The Real Wasabi: The True Story

How You Can Tell Real from Not

Wasabi is the perfect accompaniment to many Japanese dishes. Do you know what real wasabi taste like? Outside of Japan, most of the wasabi served is just a mix of horseradish, mustard and food coloring. Even in Japan where the plant is not so easy to grow and the demand for it so high, you will still find horseradish mix instead, sometimes with some real wasabi.

Real wasabi tastes more plant-like or herbal than the horseradish mix. Real wasabi is very hot but doesn’t have a lingering, burning aftertaste. It’s smoother and cleaner in taste than the one that passes for wasabi in many restaurants, at the grocers or even in Japanese specialty stores.

Wasabi belongs to the family of plants that also includes horseradish and mustard. It is one of the world’s most expensive crops, and a highly priced spice commodity growing in cold mountain streams in northern Japan. It takes over a year to grow before it can be fully harvested. Wasabi’s growing conditions are very restrictive, preventing its wider cultivation.

Freshly grated wasabi is actually not hugely hot: it reaches its hottest about five minutes after grating. Twenty minutes later the heat has died down again. For the freshest wasabi, you must grate the root right before serving, as the wasabi will only hold its strong flavor for about 15 minutes after preparation.

Some high-end restaurants prepare the wasabi paste when the customer orders, and is made using a grater to grate the root. The dish has to be served immediately or at least covered. Sushi chefs usually put the wasabi between the fish and the rice covering the paste to preserve its punch. Wasabi’s uniqueness is the perfect supplement to the Japanese diet. Now you know some of its secrets.

Real Wasabi at FLO

At Flo Japanese Restaurant and Sake Bar, we only serve 100% pure wasabi. Enjoy our authentic classics with the perfect accompaniment of real spice.

Valentine’s Day The Japanese Way in Bellevue

Unique Two-Prong Valentine Celebration

In Japan, on Valentine’s Day, it’s the women who give gifts to men. Yes, the 14th of February is celebrated differently there. It’s a strong tradition of women giving chocolates to men on Love Day, so much so that you’ll be seeing large displays in department stores and grocery stores of chocolate, usually heart-shaped, from as early as mid-January. Days before Valentine’s, stores are packed with endless varieties of chocolates of every imaginable style and presentation. There are also lots of other non-chocolate choices, as cookies and other sweet treats, also chocolate-making kitchen tools. And women, long ques of them!

Valentine’s Day chocolate is not limited to just husbands, boyfriends or ‘your crush”. Friends, family and office mates are on the list, too. In fact, there are several types of chocolate-giving on Valentine’s Day. There’s Giri-choco, which means ‘obligation chocolate’. The gift is given to friends, bosses, family members, work colleagues or other men who the giver isn’t romantically involved with. It’s an obligation, not to be regarded as a statement of romance.

There’s Honmei choco, the chocolate reserved for a boyfriend, husband or lover, a special someone in your life to shower with affection in the form of chocolate, cookies and other sweet treats. To separate the concept of honmei (meaning loosely ‘real objective’) from others made out of giri (obligation), the women tend to make the chocolate themselves. It’s a sign of how valuable is the object of affection, that extra effort is put into the gift.

Jibun-choco is the chocolate you buy and enjoy for yourself. Tomo-choco is ‘friend chocolate’ and is given by women to other female friends. Gyaku-choco means ‘reverse chocolate’ and is given by a man to a woman. It’s not traditional, hence, not common at all.

Then comes White Day. Exactly one month after Valentine’s Day, men return the favour – as many as three times more the value of the gift they received from any woman. On March 14, men of all ages are expected to give gifts, three times more the worth, to any woman from whom they received giri-choco from the month prior. Men are expected to give chocolates and other gifts like handbags, lingerie, apparel, or flowers that come in white color.

For Men and Ladies: Valentine’s at FLO

Looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Bellevue (or even on White Day)? What lovely way to show affection than an exquisite dinner at Flo. Be sure to book a table soon for a hassle-free Valentine’s Day.

The True Origins of the Japanese Tempura

It’s European, Not Japanese

People who love fried foods are also in love with tempura. The delicious and crunchy batter coated dish – be it seafood, meat or veggie inside – is a comfort food for most. Most of us would thank the Japanese for inventing tempura, however, we are barking up the wrong tree, for tempura did not originate in Japan.

In 1543, a Chinese ship with some Portuguese sailors on board was headed to Macau, but was swept off course and ended up on the Japanese island of Tanegashima. These were the first ever Europeans to step on Japanese soil. The Portuguese came with guns, not to harm the inhabitants, but to trade. And though the Japanese didn’t like them, they found their ammunition useful as they were in mid-war at the time. Thus began a Portuguese trading post in Japan, starting with firearms and then other items such as soap, tobacco, wool and even recipes.

