If I was eating wasabi on its own and trying to, I don't know, appreciate varietals of it, I'd think differently. But for the most part I eat the little blobs of wasabi as a palate cleanser and never explicitly add it to my dishes, which I assume the cook already seasoned the way they wanted me to eat it.
Real wasabi needs to be mashed, not grated. If you cut the cell walls it doesn't produce the flavour properly. You need to break the cell walls. That's why you use a shark skin "grater" (and it's important to press hard and "grate" in a circular motion because you are really pulping it against the shark skin).
Secondly, the flavour of wasabi changes dramatically from the time it is "grated" and over the next 30 minutes. It is very hot immediately after you grate it and gets progressively less hot over time. After about 30 minutes it is practically tasteless. It's super important to time the "grating" with the dish. At my favourite izakaya, the master's son (who does the fish) "grates" the wasabi first, puts it on the plate, then cuts the fish, plates it and then gives you the dish. This way the wasabi has reached it's peak flavour when you receive the dish. You've got about 5-10 minutes to eat it until it goes horrible.
Finally, the flavour varies considerably by season. I find winter wasabi to be much sweeter than summer wasabi.
Now, at the risk of being slightly dismissive (which I don't intend to be), I buy fresh wasabi from time to time and prepare it for myself. The result is exactly as you describe and I have to say that my efforts are largely not worth it. I even live in Shizuoka so I have access to good wasabi! The problem is that preparing wasabi requires the correct tools, the correct technique and practice -- none of which I have. I wonder if it is possible that the examples you tried were possibly not the best...
This is a normal response in many plants. They accumulate sugars in cells in cold months. Sugar acts then as antifreeze protecting the cell's integrity.
I've been to Mt. Mitake a few times, where wasabi makes up a nice portion of the economy. Towards the top of the mountain, you can literally smell the wasabi in the air. It's kind of the locals' gimmick as well to put wasabi in everything -- pretty sure I saw wasabi ice-cream.
The fresh "real" stuff is quite earthy, and frankly, I find unpleasant in any significant quantity. I bought quite a bit last time I was there and tried to learn to appreciate it. Ending up going bad in the fridge.
Give me good old horseradish any day.
And you didn't eat it?!
At home I use off-the-shelf wasabi powder, and after mixing with a small amount of water the resulting paste's texture is consistent with that of faux-wasabi.
Edit: I'd bought my wasabi powder under the pretense that it genuine wasabi imported from Japan, but now I see several Amazon reviews alleging that it's fake, and I have no way to tell one way or the other. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Freshly grated real Wasabi, in my opinion, is much more subtle and deep (and slightly sweeter) than the ersatz stuff that comes in tubes or as powder. My guess is that the benchmark for most people is the fake stuff and thus they find real wasabi strange and probably too mild.
What I also learned in high class sushi places is that you NEVER dunk the rice into a mixture of soja-sauce and wasabi (no matter if real or not). If you absolutely must you can use some soja on the fish only. Another nice aspect is that it's completely proper to eat sushi with your hands.
Of course it could still have been frozen beforehand and I wouldn't know.
They could just pitch these as cheaper substitutions and it wouldn’t be so annoying.
A big problem with truffle oil is that it's too easy to overdo it, which is something you're less likely to do with a $200 black truffle. It's also too easy to add truffle notes to things that aren't really improved by truffle notes. And those two problems compound each other.
It can work pretty well on french fries, though!
True. (And TBH I prefer a decent beer to an equivalent tier of champagne) People get wrapped up in the status element of the luxury good and lose sight of the actual use/enjoyment function of the good itself. If we were more comfortable letting the cheap stuff sing in its own right instead of trying to imitate the expensive things we might open a lot of doors for new innovations.
Your point about truffle oil makes me think of all those 50s cookbooks doing all kinds of weird stuff with gelatin since gelatinizing stuff wasn’t some absurdly laborious and expensive process anymore. It seems like it took a while for people to realize that entombing all foods in gelatin just because you can is actually. . . Not very good. Haha
Still vanillin is artificial, but hardly a terrible thing in its own right. As you said there are recipes where the flatter note of vanillin works better than the more subtle and complex floral notes of true vanilla. I’d argue however that truffle oil is always disgusting, and the issue of it being somehow fake or fraudulent is secondary to how nasty it is.
