Wasabi (Eutrema wasabi)
Wasabi is a Japanese spice which is known for its sharp flavour. Wasabi roots (which is the part of the plant which is consumed) are often called Japanese horseradish.
Wasabi’s flavour is sharp, intense yet fresh and cleansing. Its flavour is compared closer to hot mustard rather than the fieriness of chilli as it stimulates the nasal passage rather than the tongue.
Wasabi has a fierce, burning aroma which is known to clear the nasal passages.
Wasabi roots are consumed fresh (peeled and cut), grated or in dried or paste form. It’s uncommon to buy fresh wasabi outside Japan so paste or powder is normally the only option. The paste is sometimes mixed with horseradish and green colouring.
Wasabi loses its flavour when cooked so is normally served with raw fish dishes like sashimi and sushi. It is also mixed with other sauces like soy sauce to make dressings, dips and marinades. In addition to raw fish, wasabi pairs with avocado, beef and rice and marries with ginger and horseradish.
Wasabi plants grow close to cold mountain streams mostly in Japan. It grows best in nitrogen-rich, loose soil and need lots of shade. The leaves are dark green and kidney shaped and the creeping roots grow to 18cm long and 1-3cm in diameter.
Archeological remains reveal that the Japanese ate wasabi as early as 14,000BC. Utogi, a mountain village in the upper reaches of Abe River in Shizuoka Prefecture, is considered to be the first place wasabi was cultivated. Wasabi was used in the days before refrigeration to kill bacteria and disguise unpleasant tastes and is praised for the development of sushi.
Wasabi has been used throughout history for its antibacterial properties, its ability to stimulate the appetite and remove toxins from the body.
Facts about Wasabi
Wasabi is used to ships to protect them from rust.
How much wasabi should I use?
Wasabi is definitely a personal taste. It’s a good idea to start by using it sparingly and add more according to your taste.