Gift Guide, Day 14

December 14, 2012


Fresh wasabi root is one of those ingredients for which there is no substitute; the powdered stuff (basically just horseradish that’s been dyed) doesn’t come close.  Real wasabi is subtle, with a kick that quickly fades into a clean, green flavor. Although it is now being grown in Oregon, it is still expensive enough to make a wonderful treat for an inspired cook who will discover that it should not be reserved for sushi. A little grating of fresh wasabi does wonders for pasta con le vongole, it's great infused into the milk you whisk into mashed potatoes, and nothing is nicer on top of simply sauteed scallops. And just think of it in a martini! You can find fresh wasabi root at any good Japanese market (I buy mine at Mitsuwa in New Jersey and Sunrise Mart in Manhattan), but if there’s not one near you, here 's an online source. (Wrapped in damp paper towels, wasabi will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator.)

But if you’re giving them fresh wasabi root, they’ll need a grater to go with it. Wasabi should be grated at the very last minute, because the flavor quickly fades. And they will surely find other uses for this classic Japanese wasabi grater, an ingenious and beautiful object made of sharkskin and wood. 

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