The Portuguese stayed until 1639 when they were banished because the Japanese regarded their religion, Christianity, as a bit too dangerous to the Japanese culture. Even if they had sailed away, the Portuguese left behind a rich part of their legacy, especially where food was concerned.

The Japanese today deviated from tradition and made the batter less heavy, incorporating fish, other veggies like eggplant, carrots, sweet potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and of course, the famous shrimp tempura. If you travel to Portugal now, you’d recognised the green beans tempura and you’d say they’re Japanese. You’ll soon know you’re mistaken. The Portuguese even made their tempura crispier by adding a starch called nutrios. They still cook those green beans of old and they’ll tell you it’s nostalgia.

We Tempura Everything in Bellevue, Almost

When you come to FLO in Bellevue, enjoy our hot food selections which include the classic tempura. See that we gave it a unique flair. It’s just the way we do things here.

The Black Cod

Black Cod: The Succulent Non-Cod Fish

Many fish are called cods and there are many cods in the market sharing similar traits – firm, white, meaty flesh. A few of the most common are Atlantic Cod, a favorite for fish and chips; Lingcod, a favorite for recreational fishing by anglers on the West Coast; Pacific Cod, the second most abundant white fish in the world; Alaskan Pollock, the oilier and stronger-tasting most abundant white fish in the world, used in fish sticks and fast-food fish sandwiches; then there’s the Black Cod.

Black Cod or Sablefish is often called ‘butterfish’ due to its intensely rich, buttery flavour, yet very delicate texture. It is a deep-sea fish, living 5,000 feet (or up to 9,000 feet) in muddy depths below sea level in the Pacific Ocean, from Alaska to British Columbia. It is available in Eastern Pacific (from Southern California to Bering Sea) and Western Pacific (from Kamchatka and Russia to Southern Japan). Its predators are Salmon, Sperm whales, Pacific halibut and Orcas. Its diet consists of squid, small fishes and jellyfish.

However, it is not a true cod. Black Cod just resemble regular cod fish. But they mature early and are are long-living (like up to 90 years). This makes them a good sustainable source of food.

Like salmon, black cod can contain as much omega-3 (EPA and DHA), has three times more saturated fats than salmon and has many of the other nutrients found in salmon as well, such as vitamin B12. It also contains amino acids and other minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Its rich succulent taste and texture is often compared to that of sea bass. It can also substitute for Chilean Bass.

In Japan, black cod is an essential element for sushi. Its high fat content allows it to go through different forms of cooking – frying, steak, smoking, broiling, baking and grilling.

Enjoying Bellevue Black Cod

You will just love Flo’s broiled Black Cod marinated in house-made Saikyo Miso sauce and served with light-tempura enoki mushrooms. It makes one great dinner.

Udon and Soba: Perennial Noodle Favorites in Bellevue

Everyone’s Favorite Japanese Noodles

Udon and soba are so very typical Japanese noodles that they have been integral to the Japanese diet and culture. Both can be added to other ingredients, blending well and giving texture and flavor to the whole dish. They can be served hot or cold even if they are cooked similarly- in a large container of boiling, salted water and considered done when they reach the right consistency.

There are many different varieties of udon and soba in different regions of Japan, though both originate from China. Udon came to imperial Japan during the Nara period (710-784 AD) while soba came much earlier, during the Jomon period (13000 BC to 300 BC)

The noodles also differ in their composition. Udon noodles are made out of wheat flour – they are thick and white in color. They are best eaten as fresh as they are soft and chewy. Neutral in flavor, they are able to absorb strong-flavored ingredients or dishes from curried broths to toppings that include deep fried fish, various vegetables, pork, etc. The texture of dried udon is, however, more dense.

Soba noodles are made out of buckwheat, with a strong nutty flavor. If they have wheat in them, and many do, it means they are not gluten-free. Pure buckwheat soba is gluten-free and stronger in flavor. The noodles are thin and soft, a lot chewier and nuttier than udon. Dried soba looks like flat spaghetti and is usually light beige to dark brown-gray in color.

Both udon and soba are extremely popular, filling noodles to be eaten at any time of the day. While there are other Japanese noodle types, like yakisoba, ramen and somen, the udon and soba are the much loved, traditional and versatile favorites in any honest-to-goodness Japanese restaurant.

Enjoying Udon and Soba in Bellevue

Here at Flo, we serve your favorite noodles together with other great classics. They are our lunchtime specials. We’ve got Tempura Udon or Tempura Soba or our Nabeyaki Udon. Enjoy our noodles like nowhere else, only here at your Japanese restaurant in Bellevue.