Still, in an application like ice cream real vanilla in generous amounts is so much nicer than artificial. Of course ice cream producers figured out that most people aren’t able to tell the difference, lacking experience with a reference point. They realized that black flecks in the mix were what people really looked for, so a market emerged. After vanilla extract is made the bean is totally devoid of flavor, but it’s now ground into flecks and sold as an additive and can be legally listed as “vanilla bean” in the ingredients.
On a semi-related note a friend recently told me that “most cinnamon is fake!” It turns out he learned that a lot of cinnamon used is cassia cinnamon, not Ceylon cinnamon. I had to explain to him that they’re both cinnamon, and both great in different applications. If you want bright, spicy cinnamon then cassia is the way to go. If you want floral cinnamon then cinnamomum verum is the way, and if you want something in between with a natural sweetness, Vietnamese cinnamon is it.
Maybe it’s just that I spent a lot of time in Mexico growing up, but I think ceylon cinnamon is better for every purpose I can think of. I wouldn’t describe it as “floral” though.
My impression is that cassia cinnamon is usually used because it is cheaper.
It's a well known fact of cooking, natural vanilla denatures above a rather low temperature (around 50°C or so, if I recall correctly) but artificial vanilla doesn't.
So if you're using vanilla in... crème anglaise (apparently that's the English name for it?) you should use artificial vanilla or pay much attention to adding the vanilla only after it has cooled down enough, but if you're doing ice cream then natural vanilla is a good choice.
A bit of a shock when a steak sandwich came slathered in it, and the menu made no mention of this
Fortunately the person who ordered it didn't mind, but I would've sent it back
On the other hand the frozen sliced reindeer meat is 100% reindeer. The canned stuff is meatballs, which is difficult to make from reindeer or moose -- the meat contains no fat whatsoever. Thus the pork mix.
As for wasabi, what my wife says (she's Japanese) is that wasabi isn't there for its own flavor - its only job is to enhance the flavor of the food it is served with (she talks a lot about tasting the nuances, which is what Japanese food is about - it's not about taste explosions like in so many other cultures). So if you use so much wasabi ('fake' or not) that it only functions to open up your sinuses you're doing it wrong. Same with soy sauce and the like - it's not something you add just to make whatever you're eating taste like soy sauce. And she's horrified when she sees people around here (we're not in Japan) dip vegetable tempura into soy sauce. It destroyes the taste. You're supposed to only add a little salt, the same as a little salt enhances the flavor of eggs. (Add too much though and you only taste salt).
If you have venison in a resteraunt, it's often rare steak dishes. It's cooked rare because it's so lean, and dries up when cooked for longer. Usually the meat is trimmed, because the fat/grisle isn't as good as beef (in ye old times, venison fat was used for tallow candles instead of lard) But, not every cut is steak.
If you make sausages or minced meat dishes (meatballs, etc.) from venison, cutting it with pork or pork fat makes it much more suitable for most recipes.
Lying to consumers is not ok, but combining venison and pork is legit. My guess is that it's traditional.
FWIW, tempura dipping sauce is usually ginger/mirin/daikon/sugar/soy sauce, and is far sweeter than soy sauce alone—a wonderful combination for tempura.
Is this because brewed soy sauce isn't Halal?
ED: why the downvotes? That's a legitimate reason for why vinegar in most chip shops is actually "non-brewed condiment".
This comment is so ignorant.
The biggest mistake we make with food and drink is to “want the best” instead of wanting the best for us. There is subsitute for trying lots of different types of food and drink and choosing what you like the taste of most, not what’s most applauded by experts or in vogue.
IMHO eating wagyu as a steak is a waste for essentially the reason you state. The fat softens at that temperature and because there is so much of it, the texture suffers. I'll take a long aged, lower fat, dry cured cut over that any day of the week. Where wagyu really shines is yakiniku. When it is cut thin, the fat has somewhere to go and the flavour and texture are amazing. This is one of the reasons why if you buy wagyu steak at a teppen yaki place, they will typically cut it fairly thinly.
Wagyu is not actually that expensive in Japan. I mean it's expensive, but not the ludicrous prices that people pay overseas. IIRC 100g of Shizuoka bara (stomach -- think the same cut as bacon) is about $6. Sirloin is up around $16. That's still nearly $70 a pound, but if you aren't making a steak or a roast (for which it is really completely inappropriate) it's fine. When I do yakiniku at home with my wife, between the two of us we eat 300 grams of meat and that includes the pork (Shizuoka black pork is amazing).
