Real Wasabi

wasabi in dish
photo credit: tequi


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.

History Of Wasabi

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.

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.

More Wasabi Uses & Storage Tips

  • 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

How To Store Fresh Wasabi

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.

sharkskin wasabi graterThe 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.


Nutrition Information For Real Wasabi

Serving Size
1 cup, sliced
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 22mg
Total Carbohydrate 31g
Dietary Fiber 10g
Sugars 0g
Protein 6g
Vitamin A  0% Vitamin C  0%
Calcium  0% Iron  0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Our Favorite Use For Wasabi

I think the best wasabi inspired dish I've had was Chef Sam Choy's wasabi cheesecake. My last trip to Honolulu this spring included one fantastic meal at Sam Choy's restaurant. The wasabi cheesecake had a nut crust and a side garnish of wasabi tobiko (flying fish roe).
wasabi cheesecake
Photo: Ann-Marie Bouchard, Peter Duenas, John Bouchard]

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.