Wasabi I truly love you

Wasabi I truly love you

What is wasabi?

Wasabi it’s Japan…Nothing embodies better the Japanese spirit and nothing else in the world can truly make you travel to that country instantly (if only with your mind) …

I tried it for the first time when I travelled to the Country of the rising sun and, without any doubt, it was one of the many surprising things I had, but if I had to describe that sensation I wouldn’t use adjectives that we usually relate to food because it’s just fucking amazing! I know, it’s uncommon to say we feel love for a certain food, but that’s what it was, kind of the same thing that happened when I had some “ravioli” handmade by my gandma Nerina or a “cocido madrleño” of my grandma Piedad, that food for me, comfort food, relates more to the spirit than the palate, wasabi it’s just on the same level (and that’s saying a lot)!

Wasabi field

But while most of the people think to have tried wasabi, they really haven’t: the green paste that’s given in most of Japanese restaurants it’s NOT wasabi and worse than everything, it does not taste even close to the real thing. It would be as if you’re buying a zebra and you get a donkey with black and white stripes hand painted…

Fake Wasabi…

Few days ago, I was wondering what to cook and I had some bonito which was prep to make some good sashimi, so I went through everything in my mind: bonito check, soy check, wasabi missing, wasabi missing! I went to the supermarket and bought one of those tubes which says Wasabi Paste and I had my sashimi, want to know the result? I could barely taste the subtle flavour of the bonito, the only possible occurring flavours were an uncomfortable spicy taste, given by the paste and the saltiness of the soy sauce.

Fake wasabi is made with horseradish, which is like a cousin (the ugly, uncultured, sweaty and greasy cousin) of the wasabi, it has an intense flavour and a spiciness that lasts longer in the mouth. The green colour, not a characteristic of the horseradish, is given by a mix of blue colouring and turmeric (blue plus yellow makes green), clever indeed, isn’t it? The paste contains also mustard aroma, it would be interesting to know what that means, and thickener. Where’s the wasabi? Well there’s a humongous 2% of wasabi, but it could reach an incredible 4%, which is made from dried leaves of the wasabi plant, great, then I won’t complain anymore…

The real thing…

Wasabi crop in a stream

Wasabi is a semi-aquatic plant (Eutrema japonicum), incredibly difficult to grow as it only does so in humid terrains with clean streams of water and temperatures in between 12 and 15 ºC; unlike most people think what we use is not the root of the plant, but the trunk.

Even in Japan it’s rare, few prefectures can have the honour to be suppliers of this lovely vegetable: the Izu peninsula, Nagano prefecture and Iwate prefecture, and that’s it! Outside of Japan there’s only 10 places in the world that have a crop, one of them is nearby Barcelona, in the Montseny Natural Park, the company is called Yamaaoi Wasabi and I can tell you their work has not been in vain, their wasabi is simply perfect.

On the flavour profile, fresh wasabi is nothing like the fake one, the spicy feeling is instantaneous and quite strong, but it also disappears really quickly leaving a fresh sensation: it’s all thank to the compound allyl isothiocyanate, which also have the strange characteristic of cleaning the nostrils… But the most important factor here it’s time as if you count the seconds when you start to feel it and when it fades away it would probably be less than a minute, unbelievable considering that things like chilli (were the active spicy compound is capsaicin) can last even 30’ depending on your tolerance. Not everyone can try chilli (depending also on the variety), everyone can and should try real wasabi.


When fresh the thing is outstanding, great flavour, intense aroma but…it only lasts 15’ at most, that is why you should make the paste only when the dish you’re going to use it with is ready. To make the paste you just need a ginger grater (the traditional one, made with shark skin is usually over 90€), peel off a bit of the skin and grate it applying a light pressure while you turn it in circles. All the parts of the plant are edible and with a different level of spiciness, leafs are usually not that strong, the trunk it’s just the best!

Prices may vary a lot depending on where you buy it, however it would be very difficult to find at less than 300€ per kilo, with peaks up to 450€ per kilo, it makes it probably among the most expensive vegetables on the planet. But do not despair, you can find it in pieces in some stores (Barcelona) or order directly from the company and despite its price I can say you don’t need to use huge amounts, with around 30g you can make up to 5-6 servings. Wasabi can last in the fridge up to 2 or 3 weeks and that gives you plenty of time to use it…

Wasabi in a Japanese Market

Which thing should you choose to go with fresh wasabi? That’s a bit up to you, I’ve tried it with many things and it matches perfectly well even with meat or vegetables, the limit is your imagination…however, no need to say where it works best is with raw fish, just like heaven for your taste buds. Soy sauce or not is another debate, I love it with blue fish and I couldn’t do without it when I prepare some raw squid… By the way, one of the reasons Japanese people use it with raw fish? Wasabi has antiseptic properties…

What else can I say? It was love at first sight!

