Wasabi

Wasabi

One of Japanese cuisine’s magical ingredients, indigenous wasabi –
a knobbly, pale-green root vegetable with bright-green flesh – has
a pungent yet refreshing taste that elevates sashimi to dizzying heights.

Origins
It is believed that wasabi was originally used for medicinal purposes in medieval Japan and it was not until the Edo period that its popularity as a condiment and ingredient in Japanese cookery grew due to its formal cultivation. In addition to its flavour and ability to disguise the strong smell of the sea, it is likely that wasabi’s antibacterial and deodorising properties led to its use with raw fish.

SERVES 4

You’ll need
1 part freshly grated or preprepared
wasabi
10 parts whole-egg
mayonnaise
300g (11oz) sashimi-grade
salmon, chopped in small
cubes
1 medium avocado, diced
1 shallot, peeled and finely
diced
Juice of 1 lime
Handful of dill
Salt and pepper
Salad leaves to serve

Cooking Method
1 To make the wasabi mayonnaise, mix the freshly grated wasabi with the mayonnaise.
2 For the salmon tartare, mix the wasabi mayonnaise with the salmon, avocado, shallot, lime juice and dill.
3 Pack the salmon mixture into a round cookie cutter or mould on a plate.
4 Carefully lift the cutter or mould, season the salmon mixture with salt and pepper and garnish with salad leaves to serve.
Tip Use wasabi paste if you can’t find fresh wasabi. This mayonnaise can also be used as a dipping sauce for grilled meats and vegetables.

Tasting notes
Wasabi thrives in Japan’s cold, pure running water, which is why it is difficult to source outside Japan. Those used to the ubiquitous sachets or the powdered pastes served in sushi restaurants might be surprised to learn that their hotness is due to the harsher horseradish, which is often used to supplement the more-expensive wasabi. Fresh wasabi root on its own is rather bitter but, freshly grated, it’s a revelation – more delicate and fragrant than horseradish, the initial pungent ‘hit’ lasts only a few seconds after grating and delivers a refreshing taste. Fresh wasabi is best eaten on its own, not mixed with soy sauce, on sushi or sashimi or as a palate-cleanser between different raw-fish dishes.

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