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Nov 13, 2011 10:55 AM


Hi. BT here. This is the continueus conversation from ASK SUSHI MAN. ASK SUSHI MAN got too big and hard to open sometimes.

Fresh wasabi is a root so that FDA prohibits to import. If you find one, iy's probably smuggled in or made in Oregon/Cororado. Wasabi needs plenty of very clean fresh water and hot in the day cold in the night situation. There for they choose sunny side of hills with natural ranning water in Japan. There prenty of grated freah wasabi products available here. [Specially LA or NY]. Wasabi stems are commonly used for pickling in sweet sake/miso paste. If you are looking in to spicy stuff, try "Tade or Kinome". These are used sometimes to serve sashimi in Japan. Totally different kinds of heat.
I hope to hear from you soon.

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  1. No questions? OK I'll start

    1) Many people are asking about the safety of sushi consumption of fish from Japan from the Fukushima disaster earlier this year. What are your thoughts on the matter and what has this done to the sushi restaurant business in the USA/California so far?

    2) What fish and seafood are unavailable as a result of the disaster? What are wholesale prices like now?

    3) What is safe / not safe to eat? People speculate that major fish markets in Japan scan fish for radiation, so what is exported and sold to US fish distributors is ok. But yet we still see stuff like Hokkaido scallops and seafood from Hokkaido at restaurants...are those safe to eat?

    4) Can you confirm whether farmed fish in Japan are given pellet feed that also contain MSG to make the fish tastier? And if so what varieties of fish?

    5) Why is sanma (pike mackeral) consumed as sashimi (and exported from Japan) here in the US, but virtually never in Japan (except maybe seared)?


    2 Replies
    1. re: K K

      1) Here are some explanations.

      1. Over 700 fishing boat were destroyed by Tsunami so they can’t go out catch fish.
      2. Japanese government prohibits moving any items out from the radiated area.
      3. Our Japanese fish comes from south island of Kyushyu located 705 miles south of Fukushima via Kyushu international Air port. So they don’t even go through Tokyo area.
      4. Radiation chart done by Germans shows Kyushu area is not affected by radiation at all.
      5. FDA is working hard to inspect every items come out from Japan now so there may be delay in getting items but in the other hand anything came through is the only ones we can purchase.

      2) Even though the fish from that area is not available, same kind of fish is available from safer area. Fish price went up a bit but not because of the disaster but exchange rate of Yen/dollar.
      3) I can not say for sure because I have no way making sure where does the fish come from but believe the origin the fish company tells me. But I would avoid Pike- mackerel for few years. Pike ackerel is the most famous fish comes from that area and even if the origin of the fish is from other location, it probably the boat land them to other location. They freeze pike mackerel usually so your fish may be 2~3 yrs old--means they may release to public few years later when people forgot about it.
      4) I know they feed the fish pellet with, coloring agent, hormons, anti biotic etc. I haven't hard about msg but possible.
      5].Sanmma sashimi is not so popular everywhere in Japan but only several area where sannma is fished. Sanmma sashimi is wellknown gourmet item in Japan though.

      talk to you soon KK BT out

      1. re: bigtuna27

        I guess I'm pretty lucky that I don't have to worry about radiation when considering seafood here in Hiroshima since most of it comes from the Seto inland sea or from the Japan sea. Also sanma sashimi is available for a short window of time from in the fall (Sept-Oct). It was widely available at many supermarkets around Hiroshima, and I would assume many other parts of Japan as well.

    2. "Fresh wasabi is a root so that FDA prohibits to import."

      Is that true? The USDA allows it...

      2 Replies
      1. re: kainzero

        Thank you bigtuna for starting a new thread. Here in NYC, fresh wasabi is available in certain seasons (has not been in stores for several months) and is always small size. I did see a huge root
        at the Mistui store in New Jersey. I assume these are US raised. (Fresh yuzu also seems to come to market around the same time as wasabi and once again, I have not seen it for several months now.)

        1. re: kainzero

          Hi kainzero. All I know is from my several vegetable supplier. And very hard to find wasabi from Japan. I did see and taste several times here in LA but all of them were smaggled in by friends. i can get the one from Oregon or Cororado no problem. If USDA allows it ,I should have seen more often like every year. What do you think?

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. Hi BT, thanks for this opportunity to ask questions!

            1) I've often heard that tamago is a good judge of the skills of a sushi chef. What exactly do you look for in a good tamago? I've had some that taste like an omelette and others that taste like a pound cake. Which is correct/better?

            2) How are you supposed to eat the shredded daikon that the sushi chef puts next to the pickle ginger? Is it there to break the monotony of eating all that fish?

