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Turn up the heat with "Japanese horseradish'

Unless you are a fan of sushi, you may not be familiar with wasabi, the horseradish-like condiment most often served as a dip with Japanese delicacies, but, if the prediction of food and dining trend watcher and cookbook author Rozanne Gold pans out, that is about to change. If the inclinations of New York foodies spread elsewhere, and they often do, people will be giving hot chili peppers a break as they look to wasabi to turn up the amps on not only traditional Japanese dishes but all kinds of other foods, too.

Readily available in Asian markets, it's starting to show up on supermarket shelves. Fine wasabi is difficult to grow and fetches more than $100 a pound in Japan and $45 over here.

We checked the Internet and in 10 minutes learned all about wasabi except what it tastes like.

Many people call wasabi Japanese horseradish, but it is in the mustard family. What you eat from the plant is the thickened stem or exposed root, which is ground into a sinus-clearing, pungent green paste.

Some researchers say wasabi may stop the growth of stomach cancer cells and that it is commonly regarded to be effective in preventing food poisoning.

Pacific Farms, a supplier of fresh wasabi at http://www.freshwasabi.com/recipes.html, says not to be fooled. The green paste on the side of your sushi dish is rarely real wasabi. More commonly it is ordinary horseradish with food coloring added.

When wasabi is used fresh, they say, it has a heat component that, unlike chili peppers, is not long-lived on the palette and subsides into an extremely pleasant, mild vegetable.

Wasabi releases its heat only when grated finely, not when chopped up like a carrot. After grating it should be allowed to stand for about 15 minutes to release its full flavor.

Salmon with Wasabi Beer Glaze

1 ounce wasabi powdered horseradish

2 tablespoons golden lager or other beer

\ cup oyster sauce

Salt and white pepper to taste

Few drops honey

6 salmon fillets (5-6 ounces each)

Place the wasabi powder in a small bowl. Slowly add the beer and stir to form a smooth paste.

Stir in the oyster sauce, salt and white pepper. Add honey. Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper.

Brush the wasabi glaze on each fillet and let it stand 2 minutes. Grill, saute, broil or bake fish until cooked through.

Serve with spicy rice or a steamed assortment of vegetables.

Preparation time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 10-12 minutes.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 211 calories, 31 gm protein, 8 gm fat (36 percent of calories from fat), 1 gm carbohydrates, 64 mg cholesterol, 207 mg sodium, trace fiber.

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