Wasabi: Japanese Horseradish

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As winter is approaching again I felt compelled to write again in this Shizuoka Gourmet Blog an article I had written some time ago in Shizuoka Sushi Blog.
Wasabi harvest will soon start in earnest in Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Utougi (along the Abe River), the birthplace of wasabi (c. 1600) as shown in picture above.
They will soon appear on the markets and Internet all over the country. A sizeable amount is also directly exported to South Korea and theU.S.
Wasabi: Japanese green horseradish


Did you know that wasabi originated from Shizuoka City?
Around 1600, farmers in Utougi District, some 33 km from Shizuoka JR STation along the Abe River, first started experimenting with the culture of that particular plant, which they already knew as a wild vegetable used for pickling. At the time they were only processing the stems, leaves and flowers.


This is still a very popular kind of pickles in Shizuoka where they are sold in season.
In 1604, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had just moved to Sumpu (presently Shizuoka City), grew extremely fond of the grated root and helped spread its use all over the country. Its present culture has expanded outside our Prefecture, especially in Nagano, but Shizuoka still produces the best In Utougi and in the Amagi Range in Izu Peninsula (80% of the total Japanese production!).
The above-ground part of the plant is also used for making delicious “wasabi zuke” with “sake kasu” (Sake white lees). You can imagine why Shizuoka products are of so high quality when you realize what “sake kasu” is being used!
In my own biased opinion, the best “wasabi zuke” is made by Tamaruya Company in Shizuoka City.
Above picture was taken in Haneda Airport where the Company has its own stand!

Now, if you want to buy and serve your own “wasabi”, which I would recommend to any real Japanese cuisine amateur, you will need a wasabi grater.
If you want to visit Utougi, where you will find a soba restaurant and other shops as well as the possibility of trekking and festivals watching in April and October, either go by car (55 minutes) or take a bus (bus platform 7 at Shizuoka JR Station/75 minutes). The trip along along the Abe River is worth it with all the changing landscapes!
utouki.jpg wasabi.jpg

Now, you might not know it, but thinly sliced wasabi root is not as strong as grated wasabi. In Shizuoka, as it is not that expensive, try and ask your favourite sushi chef to cut it in very thin strips and roll as it is in a “maki”. It’s called “bakudan maki” (the real one, not the buster made with grated wasabi!). A favourite of mine!

Note: Wasabi is proper food for vegans!

Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (39)

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Today’s bento was a “rice bento” as it is Tuesday!
It was a return to basics!

The “main dish” nigiri/rice balls, all wrapped in fresh “shiso”/perilla leaves were of two kinds:
one with ume/Japanese pickled plum,
the other three contained “o kaka”/very fine bonito dry shavings and processed cheese. The combination might sound a bit outlandish, but it is very popular in Japan!
The brochettes/”kushiyaki” you see on chickory/endive leaves are “negima”/ “negi” for leeks and “ma” for maguro/tuna. The Missus put some “wasabizuke” on them for extra seasoning. This “wasabizuke” is wasabi leaves and stems pickled in “sake kasu”/sake white lees. Extravagant! A piece of lemon was added for more seasoning.
In the middle are home-made sweet ginger pickles.

The Missus has got this habit to put my dessert (fruit in this case) in/on the salad. Not a bad idea actually. Finely chopped greens, plum tomato, fresh cress from Shizuoka, potato and tobikko/Flying fish roe salad leftover from yesterday inside chickory/endive leaf and pesimmon/”kaki” wedges.

Now, did you know that persimmons have the property to prevent bad/strong breath?

Umeshu: Sanwa Brewery

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Umeshu comes under different guises in Japan, but if you buy one instead of making it yourself make sure you buy one brewed by a reputable Brewery!
In Shizuoka Prefecture, umeshu is an extravagant affair when made by the local breweries.
Sanwa Brewery in Shimizu Ku, Shizuoka City is no exception!

Sanwa Brewery Garyubai Umeshu

Alcohol: 12 degrees (fairly low for Shizuoka but still high when compared with cheap stuff!)
Ingredients: Japanese Plum (“Ume”), Sake. Sugar.

Clarity: Very clear at rest. Smoky if stirred beforehand
Colour: Orange/sepia
Aroma: Ver fragrant and sweet plums.
Body: Velvety~fluid
Taste: Dry attack, turns sweet later. Shortish tail. Very pleasant impression. Elegant.

Overall: Very enjoyable and easy to drink.
Fine at room temperature.
Makes for a great aperitif when chilled.
Great with cheese at room temperature.
Elegant beverage. Should please both ladies and gentlemen!

Shizuoka Beer 5/2: Izu Kogen Brewery

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Good Beer and Country Boys and Beer Haiku Daily should be interested to know that Izu Kogen Brewery in Ito City, Izu Peninsula not only brews beer but serve very adequate food at their restaurant cum brewery!

Last time I went there (Posting coming soon!) I bought a few bottles I had not tasted yet:

Izu Kogen Brewery Black Beer (Kuro Biiru)

Ingredients: Grain Malt, Hops
Alcohol: 5%
Contents: 300ml
Live yeast, unfiltered.

Clarity: Smoky (live yeast)
Colour: Very dark brown, almost black
Foam: Very short head, fine bubbles
Aroma: Bread, blueberries
Taste: Kalhua, a hint of caramel. Welcome acidity. Comparatively light for a stout.

Overall: Very easy to drink in spite of its stout nature.
Can be drunk at all times.
A beer for all seasons and food.

Izu Kogen Brewery
413-0231 Ito City, Tomito, 1103-21
Tel.: 0120-513-540