I am pretty sure most of you know of Wasabi, that green hot paste type Japanese condiment that is used with Sushi and other Japanese meals. However did you also know that Wasabi is difficult to cultivate, and that makes it quite expensive. Outside of Japan it is rare to find wasabi plants and therefore, due to its high cost, what one buys is usually a mixture of horseradish, mustard, starch and green food coloring. Often packages are labeled as wasabi, but the ingredients do not actually include any or little real Wasabi. I believe that high end Japanese restaurant do use real wasabi and will grate it for you at the table ( have to admit to having not seen this being done in London). Looking at my box of “hot and spicy grated horseradish ” it contains 24% horseradish, and only 1.6% wasabi. It also contains various E numbers, colorants and Soy ( in case you are allergic to soy.!
Another product, that I have had an ongoing gripe about is, truffle oil! Celebrity chefs, wax lyrical about the stuff, TV cooks both amatuer and professional use it and so the home cook, thinks, I can do that as well. I too was fooled by what would seem to be a remarkably successful scam on foodie culture: truffle oil.
Despite the name, almost all truffle oil does not contain even trace amounts of truffle; it is olive oil mixed with 2,4-dithiapentane, a compound that makes up part of the smell of truffles, is artificial and is made in a laboratory ! Essentially, truffle oil is olive oil plus truffles’ rather unpleasant smell. Looking up food sites you can find Truffle oil from about £5.50 for 250Mls, ( waitrose) ( ingredients stated as olive oil and flavouring) to Carluccio’s Oilio al Tartufo, ( ingredients, olive oil 99.9% and white truffle 0.1%) a Bit of a rip off! Even more outrageous in my opinion, is the TRUFFLE HUNTER, who claims they have a superior concentated Black Truffle oil, when looking at the ingredients, it states, Extra Virgin Olive oil, Olive oil ( I assume that is Bog standard olive oil) , black truffles( I think that it should read a smidgin of black truffle, as you can see a tiny bit floating around) and black truffle flavouring. They do not elaborate on the flavouring but I can assure you it is nothing more thatn Cheap as Chips, 2.4 dithiapentane, and if Himself still had a laboratory, I am sure he could conjure me up some.
One of the leading brands is Urbani, from Italy ( $25 for 250 mls ) and as you can see from the lable, it pretends to be White truffle oil, BUT look at the lable. One American blog, states that he finds the smell of Truffle oil to be a real Aphrodisiac, but he too was fooled, by this scam. Wikepedia, tells the obvious with top American foodies, declaring it should be outlawed.
However , we have already understood that truffles are fairly rare and expensive, they can cost as much as €10,000 per kilo, so why am I suprised that we are fobbed off with something that contains almost NO truffles.
So what else is new on the food scene. Well the younger himself, as previously stated, wondered why on earth I was taking so much stuff to France, including Garlic, I might add. BUT have you seen or tried this ( to me) new type of garlic. it is single bulb garlic, easy to peel, easy to squash with a knife, or in a garlic press. I love it! It also known as monobulb garlic, single bulb garlic, or pearl garlic, is a variety of Allium sativium and the single clove is about 25-40 mm in diameter. It tatses like garlic though maybe a bit milder. It originates in Yunnan province in Southern China. In the Uk one of the retailers is Lidl, the German discount supermarket.