of the method there- merely a warning not to overdo it.

Which, I suppose, is the same warning Yoshii is offering us... though with the assumption we wouldn't know better than to mix too much wasabi in with our shoyu and are best off not doing it at all.

As a condiment, wasabi is available in three forms:

  1. paste (aka tube)
    This is the most convenient form, and is very common for household use. In Japan, a house without a tube of wasabi in the refrigerator would be like an American house with no ketchup. Take-out sushi often includes a small packet of wasabi paste. Most pre-made pastes contain little or no real wasabi.
  2. powdered
    Dried, finely powdered, and mixed with starches, this product is kept in an air-tight can and rehydrated with water to produce the thick wasabi used in most sushi restaurants. This form provides the best adhesive capabilities, and is often formed into decorative shapes such as flowers and leaves. On the other hand, it does not dissolve well. It also loses potency soon after rehydrating, so it should be used quickly. Many powders contain little or no wasabi, and contain other spices such as western horseradish and mustard.
  3. freshly grated
    Very expensive within Japan, real wasabi root is often difficult or impossible to obtain overseas. This is obviously the most authentic type. The flavor is generally milder and rounder than powdered wasabi. Once grated, it takes several minutes to reach its full flavor. Wasabi should be used within half an hour or so of grating or the flavor will be lost; the root itself will keep for about a month in a cool, dark place.

Note that the Japanese refer to horseradish as a type of wasabi (seiyou wasabi, or "western wasabi"), so even if your wasabi says "Made in Japan" and "Wasabi" on it, it may contain horseradish. The Japanese word to discriminate between wasabia japonica and just any old wasabi is hon wasabi, or "true wasabi." Many packages say "hon wasabi iri", or "contains real wasabi", but they generally neglect to say the amount, which is generally just enough to give the vague texture and aroma of wasabi.

Wasabi is most commonly known as a condiment for sushi and sashimi. Appropriately enough, in itamae-lingo, this pungent, aromatic root is referred to as "namida", or "tears".

Sashimi

Wasabi is almost always served with sashimi of all types. The amount to use is up to the diner, but generally, one should use more for oilier and stronger-tasting koi-mono, such as katsuo (bonito), saba (mackerel), and toro (fatty cuts of tuna), and less for lighter usui-mono such as tai (snapper) and hotate (scallop).

To season the piece of sashimi, pick up a bit of wasabi with the tips of your chopsticks, pick up the slice of sashimi, then dip it into a light soy sauce.

Sushi

The way to use wasabi with sushi depends on the type of sushi, method of preparation, and of course, the diner's preference. Often, the chef will include a thin layer of wasabi in nigiri-zushi, between the topping and the rice. This serves many purposes -- to add flavor and help to mask any unpleasant fishy taste, to help to bind the sushi together, and to prevent bacterial growth. In this case, it may not be necessary to add wasabi at all. Wasabi is not always served alongside sushi, some chefs might even take offense if you decide that the amount they have added isn't just right.

Many people, especially young children, don't like the characteristic pungent taste of wasabi. To order sushi without wasabi in Japan, use the phrase "wasabi-nuki".

Now that sushi has become an international cuisine, the use of wasabi varies around the globe. Even within Japan, the "one correct method" is hotly debated by connoiseurs, chefs, and variety show stars alike. One chef recommends the following method to American diners:

When eating nigiri-zushi, it is traditional to use your hands and wipe them on a towel. You may also use chopsticks. Take a dab of wasabi on the tip of the chopstick, gently pick up a piece of sushi, and dip the end of the topping in the bowl of soy sauce. Do not dip the rice side of the sushi in the soy as you will simply taste soy, rather than the flavors of both rice and topping. Put the sushi in your mouth with the topping side down--so the fish meets your taste buds. (Do not mix the wasabi in the soy sauce, as you will drown the sushi with the flavor of the wasabi.)
Source: Sushi, by Ryuichi Yoshii. Emphasis is mine.
This is a CST Approved use of copyrighted material.

As respected noder 1010011010 notes above, some prefer a more wasabi-centered approach to their dipping; the Japanese term for a mix of soy sauce and ground wasabi is wasabi-jouyu.

There are a few more writeups about using wasabi in and on sushi at the Everything Sushi Guide.

Wasabi in other Japanese dishes

When you say wasabi, most people automatically associate the word with sushi, but there are many other uses in Japanese cuisine.

  • Both the root and the heart-shaped leaves can be pickled, normally as a shiozuke. Not nearly as spicy as it sounds, this is a refreshing spring dish.
  • Japanese summers wouldn't be the same without the tang of wasabi in the dipping sauce for zaru-soba, buckwheat noodles served cold.
  • Nothing warms you up after a cold autumn evening like tucking into a bowl of wasabi ochazuke.
  • Wasabi is also used to flavor traditional snacks, such as some types of senbei, kaki no tane, wasabi peas, or preserved ika-wasabi. It's also in a lot of non-traditional snacks, like Calbee's unforgettable Wasabi Potato Chips.

