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In my family, we have a long-standing sushi tradition. It goes something like this: I drive to the supermarket where they roll the freshest sushi to my exact specifications. I then drive over to my mother’s house for lunch. We proceed to use the ends of our splintered, disposable wooden chopsticks to smudge subsequently more and more jade green wasabi onto the tops of our little crab and avocado and scallion rolls.
Giving a lap dog wasabi is either animal cruelty or assault.
Our family dog, all ten pounds of him, sits under the table begging for a morsel. But we both think that giving a lap dog wasabi is either animal cruelty or assault with a deadly weapon—or both. I then dip in ponzu; she dips in shoyu—a source of mammoth contention. Gradually our little green mounds grow with our bravado, remembering only with the delight of the dare before us that each molehill of wasabi is an Everest of heat.
My mother always crosses the line first. She is far less reserved than I am in all aspects of life. We see it coming. She wipes just a tad too much wasabi onto her nori wrapper. Alain shakes his head. I grin in anticipation. She hasn’t noticed. She just wants the heat.
Then she dips in the shoyu; then she eats. She chews. “Oooohhh!!” she laughs. Her eyes start to water. She dabs her nose. She flushes red. She begins to sweat.
And suddenly I imagine her as a Looney Tunes character, face like a fire engine, blowing steam from her whistling ears. Alain shakes his head some more and scolds, “Why do you do this to yourself!” I shake my head in envy, and donate one of my maki pieces to the master. She is the wasabi champion.
This month, with my exploration of wasabi, I wanted to do everything but what I normally do with it—buy it as a paste and smear it over my sushi rice—so I’ve discovered a few different incarnations of wasabi and this week, I make use of two in my Wasabi Battered Calamari with Homemade Wasabi Mayonnaise: wasabi powder and wasabi oil.
In this take on fried calamari, hand-cut rings of baby squid are dusted in flour, salt, and wasabi powdered, then fried until crisp. A homemade mayonnaise is made by adding wasabi oil to an egg yolk. The result? That trademark wasabi heat—not spicy, but a clean, airborne heat that diffuses through your head like alcoholic fumes on fire. A thrill.
- ½ pound calamari tubes, sliced into ¼-inch rings
- ½ cup flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoons wasabi powder
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Lime wedges
Wasabi Mayonnaise Ingredients
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 drops white wine vinegar
- Pinch salt
- 5 tablespoons lightly olive oil
- 3 tablespoons wasabi oil
Fill a cast iron skillet halfway up with vegetable oil, and heat to 375 degrees F.
While it comes to temperature, make the wasabi mayonnaise. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, Dijon mustard, vinegar, and salt. Mix the oils together, and then drizzle in very slowly while you whisk.
Toss the calamari rings with the flour and wasabi powder in a large baggie. Dump the contents of the baggie into a large-mesh sieve, and shake off the excess.
Fry the calamari in 3 batches for just 1 to 1 ½ minutes. Drain on paper towel, and sprinkle with salt. Serve with the wasabi aioli and lime wedges.
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