How to buy fresh fish

How to buy fresh fish

Lately I’ve got questioned a lot about how to buy fresh fish and I want to give a little help as, even if it looks like a maze in the dark, I can assure you it is not that hard. We will go step by step, unmasking the legends and discovering few things to be aware of to get the best product there is!

First of all, and I would say rather important, it is never to trust blindly the fishmonger: they are working in the field and some of them are honest about what they sell, however, as it happens with almost everything, sometimes they just want to give away the things that have been there for long time. It doesn’t mean that they’ll give you something which is not edible anymore, but it could not be the freshest one…

If are lucky enough to have a market with different stalls make sure you pass by each one of them before deciding where you are going to buy something.

Always be aware of the origin of the species you are buying: Pangasius (also known as Panga fish) is a fresh water fish farmed in the Mekong delta, one of the most polluted rivers in the world and Tilapia comes from Africa where farming and preserving do not have the same safety and hygienic standards than in other countries.

Following the above always make sure the fish and seafood you are buying comes as close as possible from where you live and in case you live far away from the coast try to get species that are caught or farmed in the coastal areas of your country.

And now after these few helpful tips we are going to see how to find out the freshest products, dividing them in different categories as it’s not the same buying fish, mollusc or cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish etc.)…


-Look at the gills of the fish, they need to be bright red/pink; if they are too dark or discoloured it means the fish has been there for a long time and the oxidation of the blood will change the normal colour.


-The eyes should be convex, clear and bright; as soon as a fish is left for a couple of days the eyes will start to become cloudy and after a few hours they’ll start to change their shape becoming concave.

Eye of a fresh fish.

-The meat needs to be firm, if you touch it with one finger pressing down the meat should come back to the same position, if the mark of the finger remains do not buy it.

-Fish has not usually a great aroma, it’s not Chanel Nº5, however the smell should be not too strong; as soon as the fish starts to decompose it will smell of ammonia.

-As with fruits and vegetables, fishes, despite what people think, do have a season when they are almost perfect: for instance, blue fish like tuna, mackerel, anchovies or sardines are better during the summer period and more abundant, that also means a cheaper price.

-Fish should be ALWAYS labelled properly, so you should be able to know: which species it is, where it was caught, which kind of technique was used to get it and if it is fresh or frozen. I’ve only put the info you should find almost everywhere in the world, however it might change depending on the actual legislation of each country. If you are not sure about something just ask, you have the right to know it!

A product properly labelled.

-If we dig deeper it might come to our mind a question: is frozen fish as good as the fresh one? I have to say that the nutritional values of both are really close, but it should be mandatory to have a look to the place of provenance, places like the Indian Ocean are extremely polluted and the fishes live in there, do your maths…

-Farmed or wild?! It would be much better to say wild, but we have also to take into account the difference in price: a farmed sea bream (“dorada”) of approx. one pound could be around 4€ while the wild one could go for as much as 40€ per kilo, that means 18,2€ per pound… Again, be aware of which season you are in as you might get wild ones for a reasonable price, if not try to buy the wild ones at least for special occasions, I can vouch that you’ll see and TASTE the difference.

-There are, however, little tricks that can lead you astray and most of the big sellers like supermarkets (and unfortunately not just those) know them all… One of them is spraying water on the surface on the fish, but the one I will never understand because it DOES NOT MAKE ANY SENSE, not for the consumer at least, is selling the fish beheaded, a common practice in the States…

As a last advice do not get scared when buying fish, good fishmongers know their stuff, they know how to treat, process and cut the fishes they sell depending on how you want to cook them, do not hesitate to ask! Try to buy, cook and enjoy as much fish as possible, it is more sustainable than red meat and, if you know something as basic as frying an egg you should also be able to do a pretty good fish of any kind…

So, get your shit together and start buying fish!

Amphorae Wines

Amphorae Wines

Wine is one of the greatest things we make among the Mediterranean coast and even with my Spanish and Italian background I tend not to consider one wine better than another just because of the provenance. Having travelled a lot I can say that you’ll be able to find incredible wines everywhere: Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Germany, Moldova, Turkey, Lebanon, Georgia, just to write a few European countries…

Usually wines are produced with fairly similar methods, the grapes are harvested from August till October, the fermentation process is done in iron vats and, if aged, the most common thing would be the use of oak barrels.

However, there’s now a tendency towards the re-discovery of ancient methods and the one that really caught my attention a few years ago was using amphorae to ferment and age wine.

