Oh, wasabi...let me count the ways I love you.
In the spring when my sinuses are blocked from allergies you quickly clear them like no nasal spray can. And for that I am deeply and forever grateful.
You give us a big laugh when we switch the green tea ice cream for a big glump of you when our friend isn't looking.
You grow along the beds of pure and gentle mountain brooks in Japan. The thought of which is so beautiful it makes me want to write haiku about you.
I quickly forgive you of the pain caused when I ingest too much. And stifle my screams when it feels as if my nose will melt off my face. Instead I hold my nose and exclaim, "Ooo, it hurts so good!"
But, my dear readers, I must break an ugly secret to you. Most of the wasabi we eat is faux wasabi. Yes, faux! <Gasp!> It's a combination of plain old horseradish, mustard, corn starch, food coloring and an ever so tiny amount of the real stuff. But I don't blame sushi restaurants for whipping up a cheaper version as the real deal costs about $60 or more a pound.
How can you tell if you're eating the real stuff? Well, if you're plucking your sushi off of a conveyor belt or a boat, I think it's safe to say it's faux. Some, albeit few, of the better high-end restaurants will invest in the good stuff, as your bill will reflect. But, like a fine wine, the taste is cleaner and smoother and packs a much more powerful punch. The texture is also grainier, much like fresh grated horseradish, not smooth.
So the next time you're at an expensive sushi restaurant sit at the counter (the best seat in the house) and ask the chef, "Hon-wasabi desu ka?" (Is the wasabi real?)
Itadakimasu! (Let's eat!)