I really like wagyu, but there are other traditions for preparing beef that are just as good (in a different way) and not as expensive.
Edit: I forgot to mention that I typically make a roast here using thigh meat (momo) and bard it with stomach. That is a fantastic combination and I can make a 1 lb roast for less than $20.
The ones I've gotten that still have the tops on them, and the outer skin, absolutely are; IME, what you are referring to are generally sold as “baby-cut” or “petit” carrots, rather than “baby" carrots.
In the UK the closest I've seen or heard of are both 'real' (whole) carrots:
Chantenay - https://www.waitrose.com/ecom/products/waitrose-chantenay-ca...
'Baby topped' - https://www.waitrose.com/ecom/products/waitrose-1-baby-toppe...
What?! Citation sorely needed. I do, and in my experience 'big' (I would've said 'normal') carrots are stocked more abundantly than any other.
I think they've already failed at being "New York style".
> you may find that what is sold as chocolate actually has no cacao in it
In the western world, most people seem to want little to no cacao but sugar instead.
Nah really just the US has the giant value bags of Hershey's product with almost no cacao solids. The commonwealth western nations are still sweet but have higher minimums.
Don't believe me? A good benchmark is kitkat bars. Try the regular from US, Canada, England, and Japan. Only the US one tastes overwhelmingly of sugar and not chocolate. Japan's chocolate is far less sweet but they don't seem to emphasize solids as much as UK does.
Given that sugar is addictive and most producers seem to have the attitude that the more sugar you sneak into the product, the cheaper it is and the more it sells, maybe Nestle (Kitkat's producer, right?) tests for regional tolerance and puts in the maximum amount of sugar, where the person still doesn't feel an overwhelming sugar shock when tasting? Just speculation, but it's a possibility I'd investigate if I were an evil food industry mogul.
As for myself, I just hate how shop-made cakes are mostly sugar - it feels like my mouth is burning. I don't understand why they do it. Nearly everyone I know prefer home-made cakes (made from basic ingrediants, not mix bags).
Since we're trading anecdotes, I was told that in Egypt people drink sugar drinks, like Cocacola, like you would drink alcohol in the West. Islam forbids drinking alcohol, so they use the next most boring drug: sugar. The picture that was painted for me was a group of grown men sitting around a cafe-bar drinking Cocacola.
I've done this with Oregon white truffles (tuber oregonense) that I harvested with the help of my dog. Kept the butter frozen for over a year, and it still had the truffle aroma when I pulled it out of the freezer.
I actually think the infusion method adds a lot more flavor/aroma than adding pieces of truffle, but the pieces are clear evidence that what you bought actually came in contact with real truffles--it's pretty much just marketing.
Truffle oil can be produced using any oil. Common versions use olive oil, or a more neutral flavorless oil such as canola or grapeseed oil.
Some truffle oils are made with truffle residues incurred during collection or preparation for sale. Many truffle oils sold in retail markets are not made from truffles but instead use manufactured aromatic compounds including 2,4-dithiapentane (one of many aroma active compounds that can be found in some truffle varietals) with an oil base. There are no regulations regarding the labeling of 2,4-dithiapentane and it can legally be called truffle aroma, truffle flavor, truffle concentrate or other similar terms, even though it is not extracted from truffles. In the United States, the ingredient may use the modifiers "organic" or "natural" as long as the components meet the federal requirements for those terms. Truffle oils range from clear to cloudy, and yellow to green, depending on the base oil used. Some include a piece of truffle in the bottle. These pieces can be from any of over 200 different truffle species and may be listed as "black truffle" or "white truffle" even if not one of prized culinary varietals such as the black Périgord or white Alba truffle.
This is historic and no longer the case:
Truffle oil is frequently used as a bait for truffle-hunting dogs and pigs. Modern Italians often use a strufion, a ball of rags scented with truffle oil.(p87) Truffle oil has been used for this purpose since at least 1756, made by boiling truffles in olive oil and given to hunting dogs.
