Wasabi – part 1
It truly is an aroma of Japanese cuisine.
And a very interesting source material for me who loves Japanese food so much.
Wasabi’s flavor is unique and spicy.
The spiciness of peper is a feeling alike to skin stimulation originating from the tongue and inner mouth, however the spicy taste of wasabi and mustard are volatile and get straight to the nose.
So when you taste wasabi, you can “enjoy” pain from your nose.
I think the spicy taste of wasabi is a fragrance.
The pungency of pepper, a painful and warm taste, comes slowly then gets stronger and lasts for a while in your mouth.
But with Wasabi, the aroma is delayed before it gets up to your nose and then it’s strong all at once to finally disappears in a moment.
What’s more, the unique aroma and taste from wasabi is caused by a combination of air(oxygen) with the wasabi’s ingredients so the more we inhale, the stronger the taste becomes.
But if mixed with soy sauce then it will disappear quickly.
That’s the reason why sushi masters often tell us “Please do not mix wasabi in soy sauce.”
I had sushi for dinner with my Korean staff once.
You can see the wasabi.
I’m sure that when we think of wasabi, sushi is the first food coming to your mind.
These days, many sushi restaurants in Japan ask their costumers if they want to have wasabi or not in their sushi.
Most of those unable to eat wasabi are foreigners or tourists, but some Japanese can’t eat wasabi either. That’s the case for one of my assistant.
Too bad for him.
For me, wasabi is really delicious.
If you have wasabi, Sushi might be the first to come to your mind but sashimi is a great dish for wasabi too.
Wasabi has the powerful effect to remove the smell of fish and a remarkable ability to assist the taste of fish itself.
Plus it can kill bad bacteria.
It really is a great condiment for raw fish dishes in Japan.
I can see the precious wasabi.
The wasabi there had it’s intensity brought out directly by the master chef at the time of the order.
Sometime the master chef “intense” the wasabi by himself or let his students do it.
For this, grind wasabi on a shark skin plate then gently squeeze it to make the shape and bring some air inside it.
The best way to make intense wasabi is to grind it on a shark skin plate.
I once bought two shark skin plates, but ended up never using them.
Funny thing is that the wasabi the master chef ground and the one by his students are totally different.
The master’s one was way better.
His students are also good sushi masters and professionals.
But the difference is noticeable.
You know, intense wasabi looks like a very simple job.
There is a saying in Japan, “Every simple job has depth, and there is no end to the depth.”
This is an important keypoint to understanding Japanese artisanship.
Including creating manga.
Honmaguro (winter tuna fish) in winter and wasabi which the master chef intensed, with salted masami (konbu) as side dish.
Wasabi is the best spice for Sushi and Sashimi but in Japan it’s used in many other dishes.
This is from the best Japanese Tempura restaurant (which also received two Michelin stars) called Kondo in Ginza.
Tencha is a Japanese rice dish that brings rice tempura and tea together.
In fact, I didn’t get the permission to share this photo from Kondo’s master.
If there is any trouble or complain, please tell me. I will remove it or upload after getting permission.
If I have the chance to go back there, I will ask for permission.
Wasabi goes up on the top of Tencha.
It’s a really great mix of rice, tempura, tea, and wasabi. An amazing combination.
But when hot tempura and green tea touch wasabi, their temperature make wasabi’s taste disappears really quickly.
You have to enjoy the moment quickly before the wasabi’s taste is completely gone.
These are cold soba noodles and wasabi that my assistant and I had at this New Year’s party.
Cold noodles and wasabi are also a great combination.
Zaru soba, a soba dish made of buckwheat noodles also includes wasabi.
Oh, the combination of wasabi and meat is also great!
It seems that many restaurants try this combination.
Beef steak and wasabi is especially amazing!
Wagyu beef steak, one of the well-known Teppan Yaki menu in Nadaman located in Shangri-La Hotel.
They served steak with horseradish.
Horseradish seems to be a famous sauce in western cuisine but it’s definitely used in a Japanese style western cuisine as well.
Put horseradish on a slice of steak and enjoy its taste. I strongly believe that cultures should have exchanges with each others.
This is why I’m working on Boichi.com.
I have a special memory with wasabi.
Twelve years ago, when I debuted in A-un magazine, the publisher invited me to really delicious sushi.
It was one of my happiest moment.
A-un is like my home ground.
If there is a chance, I really want to work with A-un again.
Because it’s my debut place.
Anyway we had dinner at Sushi Zen in Aoyama.
Once the main course was over, my wife and I had a chance to order some more. We both said together at same time, “Wasabi maki!!”
We ordered it because my beloved gourmet manga titled <Ooishinbo> said Wasabi maki is the ultimate sushi.
I really wanted to try the ultimate sushi with ultimate wasabi.
The master chef of Sushi-zen showed me a special sushi technique called Katsuramuki (rotary cutting, かつらむき).
I have seen radish roll cutting before but it was the first time I saw Katsuramuki for wasabi cutting.
For this as well I didn’t get the permission from the master chef.
If there is a problem, it will be my full responsibility, and I will do everything I can as apology.
It had a very strong wasabi aroma and flavor but it was very delicious.
Rice is good, and nori (sea weed) is the best and of course wasabi… I can’t find the right words…
Very simple but when it goes to your mouth, they combine together and explodes chemically.
It remained as another good memory with wasabi and rice.
There is an enjoyable manga titled <Kodoku no Gourmet, “Solitary Gourmet”>. It’s one of my favorite gourmet manga.
It has been adapted into a Japanese TV drama series and became very popular in Japan and Asia.
I love this TV series and brought the Blu-ray collection.
There is an episode about wasabi donburi.
It’s a very simple rice dish. Just put Katsuramuki wasabi on rice and add some soy sauce.
Many people said it’s absolutely simple and delicious.
I once read the guide book about <Kodoku no Gourmet, “Solitary Gourmet”> and it said that after the wasabi donburi was introduced in that episode, many costumers wanted to try it and cook it at home.
So I talked about the dish and the story with Toyota’s master once.
I asked to him, “Can you make that for me?”
His answer was very simple, philosophical, and gave me the chance to ponder once more on what a Japanese artisan is.
He made me a kind and light smile and answered “It won’t be as delicious as you think.”
Which means “No.” in Japan.
It means it’s not such a good food and I don’t want to make it in my kitchen.
Because his “duty” is to cook dishes which are more delicious than others.
You can eat wasabi donburi anywhere or even cook it in your home but Toyota will serves food which can only be eaten there.
I was ashamed of myself at that moment because I realized I had not yet understood Japanese artisanship.
He is a master.
He is the representative of Japanese cuisine.
I am also a Japanese mangaka, one who walks and follows the mangaka artisanship, but I asked him a very very foolish question.
And I realized my destiny as well.
No matter how many dramatic events and chances tearing me from manga come to me, it’s impossible to divert or change my way as a mangaka.
Same as that Japanese sushi master, my duty is drawing and creating manga which only I can create, even if it is as simple as slicing, grasping, shredding and shaping food. Their Job may look simple but in that simple job exists depth and there is no end to the depth.
In that context, I must follow and keep aiming for the top.
Someday, I might get lucky and become a master of manga, then some people may ask this question.
“Your experience is interesting. How about making a manga about yourself?”
I already have my answer.
“It is not as interesting as you think.”
Someone may draw that kind of manga, but my path is different. I don’t know if I can keep this promise I made to myself, but I will keep going that way until I breathe.