by Marcell Jackson
Kare Raisu ( Curry Rice)
Kayu, or Okayu
Herbs and Spices
Shiso is part of the mint family and is called “beefsteak plant” or perilla in English. I don’t know where the name beafsteak comes from, but I think shiso sounds much better. There are two varieties, red shiso and green shiso. Green shiso is often used as a garnish, but it is also used in sushi, onigiri and other dishes. Shiso has a distinct and pungent, but very refreshing flavor.
Perhaps the best thing about shiso – it’s really easy to grow. As with most greens, the early spring shiso is the best.
Most diners in the United States would be surprised to discover they’ve probably never tasted wasabi. That is the real stuff. Most of the wasabi served in sushi joints is made from reconstituted horseradish – with some green coloring. It turns out that it’s difficult to cultivate wasabi. It normally grows in pure, fresh flowing mountain streams.
I was recently in Japan and not only had the chance taste the real thing, but to also see it grow. This photo was taken in Yamanashi Prefecture at the base of a mountain spring. A beautiful site.
Freshly grated wasabi is more complex than powdered wasabi and is not as harsh. It is also very expensive.
Despite its name sansho pepper is not actually a pepper. I guess you might call it a spice with some peculiar traits. It’s earthy and tangy with a bit of lemon. When put directly on your tongue, you’ll notice a sort of tingling sensation.
Sansho pepper is usually sold ground, but you can also buy the berries and grind it yourself. It’s typically used on grilled foods like yakitori (chicken) or eel.
The sansho or prickly ash tree also yields the fragrant kinome leaves - which are often used as a garnish.
Karashi is a mixture of ground mustard seeds and horseradish – like wasabi- a little goes a long way. So unlike European mustard, it’s not an emulsion based with vinegar. It’s normally sold in a dried powder form (just add water), or as a paste in a tube.
Karashi paste is served as a condiment with dishes such as tonkatsu, steak and oden. It is also used in sauces based with miso, mayonaise and sometimes in sunomono (things with vinegar) dressing.