Wasabi is an essential accompaniment to nigiri sushi and sashimi. The wasabi plant is a spicy aromatic vegetable associated with Japanese food. The sharp taste clears our sinuses in a way that is different from the spiciness of chili or pepper. Called “wasabi” in English as well, wasabi spread widely in the U.S. with the Japanese food boom. It has become an essential condiment and a staple at sushi restaurants.


What is Wasabi?

History of Wasabi

Wasabi is a perennial plant of the Brassicaceae family native to Japan. The name first appeared in literature of the Nara period (710-794), and it is believed that Japanese people were already eating wasabi in the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Wasabi farming began in the Edo period (1603-1868), in what is now the Utogi area of Shizuoka City. Instead of foraging for wild wasabi, people began planting and growing wasabi near springs. Utogi remains a major wasabi growing region after more than 400 years

Wasabi, the Japanese condiment, is called Hon wasabi (Japanese horseradish), which is different from Yama wasabi (horseradish), which is used in Europe and other parts of the world. Horseradish is believed to have originated in Eastern Europe. With both wasabi and horseradish, the edible part is the root, which is grated and used as a condiment. The wasabi paste found in tubes at supermarkets is very popular. However, many of these wasabi tubes contain European horseradish powder; some contain both wasabi and horseradish, and others contain horseradish only.

Tubed Wasabi is Real Wasabi?


Tubed wasabi

Tubed wasabi can be found in many homes, but a close look at the list of ingredients on the back of the package reveals that it isn’t made from grated wasabi alone. Instead, both wasabi and European horseradish are ingredients. The spiciness of tubed wasabi is the same whether or not it contains Hon wasabi.

Efficacy of Wasabi

Wasabi has excellent deodorizing and anti-bacterial properties. That’s why wasabi is perfect for sashimi and sushi, which are primarily raw fish. Also, wasabi whets our appetite with its unique flavor and promotes the release of digestive juices. The sharp taste of wasabi makes our nose tingle for a second because of a substance called allyl isothiocyanate (mustard oil). When the wasabi roots andleaves are grated, the cells break, and a compound called sinigrin undergoes a chemical reaction in the presence of enzyme and water, thus producing the allyl isothiocyanate. This is the substance that limits bacterial growth and prevents food poisoning.

How to cook Wasabi?

Baked Wasabi Chicken Recipe


Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 1 chicken thigh
  • 1 Tbsp. cooking sake (Japanese rice wine)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. tubed wasabi
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. shoyu (soy sauce)

Cooking Directions

  1. Butterfly the chicken thigh and pound to an even thickness.
  2. Sprinkle the chicken with the sake, salt, and pepper. Pour the olive oil in a pan and cook the chicken skin side first until brown.
  3. Flip the chicken and cook the other side. Cover and heat for 3 minutes on low.
  4. Remove the lid. Spread the wasabi on the chicken skin, cover again, and heat for 3 minutes .
  5. When the chicken is thoroughly cooked, pour the soy sauce over it and enjoy.

Nagaimo Wasabi Recipe


Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 3-1/2 oz. nagaimo (Japanese yam)
  • 2 Tbsp. Nijiya Tsuyu Tennen (Japanese noodle soup base)
  • 3/4 inch (2cm) tubed wasabi
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar
  • Shredded nori (dried seaweed), as needed

Cooking Directions

  1. Peel and cut the nagaimo.
  2. Put all the ingredients except the nori inside a ziplock bag. Marinate in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
  3. Put the marinated nagaimo on a plate and top with nori.

Gochiso Magazine, Nijiya Market

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