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YESTERDAY, MY THREE PHOTOS of fresh wasabi prices doubling over 2014 to 2022 got me interested in the futures market of this nostril-thrilling Japanese spice.
So, what’s the deal: fresh wasabi at $199.99/lb., tube wasabi at an equivalent $22.66/lb., or one of those little packets often provided free with sushi or sashimi?
I would test each by ever so gently dabbing a piece of blue fin akami nigiri, five of which, coincidently costing $14, the same price as the piece of fresh wasabi.
The Test. I use the packet as a measuring unit, squeezing all of its 0.15 oz. into a small dish, adding a tablespoon of soy sauce, and combining the two with a teaspoon to dissolve the wasabi.
I put a similar amount of the tube wasabi into a second dish, added the same amount of soy sauce, and used another teaspoon to mix the two.
Using my wasabi grater (which is actually a sharp-prong masher), I prepared a similar amount of fresh wasabi and with a third teaspoon mixed in the same amount of soy sauce. Yes, wadda you think, I’m made of teaspoons?
Blind Testing. Alas, blind testing was out of the question because Daughter Suz has a life of her own. We get together primarily on weekends; I did this testing midweek.
I considered marking the bottoms of the little dishes, noting which got what, then perform a closed-eye shell-game scrambling of the three until I forgot which was which. But I mean, really…. we’re talking about wasabi here.
Taste results. The packet dish was the most nostril-provoking, with a strong horseradish overtone. The fresh wasabi was the mellowest, the roundest, the most earthy, and surprisingly, the most subtle.
I wondered what I had done wrong, then appealed to higher authorities by Goggling “Wasabi fresh versus tube.”
A Higher Authority. Charlie Floyd’s “Why Wasabi is So Expensive,” Insider, May 10, 2021, provided details (and corroboration of my testing). The video is well worth watching.
Floyd visited the first wasabi farm in Europe, one that had specialized in watercress, which thrives on conditions similar to those preferred by wasabi.
I’ve taken two of Floyd’s comments to heart: First, “Wasabi’s spice comes from a chemical reaction that occurs when you break down the cells, but this reaction is short lived. After 5 minutes the spicy flavour peaks but leave it for 30 minutes and almost all the flavour is gone.”
Second, “All of these factors [dwindling supply, rising price, brief duration] mean fake wasabi isn’t going away any time soon.”
I’m adding tube wasabi to my futures play. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022