Best wasabi are handsome
Masahiro Sugimoto, president of long-established intermediate wholesaler Kushiya in the Tsukiji market, has continued to purchase the Tashiro's wasabi for more than 20 years since the days of the father, Kaoru.
Sugimoto has tasted the wasabi of almost all the major production areas, such as Izu (Shizuoka Prefecture), Nagano, Akita, Iwate and Okutama (Tokyo).
Among these, Sugimoto fell in love with Tashiro's wasabi.
His wasabi is especially delicious and its appearance is also good.
Sugimoto doesn't fall in love with wasabi unless it scores nearly complete points in all five categories of hue, aroma, adhesiveness, hot flavor and sweetness.
Delicious wasabi becomes a fresh green color when it is grated. Its pungent aroma is also distinctive. It also has adhesiveness and has a strong, hot flavor. There is also a delicate sweetness that comes after a while. The biggest difference between Tashiro's wasabi and other wasabi is sweetness, Sugimoto said.
Even among Tashiro's wasabi, there is a difference in prices shown by Sugimoto. The cheap ones are priced between 6,000 yen and 8,000 yen per kilogram while the best ones are priced at more than 20,000 yen. According to Sugimoto, the best wasabi are different in appearance, and he calls them handsome.
The characteristics of the appearances are as follows: They are straight in shape and have few convex or concave portions on their surfaces. The color of their stems is purple. The bumps, which are traces of leaves that fell, are the same. The distances between spiral lines that can be found if seen up close are also equal.
Handsome wasabi are extremely delicious. If they are not so, I cannot show prices that are four times higher than those of conventional ones, Sugimoto said.
Wasabi he has purchased from Tashiro are mostly sold out within a week. A chef has even traveled from New York to buy the wasabi from Sugimoto.
The Kushiya president believes that wasabi plays a role in enriching Japanese food culture.
Wasabi is not a main ingredient in sushi or sashimi (slices of raw fish). In addition, it is free of charge when offered in restaurants, though it is more expensive than most of the main items when purchased. Despite that, there are chefs who recognize its value and buy it. That is because there are customers who seek it out, he said.
He added, There were times when customers said, Give me tears when they ask for wasabi in sushi restaurants (because wasabi is so pungent that they often shed tears when they eat it). If they say so, chefs would be able to understand that. Such a play on words was born, which promoted communication. I think that wasabi also has such a power.