Have you ever wondered what that green pasty looking stuff on your sushi platter was? Your server will quickly tell you the paste is none other than wasabi, a favorite Asian condiment. But that doesn't quite answer your question, does it? Don't fret. We're here to tell you everything you need to know about wasabi and how to eat it.
Origins of Wasabi
It wasn't until the North American sushi boom in the 80s that the general public became familiar with that green paste called wasabi. The Japanese, on the other hand, had been enjoying the condiment since the 8th century B.C.E. Initially, wasabi only grew in Japan's cool mountain streams, making it pretty hard to come by.
Today, the condiment is grown in North American, Australia, New Zealand, China and Taiwan. The expansion in the cultivation of wasabi japonica is a direct result of the popularity of Asian cuisine across the globe.
Wasabi is commonly compared to horseradish, which makes sense because the two come from the same family, the Brassicaceae family. But we'll let you in on a little secret — most wasabi pastes served in restaurants are actually a combination of horseradish, mustard and green dye. Real wasabi is often grated fresh at the table and served with noodles, sashimi or sushi. The trouble is that when used fresh, wasabi loses its flavor in about 15 to 20 minutes.
For longer preservation, you can dry wasabi and turn it into a powder. The powder then can be suspended in oil or stored dry and reconstituted when needed.
Flavor of Real Wasabi
Real wasabi has a flavor that is more aromatic, sweeter and less pungent than horseradish. It also has less heat. Wasabi paste is an excellent way to get the flavor you desire as it stores well in this form. Powdered wasabi will also keep for several months before losing its kick.
For the brave of heart, you can buy real wasabi in its natural form at some grocery stores, but it will cost you anywhere from $40 to $100 for a pound. If you want the true flavor of wasabi, this is the only way to get it outside of a restaurant. In fact, most of the wasabi products Japan sends to the U.S. are a mixture of wasabi and horseradish.
Ways to Eat Wasabi
Used as a traditional accompaniment to noodles, sushi and sashimi, wasabi is also used as a flavor for snack items like wasabi peas. Although wasabi has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory qualities, thoughts are mixed regarding its medicinal qualities. Regardless, wasabi is a wonderful accompaniment to GENKI’s Asian fusion menu offerings, including Dragon rolls, noodles or sushi made with freshwater eel. Without the flavors of wasabi, ginger and soy sauce, these menu treats wouldn't be the same.
Try mixing a little wasabi with your soy sauce when you get sushi or sashimi. If you're having soba, mix wasabi with the sauce then dip the noodles.
Find your favorite wasabi and Asian fusion recipes at GENKI Noodles and Sushi.