the story behind real wasabi

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Fresh Wasabi is a highly prized culinary ingredient used mainly in elite restaurants and sushi bars in Japan. The demand for fresh Wasabi consistently exceeds the supply. So called 'Wasabi' paste is also popular in North American and Japanese restaurants and sushi bars, but what is distributed as Wasabi paste or powder is mostly an imitation product based on horseradish, Chinese mustard and food colouring.

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  • WASABI JAPONICA

  • The wasabi plant (Wasabia japonica, also incorrectly equated to Eutrema japonica), a member of the cruciferous family, is native to Japan and is traditionally found growing in or by cold mountain streams. The earliest cultivation of wasabi in Japan dates back to the 10th century. The grated rhizome or above-ground root-like stem of this plant has a fiery hot flavor that quickly dissipates in the mouth, leaving a lingering sweet taste, with no burning sensation.

    hat is Wasabi?

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  • There are two main strategies that are used in growing Wasabi. The higher quality Wasabi, both in appearance and taste, grows in cool mountain streams and is known as semi-aquatic or sawa Wasabi. Wasabi known as field or oka Wasabi is grown in fields under varying conditions and generally results in a lower quality plant, both in appearance and taste.

    Wasabi powders and pastes which one finds in grocery stores or Japanese restaurants are usually not real wasabi at all. Even the better restaurants generally use so-called wasabi which contains only a very small percentage of lower-grade wasabi or wasabi stems. What is usually known as wasabi is actually horseradish powder (dried and ground regular horseradish), mustard powder, with a little cornstarch and artificial food coloring. Because wasabi plants are peculiar

    and particular in their needs, real wasabi is more expensive and is considered a rare delicacy.

    The Japanese export horseradish-based products as wasabi because in Japanese, horseradish is known as seiyo or western wasabi. When horseradish was first introduced, the Japanese called it seiyo wasabi because its pungency is similar to wasabi. This is why horseradish is now being exported from Japan under the wasabi name.

    When selecting fresh wasabi for grating, choose fresh, cool, un-shriveled roots. When selecting fresh leaves of the wasabi plant use the same guidelines you would use for selecting salad

    greens; no sogginess or wilt, uniform color, etc.

    VSReal Wasabi Fake Wasabi

  • Generally, the best results in preparing freshly ground wasabi are obtained by using a sharkskin grater or oroshi. If a sharkskin grater is not available, ceramic or stainless steel surfaces can be used. Ceramic graters with fine nubs are preferable to stainless steel, but in either case, the smaller and finer the teeth, the better.

    There are several types and sizes of sharkskin graters available in the Japanese market, usually in specialty food stores or higher-end department stores. Sharkskin mounted on small wooden paddles are generally available in three sizes, with prices ranging between 1,000 and 2,000 yen. Sharkskin mounted on ceramic paddles is slightly more expensive.

    Using sharkskin as a tool for grating wasabi has been a practice in Japan since the earliest times, and is still regarded as the preferred method of obtaining the best flavour, texture and consistency in freshly ground wasabi.

    HOW TO PREPARE WASABI

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    Grating wasabi releases volatile compounds, which gradually dissipate with exposure to the air.

    Using a traditional sharkskin grater and keeping the rhizome at a 90-degree angle to the grating surface generally minimizes exposure to the air. In this way, the volatile compounds are allowed to develop with minimal dissipation. This combination

  • CULINARY SOCIAL NETWORK

    CULINARY SOCIAL NETWORK

    HOW TO GRATE WASABI

    of natural volatiles, consistency and texture distinguish fresh wasabi from the imitation varieties of powdered and paste horseradish, which have been mixed with Chinese mustard and green food colouring.

    Once you have grated enough for the first session, pile the grated wasabi into a ball and let stand at room temperature for a few minutes to allow the flavor and heat to develop. The flavor will dissipate within a short period, so grate only what will be used within 15 or 20 minutes.

    Medicinal uses for wasabi have been documented in Japan since the 10th century. Some of its chemical components may kill microbes, thus explaining use as an accompaniment to raw fish dishes.