I'm sure that some inventive souls have come up with ways to include wasabi in other cuisines, as well. (See esteemed noder arcanamundi's writeup below, and sensei's Special Sauce.)

Wasabi for health

Wasabi has been used by the Japanese for over 900 years, and has long been thought to prevent illness, especially when eaten with raw foods. Recent research indicates that there may be substantial benefits to regularly consuming wasabi, including the ability to fight stomach cancer. It also acts as an antimicrobic, stopping the growth of various bacteria, and helping to prevent food poisoning and tooth decay. As an anti-inflammatory, it may help to relieve asthma, and its anticoagulant properties are effective against blood clots. (Archer, 2001)

(Note: As an asthmatic, let me clear up the point that inhaling wasabi fumes during an asthma attack is a very bad idea.)

The active ingredient in many of wasabi's medical properties is isothiocyanate compunds. Depree, Howard, and Savage (1999) found that these compounds act very quickly and at low concentrations, warranting further research into developing wasabi-based medicinal applications.

And lastly, few would disagree that wasabi can certainly clear the sinuses.

REFERENCES:
DEPREE, J.; SAVAGE, G.P.; HOWARD, T.M. Flavour and pharmaceutical properties of the volatile sulfur compounds of Wasabi (Wasabia japonica). Food Research International 31: 329-337, 1999.
ARCHER, S. Wasabia Japonica. City Farmer Office of Urban Agriculture. Updated July 11, 2001. Accessed September 19, 2003. Available online at http://www.cityfarmer.org/wasabi.html


2003-09-19 - w/u rewritten, the old one was basically nothing more than a quote.
Thanks to 1010011010 for the comments.

This review may contain spoilers. Nothing terribly bad, but still.

Wasabi - 2001
Directed by: Gérard Krawczyk
94 minutes

Wasabi is a Jean Reno vehicle, written by Luc Besson (who also wrote The Professional) and directed by Gérard Krawczyk. It was released in 2001 and is in French and Japanese with English subtitles.

In some ways, it would be easy to compare Wasabi with The Professional and just rack it up to Reno and Besson going back to the well. Jean Reno is a bad ass. His serious demeanor is juxtaposed with a young girl he is expected to care for. This much is true. This is where I was intending to craft a brilliant and succinct rebuttal to this arguement...but I don't think I can. It's true, it's true, it's just another action movie with a French star and enough tongue in its cheek to choke a llama. But, as far as that sort of thing goes, it's excellent.

Jean Reno plays Hubert Fiorentini, a French police officer whose methods are unsound. Not in a "gathering a clan of loyal followers that worship you like a God" way...more in the sense of "beating the shit out of a transvestite in the middle of a crowded club, thus precipitating a fight with people seeking to defend "her" honor and topping it off by hospitalizing the son of the police chief." The film banks on Jean Reno's ability to play stupendously badass and socially awkward off of each other in rapid succession. And the setup ensures that he has an ample chance to jump between both.

Michel Muller does an excellent job playing Momo, an French intelligence agent who hasn't worked with or seen Hubert for over a decade. The character is your basic comedy relief side kick however Muller breaths a little life and personality into it. He has a tone of voice and method of intonation that he only uses when talking about women, money and weapons. Momo is a testament to Hubert's violent and destructive past as an intelligence agent, as his child-like joy to have him back in Japan reflects.

Ryoko Hirosue plays Yumi Yoshimido and does a decent job with it. Her character is your basic spastic, unpredictable, cell-phone-toting Japanese girl. She does a pretty standard job of playing the "I'm having trouble coping with the incredibly bizarre and contrived situation that I've been placed in" character. In some ways, this is the hardest role in the film to make believable, so I'm hesitant to criticize.

The movie definitely has its memorable moments. Beating on well armed, sunglasses and suit wearing Yakuza men with a pair of golf clubs. Beating the shit out of sunglasses and suit wearing Yakuza men in a mall. Shooting sunglasses and suit wearing Yakuza men in an arcade. Jean Reno playing Dance Dance Revolution. Sure, these sound like stock action moments, but they have some serious class.

To wrap it all up, if you like Jean Reno, check this one out. If the very thought of watching a French action movie sends a chill down your spine, pass on it.


Oh yes, the title. There's a scene where Jean Reno's character eats a large ammount of straight wasabi and enjoys it. The French tagline is something along the lines of "La Petite moutarde qui monte au nez." Babelfish translates this to "Small mustard which goes up to the nose," which I think would be a great Englsh title for the movie. Stavr0 further informs me that the tagline is also a pun on 'La moutarde monte au nez', which refers to someone who is pissed off.