            3) What is the proper way to bow? I heard that you should bow lower than someone who is older than you. The sushi chef is almost twice my age and he always bows to me at almost 90 degrees. Should I bow back at him even lower like I'm trying to do toe-touch stretches? Also, I've seen younger Japanese men come in and bow with every step until they reach their seat. Is this normal? I think there were several older patrons there that day so maybe they were just bowing to everyone individually?

            4) Is it rude to eat everything they have to offer? I'm sure from a business standpoint they don't mind, but I just don't want to commit a faux pas by always eating everything the sushi chef has on display that night. I don't have that big of an appetite, but when I'm eating sushi, I just can't stop!


            4 Replies
            1. re: Tkn

              I'd be interested in BT's answers, but some comments:

              1) I think tamago as a taste or skill test, while a somewhat valid one, really depends on who is doing the skill measuring. Traditionally those who are extremely picky about Edo style sushi, who are of Tokyo descent of multiple generations and hardcore, begin their order with kohada at a new sushi restaurant (gizzard shad), if in Japan. While there are not many who might still do this, but if a sushi chef in Japan encounters one of those kinds of customers (who start their order with kohada), it means they should not be taken lightly. If the kohada prep is not good, they will and could walk out.

              With regards to tamagoyaki as a taste test, 3 Michelin star chef and national treasure Jiro Ono of Sukiyabashi Jiro (where Anthony Bourdain dined at in the final segment of No Reservations: Tokyo premiere), is very anal about measuring the potential of a disciple (and ex-disciples that he visits) with tamago yaki. I've read translated articles that he tested an apprentice in a few things, and while he did other things great, Jiro failed him at tamagoyaki, because he made the typical run of the mill version (also known as dashimaki tamago or atsuyaki tamago). I recall reading that apprentice had no choice but to quit (his own doing). After analyzing this myself, I believe Jiro always set out to do something different, because at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, there are many famous tamagoyaki specialist shops that have been selling many flavors of tamagoyaki for over 50 years, and he didn't want to churn out a similar product. Whether he was the first person to do this sponge cake version is unknown. Every person who apprenticed under Jiro Ono, who went out on their own, does tamagoyaki exactly like the sponge cake texture version (which includes the addition of "shiva ebi", well grounded up into paste form with egg).

              Found this amazing Japanese documentary TV uploaded to youtube:


              where you can see a customer get served the sponge cake tamagoyaki at Jiro's restaurant, and later Jiro himself travels to a sushi bar at Nagoya, where a former apprentice/disciple of his works. In the clip, you see two key items served to Jiro, and that is tamagoyaki (also a sponge cake version) and kohada, which you can tell by his expression (and the chef and his father's reactions) that met the seal of approval.

              In the USA, the dashimaki tamago / atsuyaki tamago version is more common. If you find a chef who does the sponge cake version of tamagoyaki, that is a rare and generally excellent thing. Since you're familiar with LA area, Urasawa does the sponge cake version.

              2) There shouldn't be any shredded daikon next to ginger if you are at the sushi bar and you are being served nigiri. It is typically paired with sashimi/raw fish slices. Some say the daikon and wasabi counteract the "microbes" or whatever bacteria in raw fish, also a health factor. Who knows really.

              3) Unless you are native Japanese, or understand the culture, I would not recommend bowing. The chef is basically expressing his gratitude to you and your patronage. Plus he is in a sense lowering and humbling himself. You see in that youtube clip that the father of the former Jiro apprentice at the Nagoya sushi bar bowing, but he's doing that for a # of reasons, entertaining and serving a legendary master visiting their restaurant, showing homage to the man who I'm guessing taught/indirectly taught his son the ways of the force if you will, and lowering themselves as those serving the customer. This is the complete opposite in Southern California where certain abusive and moody sushi chefs are revered who honestly don't have great skill or would fail in the eyes of Jiro Ono, but yet have huge cult like fan followings.

              4) You are the customer, you can decide what you want to eat. If you let the chef decide, it depends on what system the chef/owner has with regards to that, and you can say when to stop (unless you are informed ahead of time what's going to be on that chef's choice selection and how many pieces of sushi you get).

              1. re: K K

                Thanks, K K. I learned a lot from all of your different posts.

                1) So since the pound cake variety is a specialty that only a few know how to make, the "run of the mill" variety is the standard that everyone else is being gauged? And if so, how does one gauge it?

                2) *shrug* It's on my plate every time I visit my favorite sushi bar (Shibucho). I did catch other patrons lightly dipping a few strands into their soy sauce and then eating them. But really, it does nothing for me.

                3) I realize that being a non-Japanese, I'm not expected to understand this part of their culture. But when the old man bows at me every time I visit, I feel the need to reciprocate the gesture somehow. His Americanized son merely nods his head and smiles at me--which is just fine. But a full-on bow seems to deserve more attention.

