Kikkoman was the most widely used soy sauce and was available at most sushi restaurants back then. Their signature soy bottle had a unique shape with a red cap on top. They later introduced green-capped Low Sodium soy sauce and became popular among female customers at Rock ‘n Hollywood Sushi. I had no idea why they were more popular among female customers.
The second thing I noticed, from the customers at a sushi bar, was that they were putting wasabi into soy sauce, turning it into wasabi soy. Some were putting so much wasabi that their soy sauce was turning brownish green thick dipping sauce, not liquid. This eating behavior was and is not present in Japan. As it turned out that it was not only shocking to me, but to all of my predecessors.
As they drench a piece of California Roll into the now green wasabi soy dip and put that piece in their mouth, many of them would say, “Oh my God, the wasabi is so good and cleans my sinus!”
What a strange eating behavior, I thought, when I saw this for the first time. Were they eating wasabi to clean their sinus? How wired! Why so many Americans were suffering from a sinus problem, and they choose to come to our sushi bar to treat their sinus problem? Should a medical company make a sinus drug with wasabi in it? Wouldn’t that be a fantastic idea?
Most of Sushi Restaurants in the US use powdered wasabi which is a combination of (western) horseradish, mustard, and green food coloring, containing no real wasabi. Actually, I cannot say for sure that it is most of the restaurants since I never been to all of them, but I do assume most of them use the powdered stuff because real wasabi is very expensive, so only handful of high-end Sushi Restaurants use the real Wasabi.
It is the mustard in the powdered wasabi that gives intense burning “hot” sensation in your mouth and clears your sinus. Cultivating of wasabi is tough, requiring clear and pure spring water, cold temperate and controlled sun exposure throughout the year. Nagano and Shizuoka are the two principal regions of Japan that produce wasabi. There are several farmers and companies who sell fresh wasabi in the US including Real Wasabi in Oregon and Halfmoon Bay Wasabi Company in California. The fresh wasabi has rather sweet and pleasant aroma, unlike the powder kind. It also has a very subtle hotness.
“I don’t think most of the customers really know what wasabi and soy sauce are for. After all, our restaurant is not a place for fine, authentic Sushi experience. It’s Rock ‘n Roll Sushi bar for the young who want to have fun. Sure we do offer good Sushi – better than average Sushi restaurants. We use fresh tuna for spicy tuna. Many of them use frozen packed tuna,” Toshi said.
“Yeah, I know. Our spicy tuna is splendid, I think. It’s always fresh, and we make our own chili oil, which I think adds a nice kick to it.”
“It’s the recipe from Shige, the last owner. You know he was a good Sushi chef.”