It's really not difficult to find here, and it is absolutely made with real truffle (the broken pieces that can't be sold as truffles). I don't have any at home because I don't care for it, but one I can find at my usual supermarket for example contains "TUBER AESTIVUM (1.1%)". This is known to be a so-so variety of truffle at best. The next-level product (at almost 40 €/L) specifically says that the truffle in its ingredients is "Périgord truffle (Tuber Melanosporum) 1%". This is probably a good enough truffle oil if you like that.
Looking up the products here in Belgium though, it seems like only "truffle taste" oils are available in the regular supermarkets, but that is also clear from the product names ("Bereiding van Olijfolie van Eerste Persing 99,7% met Truffelsmaak").
The taste is substantially better than the fake stuff, but it doesn’t really matter if you’re eating at a cheap place that doesn’t properly prepare the nigiri rice.
But I found the degree of snobbery people show on HN (especially for Japanese products) amusing.
Is there a name for the specific phenomenon of speaking highly of something solely because it's semi rare or exclusive, especially in the area you're in? Is it a subtle form of bragging?
I might have been interested in following my dad's line of work (EE), had I had any clue what it involved. In hindsight, he seemed to have a much nicer office than any I've worked in. Unfortunately, even if I'd wanted to, the company shut down that division 20 years ago, and then spun off that whole sector of the business.
That's how it is with technology: easy come, easy go. We may never have a "9th generation" software engineer, short of the point where everyone in the world is a software engineer.
I recall reading about a past attempt in Oregon that failed, a while back. Apparently it's not easy.
I'm a happy customer of The Wasabi Store: their wasabi is the real deal and it is delicious.
I don't know if Chinese wasabi is more real or not, but quickly learned it had at least 10x more sinus-cleaning power than US wasabi.
That was also the first place where I had 'not possible to be any fresher' sushi - orders were placed at the fish tanks on the first floor, restaurant was upstairs.
You really don't want "fresh" sushi. Freshly-caught raw fish has all sorts of parasites and bacteria in it, which is why almost all sashimi-grade fish is flash-frozen to kill the parasites.
In addition, like most things, sashimi tastes better with age -- which is why most sushi restaurants will dry-age their fish (which also ends up tenderising it).
Freshly caught fish can be quite tough, because the muscles go into rigor mortis. Usually fish is kept for a few days before it's ready to eat. I agree with the other commenter which said the fish tanks where there to be misleading.
While I won't question your description of the freshness, I would point out that that set up would also work as a hack to suggest freshness regardless of where the ingredients that actually go into your food are sourced.
They are nice people who grow delicious wasabi! (No affiliation, just a happy customer.)
(Sorry if they address this in the video but tl;dw)
Also, if it's a mildly expensive steak in your local Japanese restaurant, it's neither Kobe nor Wagyu, as people have been pointing out since the 80s.
Maybe we should have a Hacker Olds for stuff like this and the random Wikipedia articles.
Grown in Half Moon Bay. Other US growing locations are Oregon and Washington State.
Of course I don't live in Japan, or for that matter where I have access to that sort of steady flowing clean water. But still...
no idea if this is some kind of trickery or ruined this way
You're welcome to eat it however you like, but the ginger is generally speaking the palate cleanser while wasabi is historically both flavor enhancer and an antibacterial agent.
What does this mean, really? This always strikes me as snobbery signaling. Perhaps it's traditional, but does that make it "proper?" Why do only some cuisines have such constraints on what is "proper" or "authentic?"
Imagine you order a medium rare steak and it’s overcooked and much too salty. If you criticized it you wouldn’t expect someone to say “well maybe it’s not traditional, but don’t be a snob”.
However, what I was really saying was that the overall standards of the restaurant were low in terms of food quality and freshness, like fast food or a TV dinner served on fancy plates. In most cases the interpretation of the cuisine was perfectly adequate, and only the preparation and flavor lacked.
A medium steak can be done "properly" and still suck, it's still a steak
Certainly, you can do things any way you want, and cooks can evolve dishes any way they want. Despite this, terms like "proper [dish]" and "authentic [dish]" still have a use.
A "proper" dish X is the dish that a professional chef expects when they hear X—the culinary-jargon interpretation of the term X. (So: "proper" nigiri sushi is "the nigiri you'd prepare if your practical exam in a culinary academy was to make nigiri.")