                4) I guess I'm fretting over nothing. I didn't want to come off as a gluttonous behemoth and the chef is too polite to say anything about it.

                1. re: Tkn

                  Hmmm BT is working too hard to check on his old threads...

                  1) Honestly dashimaki tamago / atsuyaki tamago is such a common household dish that many Japanese expat stay at home mothers (and Japanese moms living in Japan) know how to make for the most part, and their versions will differ from the sushi restaurants that make them in house. So technically there is no real set standard given the wide interpretations this can have, other than personal preference. Some like heavy eggy flavors, others prefer a natural balance of moisture, eggy flavor, dashi, a little sugar, or more on the savory side. You would have to taste numerous specimens to get an idea of what you will like. I personally prefer one that has been out of the skillet within a couple hours, still retaining moisture, flavorful, not dry/overcooked, but not too moist, not too sweet. Now as far as what a chef like BT would look for if he's looking to hire a sous chef or apprentice? That'll be up to him/them.

                  Also, go visit some of Southern California's best izakaya's and if they have it on the menu, try theirs. Some include unagi inside. They say long time ago while people were waiting at soba specialty restaurants in parts of Japan for their order, customers had to eat something while they waited, and dashimaki tamago was pretty much the de facto appetizer for filler. Which explains why the late Yabusoba in Waikiki did such a fabulous rendition, and also made for a great hot first bite before the main course came.

                  2) Then ignore it. I find it odd they would provide it if you are not even ordering sashimi.

                  3) Well that's really up to you now. I personally wouldn't bow, but "gojiso samadeshita" which is a perfectly acceptable high form of praise (it was a truly delicious feast, in the loose sense), followed with a smile and a head nod at most, does the job for me (and the chef) in return in showing your gratitude. Or you can do the westernized thing of buying him a beer next time and ante up the tips.

                  4) Nah it's like dim sum. You are not obligated to put everything down on the check sheet, nor are you obligated to take whatever the dim sum cart maidens are upselling.

                  1. re: K K

                    Thank you KK. You answered perfectly. I've been too busy with my restaurant so didn't have time to check back. I'll do my best to check back. About bow--They bow, you smile and say thank you. don't have to copy Japanese. When they say "Arigatou" to me I say "Denada".

            2. Hi BT,

              I confess i haven't checked into the CHOW for years....lost my password and link long ago when changed computers. I just re-upped and stumbled across your postings and was gratified to see your patient answers and insights into Japanese cuisine and wasabi.

              Relative to this discussion of fresh wasabi in America, I respectfully offer some clarifications from direct experience.
              1) While the FDA doesn't actually prohibit importation of Wasabia japonica, they sure don't make it easy ;) In addition to permits, import fees, brokerage and costs for cold handling, it must come with phytosanitary certificate from department of agriculture from shipping country.
              2) Although Wasabia japonica is grown by small farmers in North America, including some in the pacific northwest as well as in north carolina mountains, the US domestic capacity does not meet demand and much is imported from Japan. The US grown crops are usually sold directly to restaurants, chefs, caterers and foodies and do not very often show up in stores.
              3) While wasabi can be grown in earth, the best in the world is grown in clean cold running water and referred to as "sawa wasabi" meaning water grown. Plants thus grown typically take two or even three years to reach maturity. Wasabi, btw, however grown, does not like hot or sunny fact it takes shade to thrive. Temperate days and nights on the cool side are ideal.....think misty mountain stream environment under forest canopies
              4) While most of the fresh wasabi grown or imported into the U S is of a green stem variety, typically "Daruma", red stem varieties are becoming available as well, usually "Mazuma" The red stem tends to be a bit more intense on the sinuses.
              5) the flavor of fresh grated wasabi is decidedly different that of any "Seiyo Wasabi" powder preparation available and typically used by sushi bars. Fresh wasabi also tastes different than authentic wasabi powder preparations, but real wasabi powder offers the closest substitute.
              6) all wasabi flavors, irrespective of preparation, come from the release of sulfur molecules similar to what makes your eyes water when you cut fresh onions. In the case of fresh wasabi and real wasabi paste, an enzymatic interaction releases the nuanced flavors. These molecules are very volatile and dissipate quickly. For this reason chefs will sometimes re-energize wasabi by adding more or stirring it a bit. When initially grated (or when the pure powder is mixed with water to make a paste) wasabi actually tastes bitter. It is only after the myrosinaise enzymes go to work on glucosinolates that the sweetness emerges. Thus, the real wasabi flavor is at its peak after about ten or fifteen minutes and will last for half hour or so.
              7) While fresh grated wasabi is prized in fusion preparations, traditional Japanese chefs prize it for delicate pairing with sashimi. The chemistry that produces the unbelievably nuanced flavors is very delicate. Experienced itamae will place just the right amount in a hand roll or use it to top a special presentation so that the flavors are balanced....suggest you trust their judgement of this and resist the urge to add more.
              8) wasabi does wonders for a shaken martini or an uni and quail egg sake shooter) and, in the right hands has been know to produce unfogettable world class bloody mary. Enjoy!

              hope this helps.

