We videotaped a segment for a CBC piece about wasabi with our grower earlier this week in our Granville Island store, and had an opportunity to taste the new daruma variety that we are now carrying. Unlike the mazuma variety, which is best eaten immediately upon grating, daruma wasabi requires a few minutes for the flavour to open up – an initial trace of rawness or harshness disappears as the creamy paste develops a complex flavour profile and a lovely sweetness that balances the heat.
Both varieties are superior sawa wasabi, cultivated in semi-aquatic environments – traditionally in Japan’s cool mountain streams – rather than in dry fields. Both must be consumed before the intensity of the volatile compounds released by grating dissipate through exposure to the air – after about 20 minutes wasabi rapidly loses its sweet heat and intensity.
The so-called wasabi usually on offer at sushi restaurants, and also available in our stores, is easy to use and useful in it’s own way, but it is actually not wasabi at all – it’s horseradish, green colouring, and sometimes mustard, in a paste or powder form (the powdered product is all natural and the better-tasting of the two).
It’s easy to use real wasabi: Trim off any black bits from the portion you intend to use and pat it dry, then, holding the rhizome upright, move the bottom end in a circular motion on a wasabi grater. The paste will gather around the edges of the grater. If you are using daruma wasabi, wait a few minutes before you consume it. That’s it.