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Eating Standing Up: The Rise of the Wasabi Pea
There are two things that I regularly eat whilst I am standing up.
The first is something I’ve written about before, in other places, and will happily talk your back legs off about: the macaroni pie. For some, this would be described as a “guilty pleasure”. For me, I don’t suffer from food-related guilt, so it’s simply a pleasure. A carbo-loaded pleasure. I eat it regularly in between my local Greggs and my office. If you eat it on the move, the calories in it contains don’t stick to you. Fact.
The second is a food item that has swept through Edinburgh’s pubs like a plague of locusts, over the past months and years: the wasabi pea.
You’ll all be abundantly aware of the true nature of the “wasabi” that is fobbed-off on everyone outside Japan. The approach of dying a horseradish/mustard mix and passing it off as the authentic ingredient seems like a curious holdover from a bygone era. I have a feeling that it won’t be long before this practice is a thing of the past. I’m sure some marketing smarty-pants will come up with the equivalent of an “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Wasabi” tag-line and corner the market, soon enough.
The so-called “wasabi pea” is a similarly mysterious item, actually comprising a good old green pea, baked then coated in “wasabi” mix, in yet another level of food funny-business.
But enough of the moralising. For me, the overriding thing about the wasabi pea is that it tastes good, and as a bar snack it works incredibly well. I’m not going to attempt to enter the debate as to who started the trend. I’ll simply say that the place where I most regularly sample them, whilst propping up one end of the bar, is in Teuchters in William Street. A nice half-pint of them, and perhaps another lovely panelled glass full of salt and pepper cashews, and the post-work Friday drinks pass-off in a much more enjoyable fashion than they did before their tonsil-tickling arrival.
Of course, their ubiquity is starting to cloy, and my appreciation of them is tantamount to some sort of populist heresy, but who doesn’t love a heretic, particularly at Christmas time.
Recipes are available, at a number of online locations, but I can’t lay claim to having tried them. They all seem to involve cooking the little blighters for upwards of five hours, which seems somewhat disproportionate. Madhur Jaffrey has a great quick recipe for roasted chick peas, which simply involves a tin of chick peas, a coating of oil, a generous sprinkling of salt, then a mix of ground spices (cumin, some chilli heat, and something fragrant are your basics, but experimentation is the order of the day), then roasting in the oven for around 25 minutes. I’ve found this a sure-fire winner, so I see no reason why a recipe couldn’t be derived for “wasabi chick peas” using this basic method. What they’d lose in crunch, they’d more than make up for in ease of preparation. Perhaps I’ll try it over the festive period, serve it to my standing-up guests, and report back.
For now, I’ll content myself with the thought that the cleansing nasal heat of the wasabi pea will keep me alert during much of the festive boozing onslaught that we all face in December. By the end of the month, I have a feeling I’ll be very thankful that these tasty little morsels of sulphurous heat have become part of our vertical drinking culture in Edinburgh, beautifully enhancing my enjoyment of locally sourced Tennent’s lager.
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