              5 Replies
                1. re: wasabinsoy

                  wasabinsoy, great post. Like the wasabi information. Will wait before eat the powder after mix with water hope sweet instead of bitter next time not sure if have the right stuff as says: horseradish, spirulina, and turmeric (Product of Japan distributed by JFC International in LA, CA) think bought at Albertsons. Especially like what you said, "5) the flavor of fresh grated wasabi is decidedly different that of any "Seiyo Wasabi" powder preparation available and typically used by sushi bars. Fresh wasabi also tastes different than authentic wasabi powder preparations, but real wasabi powder offers the closest substitute."

                  bigtuna27, thank you for your threads great stuff to help learn.

                  Where is typically the best place to buy sushi grade center loin of tuna, salmon for sushi, and halibut for making sushi at home? A store, a sushi bar, a commercial supplier, off the dock, catch it yourself, ... ?

                  What is the best way to make substitute wasabi to eat lots of it at home? Today had an OK green paste in my soy sauce to dip my sushi. Wasabi tube said in fine print was horseradish, turmeric for yellow, and blue dye. What is the best brand of wasabi powder, tube, or do we use good hot fresh horseradish as a wasabi substitute and skip all the chamicals? Or should I find a way to buy "Seiyo Wasabi" powder and prepare it ahead of time as a standard to compare to? What is the best way to make wasabi without real wasabi root? If we need to acquire real wasabi root powder where do we get that?

                  How hot is real wasabi root compared to horseradish? Do you like real wasabi better than substitutes? Live in Oregon. If a good thing to do, seek to try real wasabi and gain more information about growing wasabi root from those with experience. Frustrated that often what we eat is not real wasabi root because expensive and scarce. Is it true fresh Wasabi roots sell for up to $100 per pound and that one pound contains just a few roots? Hear has been proven healthy. How do you sell wasabi root if grow it? Can it be worthwhile to grow wasabi or is it usually a waste of time? Either way would like to know. If wasabi is worthwhile with a place and a strong back, would anyone growing it help a beginner get going with starts? Planting wasabi instead of letting brush grow in low areas may be useful and tasty. Can it freeze at all or does freeze just instantly kill it? In Japan wasabi grows on shady wet stream banks in cool climates. Is anyone growing or can we find real wasabi around the Pacific Northwest or beyond? More info about wasabi including a description of eating fresh wasabi leaving me wanting to know more about growing it is at:

                  All thoughts or direction to get further information is appreciated. Like to make and eat sushi at home and enjoy wasabi (even though imitation). Share sushi often with friends especially beginners. Want to eat the best and freshest ingredients possible which often involves growing them when wise. Would like to step it up and find a way to eat the best, fresh grated wasabi, for its unique health benefits and reported taste. Would consider growing wasabi if can and will sell.

                  1. re: wasabinsoy

                    Over the weekend, I stopped by my local Nijiya supermarket, and noticed that in the same referigeration area where they keep sashimi, were individually packaged whole wasabi roots, about 4 inches or so. In terms of country of origin, the label clearly stated Shizuoka, Japan. They run about $29.99 a pound which seems to be a bit cheaper than their supermarket price for bluefin. It is probably a mid to lower grade quality of wasabi root at that price. Using a Japanese book from 2007 on Tsukiji Fish Market shop that specializes in wasabi, those listed prices were about 500 to 2000 yen per 100 the Nijiya price would be closer to the 500 yen per 100 grams range give or take.

                    So perhaps imports restrictions have been lifted on these.

                    1. re: K K

                      I envy your access--in New York City, wasabi goes for $234/lb (!) and the tiniest of roots are what's currently available -- a smidgen that goes for $20 and renders next to nothing. (Last year, at the same market, the price was something like $130/lb and at least decent sized roots were available.) For NYers--this is at Sunrise Market. If anyone has a better source, please let me know (I know Mitsuwa in NJ has much better pricing but not everyone can get out there.)

                      1. re: penthouse pup

                        K K and penthouse pup. Thank you for the real world numbers you see locally. Ate wasabi shoots recently and very much enjoyed the flavor. Still looking for wasabi starts and have a place feel it will grow so want to give it a go.