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The other day, my good friend Miss Asami Itoh, invited me and 7 more guests to make wasabi zuke according to a traditional recipe at her company, Marufuku Tea Factory Co. Ltd in Shizuoka.

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Wasabi zuke literally means “pickled wasabi” and it is a typical agricultural product of Shizuoka Prefecture, and particularly Shizuoka, the birthplace of wasabi in Japan. Wasabi Zuke might be common in Shizuoka but I can assure you it is a rare and expensive delicacy away from our region.

marufuku tea factory, Aoi ku, ShizuokaMaruku Tea factory in Aoi Ku, Shizuoka

For that particular session, all products were either from Shizuoka or made in Japan. The fresh wasabi roots and stems were cultivated in the mountains along the Abe River in Shizuoka, the sake kasu/sake white lees came directly from a sake brewery in Shizuoka Prefecture. The salt, brown cane sugar and the mirin/sweet sake were all made in Japan.

wasabi,sake kasu,sake white leesThe wasabi and the sake kasu/sake white lees

wasabi,ingredientsAll the ingredients for 8 people

The fresh and clean wasabi roots were of very good quality but cheaper (by Shizuoka standards) due to their “inferior” shape.

wasabi,stemsThe fresh wasabi stems

sea salt, sugarcane sugarUnprocessed sea salt and top class sugar cane sugar

mirin,sweet sakeThe mirin/sweet sake

Each member was allotted the following for the recipe:
Fresh wasabi root: 375 g
Wasai stems and small leaves: 375 g
Sake kasu/Sake white lees: 500 g
Salt: 37 g
Sugar: 100-120 g
Mirin/sweet sake: optional

Making sure that everybody understood the proportions

wasabiWeighing up everyone’s share

wasabi,stemsFirst, chop the wasabi stems

wasabi,rootsMy share of wasabi roots

cooking,chopping,wasabi,rootsWe were soon all in tears chopping away the wasabi roots

wasabi,choppedFirst chopping

wasabi,choppedSecond chopping

Third chopping, the roots have to be hand-chopped finely to obtain maximum piquancy. A machine would not do a good job, it is all slow food.

wasabi,roots,stems,saltMixing the chopped stems and roots, adding the salt, mix well and let rest for 20 minutes.

wasabi,cooking,classA well-earned rest

Press out by hand as much of the excess water as possible.

sake kasu,sake white lees
Softened sake kasu/sake white lees. If you use unprocessed sake kasu, you will have to soften it by kneading it or using a beater.

sake kasuAdding the sake kasu

sake kasuAdding the sugar

wasabi,wasabi zukeMix the whole thing by hand until you obtain a smooth paste. Taste and add mirin/sweet sake if necessary.

wasabi,wasabi zuke
Filling small boxes to take back home, we had 1.2 kg of it each! Note that it is greener than the comparatively cheap variety you will find in shops downtown and I dare not have imagined the price even in Shizuoka. It is to be eaten over freshly steamed white rice, with baked poultry, sausages and even hot on toasts.

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Robert-Gilles Martineau

Robert-Gilles Martineau

Robert-Gilles Martineau, a 40-year French resident in Shizuoka and japan has been blogging and writing about his love for Japanese gastronomy and tourism in three languages since 1998. His motto: "There is always a new place to visit and a new food to taste out there!"

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