In an article appeared on La Repubblica (E. Dusi. “Scoperto il vino più antico del mondo.” 13th of November 2017 Web. ed.) we find out that researchers from the University of Milan, the University of Toronto and the National Museum of Tiblisi discovered on the Neolithic settlement of Gadachrili Gora (Georgia) rests of wine in pieces of clay pots dated around 6000 BC. Nonetheless, amphorae, as we know them today, appear on the Syrian-Palestine area around the second millennia BC: the novelty was its tapered shape, convex base and the handles, all of them characteristics that made it more structurally stable (compared for instance with flat bottomed pots): “There can be no doubt that, in the history of the design of large containers for transport, the introduction of the pointed based vessel represents quite a technological revolution.”(P.J. Parr, 1973, pág. 177).[

The advantages of making wine and ageing it in amphorae is that it gets a micro-oxygenation, avoiding the development of tannins (polyphenols responsible for the astringency or dryness in mouth), vanillin and toasted notes usually given by the oak barrels: the resulting wine will be mellow in flavour, much more mineral and fresh!

As a wine lover, I got to try an amphora wine for the first time in the Bodega Bonavista (Carrer de Bonavista, 10, Barcelona), where they made small batches of red wine thanks to Chris Grennes (Norwegian sommelier) with red Grenache grapes from Òdena (Igualada, Catalunya). With that in mind I’ve been searching since then for winemakers that have recovered this ancient method of production, but also potters that are mixing old techniques with new materials…


Drunk Turtle: is an Italian potter that makes jars for winemakers, some in cocciopesto, others in cement. Cocciopesto is a material derived from the mix of crushed bricks, stone fragments, sand, cement and water, this is the most similar material to the one used by Romans to produce amphorae; we have news of this material in the tractate by Vitruvio “De Architectura”.

Tinajas Moreno Leon: Spanish pottery from Cáceres that have been in the business for generations producing jars for fermentation. In this case, they use clay.


Bodega Luis Pérez: Luis Pérez is a professor of Oenology and Food Technology by the University of Cádiz, in his winery he created the wine called “Vino Garum Submarino”, this wine is not just fermented in amphorae, but it’s also aged beneath the sea. This process, known since Roman times consists in leave the sealed amphorae in the sea bed (about 12 meters deep); this allows the wine to be aged at a constant temperature and in almost total absence of light.

Wineries from DO Empordá: La Vinyeta, Gelamá, Viñas de Olivardots and Gerisena are just some of the wineries producing amphorae wines.

Bernabé Navarro: produces white wine in amphorae in Alicante.

Josep Mitjans: makes four different wines (two whites, two reds), the first one was made using white Xarello grapes in 2012.

Alta Alella: organic and biodynamic winery from the DO Alella (Catalunya) that produces amphorae wines of excellent quality.[


Slow Food Editor: the Slow Wine guide contains numerous winemakers producing amphorae wines from Italy.

There’s nowadays a great number of winemakers producing this type of wine which is great if you don’t fancy persistent and strong flavours: try them if you have the chance, you won’t regret it!!!

The wonders of Dorado or Mahi-Mahi

The wonders of Dorado or Mahi-Mahi

Dorado or Mahi-Mahi (“Lampuga” in Spanish; “Llampuga” in Catalan) it’s a wonderful seasonal fish, very abundant in the Mediterranean Sea and with an outstanding taste!

One of my hobbies is fishing and if you are lucky enough to be able to go on a boat from the end of August to mid-October you’re very likely to fish them almost everywhere…

Usually nearby the coast you should find the offspring of this pelagic fishes that will grow in a few weeks from around 5 or 6 pounds to 10 pounds or more feeding on the abundant shoals of anchovies and sardines. The trick is to find some element floating on the water: buoys, a piece of wood, a palm leaf…underneath will be full of them!

Dorado or Mahi-Mahi is a blue fish, of the family of tuna: with a meat of a light rose colour and a subtle taste, not like anchovies or sardines which are really “fishy”, it’s perfect to eat raw in sashimi style or lightly marinated with some citrus juice. Not just that, you can also grill it, fry it or use it to make a stew or a sauce for pasta, the options are nearly infinite…

Another important point is that it is still not considered a commercial specie so it’s much more sustainable than eating blue fin tuna, which is an endangered species near to extinction.

Despite this fact, we know that it has been eaten in the Mediterranean Sea for millennia: a great example is a fresco rescued from the Western House of the ancient town of Akrotiri (actual Santorini, Greece), this town was destroyed by the eruption of a volcano around the XVII century BC, meaning the painting is almost 4000 years old.

Nowadays is still consumed on a regular basis in the southern part of Italy (mostly in Sicily) and in the Balearic Islands.

If you come to Barcelona it’s going to be difficult to find it in the local markets, however there’s people who are working to retrieve it from its oblivion: if you come during the season go to Somorrostro (a restaurant in the Barceloneta neighbourhood), Jordi Limón, the owner, goes every morning to the fish auction in the port nearby and you will be able to taste this amazing fish.

Go for non-commercial species, they are usually cheaper, really tasty and much more sustainable!