High above the rooftops of a bustling market town in Piedmont, northern Italy a culinary experiment fusing Japanese textures and flavours with an exotic oil made from legally grown and processed hemp, was taking place in a student kitchen.
In the room were Phil, a chef and classmate of mine from the Masters in Food Culture and Communications course at the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) in Italy and myself, a keen cook, traveller and always willing to try something new.
We were in Phil’s kitchen, moving around a table neatly covered with battened carrots, cucumber and avocado with slivers of salmon to the side. Sushi rolls are ready and a bowl of sticky rice, ready to be the glue to that holds the vegetables and fish together.
So far, so traditional and what you might expect from a sushi making session. However, our class had recently returned from study trips to Japan (Osaka and the Mie Prefecture), and the Netherlands (Amsterdam and Rotterdam) brining with us some intriguing ingredients and a desire to use hemp/ cannabis plant (the legal stuff, of course!) products in our cooking.
Stars of the show were CDB oil and Sake Kasu. Here, our CBD is a legally oil refined from cannabis plant buds while Sake Kasu is a by-product of the sake making process, left over when the rice fermentation stage is complete. Often regarded as a waste product it is now fed to cattle such as Wagyu or cleaned up for human appetites. Our appetites were sated by the sushi, and although I found the taste of the Sake Kasu slightly overwhelming it was probably because we had overloaded it into our sushi rolls.
Our CBD oil was sourced from Slow Weed, a forward thinking group of friends and UNISG graduates who are growing hemp and creating new products from their base in the forward looking southern Swiss cantons of Graubünden and Ticino around Lake Maggiore and the Ticino river.
Sake Kasu is a by-product from the brewing process that creates sake. Koji fungus is infused into steamed rice and allowed to ferment, and then pressed releasing the sake kiquor and leaving a ‘cake’ of Sake Kasu. A popular ingredient and a very peculiar taste; funky, perhaps a bit sweet with notes of sake. It’s too strong to eat alone but did add new flavour and texture twists to our sushi. Lots of chefs mix into marinades for chicken or fish, and drinks such as Korea’s rice wine Makgeolli.
Our sushi combined Swiss culinary skills with a drop or two of CBD oil fused to create a unique set of flavours and textures. This combination may not be for everyone, but a great insight in how to use up a ‘waste’ product from sake production and into CBD oil, a product whose popularity will only increase as its medicinal properties are gradually accepted by conventional medical industry.
Any mention of cannabis is likely to get most people sweating. It might be legally sold in places such as Colorado and in corners of Amsterdam bars thronging with tourists and bachelor parties seeking to get high, but just the mention of the product will get some people looking over their shoulders.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is collected from the flowers of the hemp plant. While it is also found in marijuana, it is one of dozens of chemical compounds present in the plant. Importantly, CBD does not get you high. The main psychoactive constituent in cannabis is tetrahydrocannobinol (THC), which is not present in CBD products. CBD is being credited with treating a range of health problems from acne and to autism and obesity.
Indeed, you’ll find plenty of CBD infused products on supermarket shelves across Europe in drinks, sauces and baking products, to bring back to your experimental kitchen.