Wasabi Wasabi is a rhizomes similar in flavor and heat to horseradish. Fresh grated or dried reconstituted wasabi is used as a condiment with sushi, sashimi as well as other Japanese noodle dishes.
Article by: Barbara Bowman
About Real Wasabi
What You've Had Was Probably Not The Real Thing
Most all wasabi served in the U.S. is not wasabi at all but a powder made from dried horseradish, food coloring and dry mustard. Japanese restaurants found that fresh wasabi was not preferred by Americans so the horseradish mixture has become the standard.
The Flavor Of Real Wasabi
Wasabi is quite strong when it is first grated but the heat diminishes as the wasabi is exposed to air. Dried, powdered wasabi is also available but just like its fresh counterpart it is hard to find and quite expensive
Fresh wasabi rhizomes are grated on a rough surface to form a thick paste. The traditional tool is a sharkskin grater.
The grating action breaks open the cells of the plant which creates a chemical reaction that in turn causes the release of isothiocynates, the compounds that produce wasabi's unique flavor.
Once you've grated the amount of wasabi you wish to use gather it into a small ball. Keeping the wasabi in a ball keeps it from getting too much exposure to the air. Sit the ball aside and allow it to rest at room temperature about 10 minutes allowing the chemical compounds to do their work. Use the wasabi within 20 to 30 minutes. After that the flavor will begin to diminish. To freshen your wasabi you can remix it and add a bit more freshly grated wasabi to liven up the mixture.
How To Use Dried Ground Wasabi
Wasabi powder is combined with water to form a thick paste. It is best to allow the paste for sit for about one hour before use. To serve, wasabi is typically mixed with soy sauce when being used with sushi or sashimi.
It is believed that Wasabi was first used where it was found growing wild in Japan's valleys of Mt. Heike, Mt. Mizuo, and Mt. Bahun. The locals gathered wild Wasabi to use as a condiment with slices of raw yamame (a kind of trout), and raw venison. In addition to use as a flavoring the stems and leaves of Wasabi were pickled and eaten as a vegetable. Today wasabi is still one of the most important condiments in Japanese cuisine.
More Wasabi Uses & Storage Tips
How To Store Fresh Wasabi
- Add a tablespoon to your favorite mashed potato recipe
- Splash a few drops on fresh, washed salad greens
- Drizzle over fresh steamed vegetables like asparagus
- Add to a simple vinaigrette
If you are fortunate enough to buy fresh wasabi you'll want to store it properly. Rinse rhizomes under fresh clear water and wrap in damp paper towels. Store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator and replace with fresh damp paper toweling every couple of days. Rhizomes can be stored for at least 2 weeks.
The Traditional Wasabi Grater
The traditional wasbi grater has a
wooden form faced with real sharkskin. To use, fresh wasabi rhizomes
are grated along the sharkskin face to form a smooth paste. These graters have become very hard to find and are fairly expensive.
Alternately you can purchase inexpensive aluminum versions as well as more expensive copper wasabi graters. These graters can also be used for grating the fibrous ginger root.