As stated above, this is a pretty objective concept; "proper" X will continue to refer to the same exact dish no matter what country you're in, or how long it's been since the dish was invented. (Tweak the dish? New dish, new name. We have a flat global culinary namespace. Yes, regardless of language, because it has to avoid collisions once translated into French. It's much the same as zoology's binomial nomenclature's flat global Latin namespace.)
An "authentic" dish X is the dish that a chef conversant with the culinary heritage that originated the dish X, would make, if you ask them for X. (This is not to be confused with authenticity of ingredients. A Ukranian immigrant making borscht with American beets is using inauthentic ingredients to make authentic borscht.)
(Amusingly enough, often an "authentic" dish X is the least "proper" X, because the dish has evolved in its cultural homeland since it was invented, and so the global culinary profession's concept of the dish has diverged from its homeland's evolving conception of it. The avant-garde and the authentic can overlap. But the avant-garde cannot, by definition, be "proper.")
...and then there's the term "traditional", which just means for a dish X that the chef who made the dish is a traditionalist—nostalgic for some bygone era (where the era they're nostalgic for is left unspecified, can change from chef to chef, and can change over time!) This term is, by contrast, pretty useless. Saying "give me a traditional X" is kind of like saying "give me a [git ref HEAD~1] X." Might work for you now, but won't work later. Chefs don't tend to use the word "traditional" much. (Instead, they'll speak of a culture having a particular culinary tradition, but will identify a specific period of that tradition if they want to pinpoint a particular dish they want to make.)
Italian dishes tend to be extremely precise in terms of what ingredients may be added, to the point where many people would disagree you're making an authentic Carbonara sauce if you add garlic to the sauce, or even use pancetta instead of guanciale.
On the other hand, a culture like the US usually only requires that dishes follow a rough template - a meatloaf is a meatloaf provided it's predominantly ground meat molded into a loaf shape and baked.
If I’m served a steak or a slab of raw salmon, am I gatekeeping or being snobby when I claim that I was not served sushi?
It may sound "snobbery" to some, but there are important distinctions to make between the levels of how well something is prepared. The two most important being "proper" and "improper". Burnt rice, rotten meat, and missing ingredients are definite examples of "improper".
And cuisines can definitely have constraints on authentic, e.g. hard shell tacos, while delicious, are definitively not "authentic" Mexican. Just like adding spices to my grandmother's (or my) chai is an easy way to lose your head.. it's just not right. Would you like it if your salad resembled more a pasta? Or if you were served pizza as a mixed vegetable platter?
I don't think parent^3 was being a snob because he wasn't describing a wine as being "better" because it tastes "oaky". A statement like that is probably deserving of hate, because what does oak even taste like?
Prescribing how a dish is made expresses a deep cultural identity through food, even if that food has evolved greatly over time. You might be able to change a dish and even improve its flavor, but it would no longer be that culture's food.
Now, why do only some cuisines seem to be sticklers more than others? Probably because some people are more sensitive than others about their food. They probably went to get a certain kind of meal, and it wasn't what they were expecting, and they were pissed off. And I get that. If you have an intention to eat this culture's food, you don't want some weird western "interpretation" of it, or some jackass from NY who thinks putting cream cheese on it makes it "regional". You want to be connected to where that dish first came from, and all the breadth of history that distilled into creating its specific flavors and textures. You want that dish.
It doesn't help that when dishes are transported out of their country of origin they get transmuted into some kind of local monstrosity. Tex-mex? Spaghetti and meatballs? "Chinese takeout"? California rolls? It's clearly not the real mccoy, but people still call it "mexican", "italian", "chinese", or "sushi", when it barely resembles those cuisines at all. And don't get me started on trying to find a real burger or bbq anywhere outside this country, to say nothing of those rarer American foods, like drip coffee.
And to be honest, there's probably a certain amount of cultural elitism involved in "cuisine" (the French word for "we're better than you"). I've always found the French and Japanese alike in that they both think they're superior to everyone else on earth. That's probably going to result in a lot of uppity people wanting their dish the "superior" way. But for me, it's about wanting to understand and respect the deep cultural traditions that produce singularly unique and beautiful expressions of food.
Really interesting how you feel burgers are less than "real" in other places.
It's not interesting, it's just true.
In addition, at any decent omakase place (chef decides the menu), the chef will instruct you how to best eat each piece: with or without soy sauce, etc.
The only thing I think we have to agree on is that people who mix wasabi in with their soy sauce are evil.