Friday, October 22, 2010

Wassup with Wasabi?

As an on-the-go New York City dweller, I often like to catch up with my girlfriends over dinner, the whole kill 2 birds with 1 stone thing. We all have to eat, right? It can be challenging to find a restaurant that everyone agrees on, be it the type of cuisine, location, or price point. Debates with my friends often end with the same fabulous choice: Sushi! It is fast, it can be found on almost every block in Manhattan, it can be as expensive or inexpensive as you choose, it is healthy, and finally- it is delicious!

One of my favorite things to get at a sushi restaurant (and also one of the healthiest) is a platter of assorted sashimi, which is just slices of plain, raw fish. Often found on my sashimi platter is salmon and tuna, both lean protein and great sources of omega-3s. Along with a dab of low-sodium soy sauce, I love to layer on the Wasabi! In fact I love it so much that I first put wasabi in the soy sauce and then put extra on each piece of fish (adding almost no extra calories).

But maybe for you, wasabi is too spicy on its own, or maybe you just don’t like sushi? No problem! Wasabi can also be enjoyed as wasabi peas, a popular snack item that is available in different levels of spiciness.

**Note: when looking for wasabi peas, try to find ones that have less than 170mg sodium per serving. Whole Foods has one for 120mg per serving and Kasugai Roasted Hot Green Wasabi Peas have 170mg sodium per serving. has a few different varieties of wasabi peas, including Organic Wasabi Green Peas. So do some comparing and remember that with sodium, less is definitely worth more!

Why have you done a good thing?

Contrary to popular belief that wasabi originates as a green paste, the truth is that wasabi is a root vegetable, which grows in the ground. Wasabi is rich in isothiocyanates, chemical compounds also found abundantly in cabbage, watercress, and broccoli, which are filled with health-promoting powers. Preliminary research has linked these compounds to cancer prevention. It is believed that the isothiocyanates activate enzymes in the liver that work to detoxify potential carcinogens (cancerous substances). In addition, wasabi can take pride in its anti-inflammatory properties, which can aim straight at inflammation-induced illnesses such as arthritis. Along with fighting inflammation, wasabi can give a punch at heart disease and strokes by preventing blood clots from forming. Ok, one last proud-parent dote about wasabi…its antibacterial! That means that is has the power to fight off certain infections, including cavities and dental carries in your mouth. And just between you and me, they are now putting wasabi in some hand soaps for this same reason.

So…have we convinced you to take the spicy plunge and enjoy some wasabi? Besides the basic sushi condiment and snack pea, here are some other ideas:

1) Try adding it to mayonnaise or mustard mixtures as a sandwich spread

2) Put it in a marinade for fish or chicken or try Soy Vay’s Wasabi Teriyaki sauce and marinade (be mindful of the serving size with all that sodium!)

3) Add wasabi to a bowl of soba noodles for a slightly spicy broth

4) Create a wasabi-based salad dressing

5) Incorporate it into your next homemade hummus recipe (but just a tad because of the spice factor!).

***Note: Be warned wasabi fans…at some restaurants or stores, “wasabi” can be deceitfully sold as a combination of horseradish, Japanese mustard, green food dye, and cornstarch, Ew! So if you can grate it yourself, great, but if not just make sure that you eat or purchase it a reputable place, maybe even ask them to make sure!

Want to experiment with it at home?

Turning the original wasabi vegetable into the better-known green paste is simple: just grate it!

The only tough part of this recipe is finding a fresh wasabi, and then all it takes is a finecheese grater and some elbow juice. (Make sure to wash and peel it, first)

Not in the mood for a search?

I bet you can find wasabi peas a lot easier (I see them everywhere from supermarkets and Japanese markets, to the local deli and of course, Whole Foods and Trader Joes.)

Rather than the usual sushi pick, one night my friends and I decided to stay in and my friends Jesse and Taryn cooked us this incredible dish that I will share with you…thanks guys! So here’s how to turn this snack into a meal that will leave your guests talking for days (not to mention, leaving them with quite the health boost!)

Wasabi-crusted Seared Tuna

-8 oz fresh sushi grade tuna (Whole Foods and your local fish market should carry this)

-1/4 cup honey (another antibacterial force!)

-2 handfuls of Wasabi Peas

-2 tablespoons Olive Oil

-Salt and pepper

1. Thinly slice the tuna block (the short way and against the grain, about 8-10 pieces) and lightly season tuna with salt and pepper.

2. Place the wasabi peas into a large zip-top bag and smash them with whatever you can find (I have used anything from an actual hammer, to a rolling pin, or a meat pounder, just be careful not to break the bag which will cause a mess).

3. Heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet on medium-high heat and pour honey and crushed wasabi peas into separate shallow containers.

4. Dip each slice of tuna in the honey to coat on both sides, then cover with crushed wasabi peas and place in skillet.

5. Cook on each side for 1-2 minutes and remove from heat immediately (you want the tuna seared (browned) on the outside and raw (red) in the middle). Repeat with the next three slices. Then add the other tablespoon of olive oil and continue with the last 4 pieces.

Serve along side a salad with some sliced avocado and brown rice for a balanced, scrumptious meal.

***Note: Tuna is high in mercury so limit your intake of tuna to about once per week (sometimes you just need 2 sushi nights). If you are trying to get pregnant or are currently pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid tuna as it is too high in mercury and is not recommended for you. Try this recipe with other sushi grade fish varieties!!

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