Wednesday, September 5, 2007


I happen to be a fan of mystery novels, especially on the beach or in an airplane. And if you add recipes or cooking to the plot, I'm yours. This is why I like the series of mystery books by Jerrilyn Farmer whose ongoing character, Madeline Bean, is a Los Angeles-based caterer.

Of course she solves mysteries, but along the way you get to hear about the cool recipes she's making. In the book I read most recently, called Flaming Luau of Death, Maddy (as she's called) makes an hors d'oeuvre of fried Asian-flavored chicken "lollipops" on sugar cane sticks. Farmer actually posted the recipe on her website.

But the real reason I'm mentioning this is that the plot of the book involves the growing of fresh wasabi. The wasabi root, which is actually a rhizome (a part of the stem that grows underground), is notoriously tricky to grow. It needs to grow in cool mountain streams and requires a lot of love and attention. This makes it a rarity, and an expensive one.

The wasabi that shows up in most sushi bars, in Japanese restaurants or in packaged products, is most likely not true wasabi. It's usually a mixture of horseradish, mustard and green food coloring (the true wasabi flesh is a beautiful pale green).

If you're at all curious to get your hands on real wasabi, you should check out a company called Real Wasabi. This South Carolina-based company imports true wasabi and turns it into various products, including wasabi powder. They also sell fresh wasabi rhizomes in 1/2-pound to 3-pound boxes.

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