The first time I really took an interest in wasabi I was 23 and in Tokyo for the first (and sadly to date only) time. My days mostly consisted of wandering around the city’s various interesting neighborhoods, snapping photos and observing. Most of my afternoons were filled with blind exploration, but I did do the occasional “touristy” activity to round out my stay.
One such activity was the somewhat stereotypical bus tour around the city. While I normally prefer flying solo to group tours, I liked that the guide punctuated our trek with useful commentary, filling in the gaps of what I already knew. Unsurprisingly, my favorite factoids were around food.
And in particular, I enjoyed learning more about wasabi. At that point I was by no means a connoisseur or even a strong fan. I’d notice the little green blob accompanying my favorite Maki rolls, but I rarely paid it much more mind than that. Often I wouldn’t even bother to use it. So it was interesting to me to learn that much of what we know as wasabi in the states is actually a mix of horseradish and other ingredients with a touch of green food coloring and sometimes, a smidgen of added wasabi for taste. For me there is nothing like deception to build intrigue. I had an immediate interest in something that had been previously overlooked.
When visiting specialty shops or upscale grocers I found myself peeking around for the real deal. That lead me to discover some powdered 100% pure wasabi at Penzeys. At $14.89 for just under an ounce it was a pricey investment, but one that curiosity made me buy. And so it found its way into spiced hot chocolate and other delights in my kitchen.
And for awhile, my quest stopped there. Never had I thought about going one step further and acquiring the real deal – fresh wasabi. That was until I saw a post on the Marx Foods Blog looking for bloggers who would be willing to try their fresh wasabi out. Ummm, yes please! You can bet I scrambled to e-mail them just as fast as I could and fortunately for me, I was one of the chosen.
And when it arrived I didn’t even have to pause for a moment to know what I wanted to make – Tuna Tartare. It’s one of my favorite dishes that features wasabi because I love how the heat cuts through the fattiness and richness of the tuna providing the perfect counter balance.
And because I had been given the opportunity to play with elusive fresh wasabi I knew not just any version of Tuna Tartare would do. I decided to do a fall inspired version featuring apple used in two different ways. For the first way, I tossed it in with the diced tuna along with the fresh wasabi, shallots, garlic, a little habenero salt (another fun Marx Foods product), black pepper, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, and chives. Yes it’s quite a bit of ingredients, but it’s well worth it because when combined they really make the tuna sing. I especially love, love, love the apple in this. I used a tart apple and it’s crisp, juicy texture was the perfect counterpoint to the silky tuna. Yes, can you tell I love contrasting textures and flavors?
The fresh wasabi was also fantastic in this dish. I tried it both on its own and in the finished product and it definitely had a more nuanced flavor to it than the powdered version. It is worth noting though that it is a volatile ingredient so if you do purchase some, I highly recommend following the tips at the Marx Foods website to best preserve it and get the best flavor.
So where did the second apple come in you might wonder? Well accompanying the Tartare was homemade apple chips and let me say, OMG these were a revelation! I made them in the food dehydrator and they were easily as good as their fried counterparts. In this version, the apples get a flash soak in a mixture of sugar and water before being dried so they are lightly sweet, but not cloyingly so. I loved them with the tartare for the interplay of sweet and savory but I have no doubt they would also be fantastic on their own or perhaps with a generous dollop of cream cheese icing.
Serves 4 as an appetizer
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1 cup water
-1 tart apple, peel on and sliced into very thin slices (about 1/16 of an inch)
-1/2 teaspoon grated fresh wasabi
-5 ounces sushi grade tuna, cut into a small dice (about 1/4-inch)
-1/2 cup small diced tart apple
-2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
-1/4 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
-1/4 teaspoon plus a dash habenero salt
-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black teaspoon
-1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
-1 teasoon lemon juice
-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
-1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
To make the apple chips, bring sugar and 1 cup water to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
When sugar has completely dissolved, place 5 or 6 slices of apple into the sugar syrup and simmer for 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer slices to a wire rack to drain. Repeat process with remaining apple slices.
Lightly spray your food dehydrator trays with cooking spray and arrange apple slices in a single layer. Dehydrate at 155 degrees until the chips are crisp, about 3-4 hours, turning the chips once during the drying cycle. The apple chips will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
To make the Tartare, no more than 2 hours before serving combine the tuna through chives in a medium-sized bowl, gently stirring to combine. Serve with apple chips.