During my lunch yesterday at Sushi AOI, there was a misunderstanding. The waitress was explaining the difference in the dumplings—one was pork, the other shrimp, and another’s wrapping had been infused with wasabi. I chose the pork dumplings—which turned out to be wrapped in the wasabi. I popped the entire thing in my mouth and began to tear up. But more than the pain (my nostrils were flaming, not just flaring), I was embarrassed. At our neighborhood Thai restaurant, Thai Noy, I don’t hesitate in ordering dishes with the three-chili pepper symbol. I’ve tasted a Scotch bonnet. At Spices, I survived the Suicide Curry. The wasabi dumplings at Sushi AOI, however, possessed an uncomfortable amount of heat. If you think I’m exaggerating, order it next time you’re in the area.
According to the Oxford Companion to Food, wasabi is “a perennial herb which is not related to horseradish” even though it tastes a lot like it and has, in fact, been called Japanese horseradish. “The roots are sold in Japanese grocery stores in pans of water. Peeled and trimmed, they are grated into a fine paste, pale green in colour…. Fresh wasabi can rarely be obtained outside Japan.”