Ode to Wasabi

Wasabi is beautiful. Wasabi is magic. Its flavor is unmistakable. Its fire is legendary.

The heat is somewhat reminiscent of a radish, but magnified by several orders of magnitude. The heat hits a fraction of a second after the flavor. Overdoing wasabi is an easy thing to do (and unforgettable). The flavor hits you, and for a split second you think "my this is pleasant", this is quickly followed by the heat which heats up your mouth, shoots a white hot jet of icy flame through your sinuses, and leaves you with a startled expression. The majority of the heat subsides in a matter of seconds, leaving only a slight tingle in the back of your mouth, unlike many chiles which can linger for minutes. The heat of wasabi also does not deaden the flavors of the food you are eating like some chiles can, instead it seems to liven them up.

Wasabi is one of those things that you just have to try. It is good on many things. I like it on fish (raw or cooked) especially on seared tuna or on a piece of steamed white fish like tilapia. It is also good on raw vegetables (mixed with some other ingredient to dilute it of course). Some people even mix it with mayo to use as a sandwich spread or dipping sauce. Wasabi can be found in most grocery stores and comes in two forms. The first is a prepared paste in a tube. The second is as a dried powder in a small tin. You mix the powder with a small amount of water to form a paste.

I have composed a few senryu to hail the glory that is wasabi. I hope you enjoy.

Tasty Wasabi
Exquisite essence of pain
Bring strong men to tears

Small Emerald Ball
Blessing, but not for the weak
You must respect it

Born from lowly root
Brings the foolish to their knees
Wasabi is king

Shoyu, Wasabi
Surely a delicate blend
Delicate but fierce

So by all means harness the power of wasabi.

If you like wasabi, you probably also like to make your own sushi, at least of the non-sashimi, non-nigiri variety. Which is to say, you probably periodically whip together some simple maki, mostly made with vegetables and crab.

I do so in order to have an excuse to consume mind-blowing quantities of wasabi and gari. This combination is a double-edged blade guaranteed to slice through gloom, apathy, or other malaise with its super mood-elevating powers. It is the Go-Go Gojira of condiment combos.

I used to rely on wasabi tobiko from Trader Joe's to feed the wasabi monkey on my back. In addition to the conspicuous absence of coastline in Indiana, there are no Trader Joe's or Trader Joe analogues. So: no fish, no tobiko.

Having made way too many straight-up California rolls, a host of veggie rolls, and a few half-hearted passes at (cooked) shrimp nigiri, I decided that it was time to think out of the bento box and get back in touch with my primary objective: harnessing the power of wasabi and providing a culinary foil for fistfuls of gari. In this spirit I offer the following fillings for what would probably be half-translated from the Japanese into English as "Crazy American Girl Maki-Maki" or "Mania-No-Aware Maki":

Wasabi-pineapple guacamole

  • 1 avocado, mashed
  • 1 small tin crushed pineapple, half of contents
  • 1 substantial squoosh of wasabi (about half a tablespoon, sometimes more)

Sounds gross, tastes divine. Hot, sweet, sleek. Blend ingredients thoroughly, making a thick paste. Spread a thick layer evenly over the rice-covered nori (see writeup at maki). This is not the usual way of going about things, but it makes a lovely roll with a spiral of bright green pinwheeling through it. This roll in particular goes very nicely with the slightly sweet, piquant caramel flavor of ginger soy sauce, if you can find it.

Wasabi crab salad

The truth of the matter is that artificial crab tastes fine, but the texture is just weird sometimes. Circumvent funky processed texture and also additional steps of food preparation by making this salad.

Blenderize a package of "crab" until it is finely minced. Add mayonnaise (about a quarter cup) one tablespoon at a time, blenderizing between additions. (Yes, I know blenderize isn't really a word, but it's fun and I'm quite sure you know what I mean). Now add 1 T rice wine vinegar, 1 T of sesame seeds or gomasio, and a bunch of tiny squooshes of wasabi (half a tablespoon or more if you love the stuff). Blenderize again, not alot, should sound like this: VROOM. VROOM-VROOM. VROOOOOOM. VROOM!VROOM! And then it's done.

Spread evenly and roll, or lay down a thick line of it as per general maki-making instructions. This is also a very nice filling for temaki, which is even easier to make than maki and makes a lovely easy-to-eat food item to take to school or work. Don't forget the tupperware container of gari, though.

Wasabi cream cheese and smoked salmon

Mix 1 container soft cream cheese with several generous squooshes of wasabi (about 1 tablespoon). Cover nori with sushi rice, and then carefully spread a thin layer of wasabi cream cheese over the rice. Then carefully separate the paper-thin slices of smoked salmon from each other, and arrange in a layer over the cream cheese. You may need to trim and piece it together for optimal frugality and consistency. Roll as usual, and serve with fresh fruit. Makes an excellent Saturday brunch with strong green tea!

YUM.

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