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March 15, 2007

Wasabi Of A Bygone Era

Dominic Armato
Well, that settles that.

The mutilated tube of wasabi you see here was purchased from Pacific Farms of Oregon via mail order over three years ago. At the time, it was the only farm growing wasabi in the United States, and to the best of my knowledge it still is. Though I hate freezing foods, Pacific Farms' minimum order is six tubes and they claim it only holds in the fridge for two months, so I used as much as I could in that stretch and tossed a few leftover tubes in the freezer. Then, in typical fashion, I forgot they were there.

The thing is, I adore real wasabi. The first taste of real wasabi is one of those "so that's what it's supposed to taste like" moments. It bears almost no resemblance to the artificially colored horseradish pastes and powders that are sold not only through the States, but also through much of Japan. It's still hot, but it's a mellower, pleasant heat, and the flavor of fake wasabi is absurdly one-dimensional when compared to the real thing. Unfortunately, fresh wasabi root is very difficult to come by, and usually prohibitively expensive. Last week at Mitsuwa, it was going for roughly $20 per root. Not unattainable if you're using a lot for a special occasion, but awfully expensive when you just want a little green stuff to go with your raw fish for the evening. The six tube minimum from Pacific Farms comes in at the same price (minus shipping), and it keeps a little longer before needing the deep freeze, but still... that's a lot of wasabi to get through in two months. So in the intervening years since my initial Pacific Farms purchase, I've mostly been buying the lousy stuff.

Then, last night while making a little late night egg salad, I remembered the tubes of the good stuff hiding in the freezer and dug one out. I used a serrated knife to saw off a chunk, minced it with a chef's knife, and let it sit on the counter for a few minutes to thaw. And despite the fact that this tube has been languishing in the back of my freezer for over three years, you know what?

It STILL tasted ten times better than the fake stuff.

A shadow of its former self, to be sure, but it made one thing perfectly clear. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to buy fake wasabi.

Comments

I suggest that you look at our website to find out much more about Wasabi.

Hey, Brian...

Good stuff there... thanks for commenting! Evidently Pacific Farms no longer holds the monopoly on American grown wasabi. I shouldn't be surprised. How long has the Jersey farm been up and running?

Any plans to offer it in consumer-friendly quantities? Half a kilo is a lotta wasabi for a home kitchen :-)

Having grown up in a tropical country I have had the opposite experience from "that's what it's suppose to taste like.'' I long for those great flavors of fresh fruit. It's been too long since I had a glass of fresh sugar cane juice with lemon or a tasty banana that is not a Cavendish. Maybe in NYC you have better luck.

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