My Latest Obsessions: Wasabi Peas

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Between the nose-tingling burn of wasabi and very poppable shape of peas, wasabi peas are impossible to stop eating. As in, oops there goes two-thirds of the bag (and double oops, that was six servings' worth!). A bag of them lives above my desk, but never lasts for very long.

I actually burned out on wasabi peas during college when I'd average a nine-ounce bag per paper. Ooh, I just finished a paragraph, another handful! Grr, writer's block, clearly in need of more brain power—another handful. This had to be more virtuous than ordering a midnight pizza, right? They were just peas. That came from pods. Then you stop and think about how many peas you're actually eating. Who would ever eat that many plain? Exactly, nobody. (Except maybe all the pea farmers reading..) But once they get a coating of dried wasabi powder, it's all over.

The crunch multiplied by the horseradish burn multiplied by the subtle pea sweetness makes them the right answer for any type of hunger pang. Afternoon snack attack? Wasabi peas. Flu season and your sinuses are stuffed? Wasabi peas. Morning caffeine not working? Wasabi peas. Not feeling all that hungry, just bored? Two words, and it rhymes with masabi bees. They also make a great party snack, especially if you're looking for less fatty alternatives to chips or nuts.

When I recently bought a bag of Trader Joe's Wasabi Wow trail mix (wasabi peas plus almonds, peanuts, and dried cranberries), I found myself picking out all the peas first. Ugh, that darn peanut is in the way. After bypassing all the nuts and crans for those wee peas buried underneath, I knew it was time. Time to buy another bag of just peas, sans any of the extra space-hogging stuff, even if they did still remind me of late paper-writing nights in Lauinger Library.

Any wasabi-dabbers of sushi out there should understand all of this. With the peas, there's no soy sauce or rice to distract from the heat. And some peas are more wasabi-blanketed than others. After a few handfuls, you will inevitably swallow some of these extra kapow-bombs. Your eyes may get moist. Your nose may wriggle. You may even sneeze, and all of this is perfectly normal.

If you're not a wasabi enthusiast, you probably won't be as obsessed with these little guys, of course. But odds are, someone next to you is, so please hand them the bag.