As Romeo is not complete without Juliet, sushi is surely not complete without wasabi. This famous green paste which gives everything a pungent flavor leaves people either loving or hating it. Wasabi is usually served as a side dish alongside ginger. Regardless of how you feel about wasabi, here are some facts that may find interesting.
Wasabi comes from a plant called Eutrema japonicum or popularly known as Japanese horseradish. It is categorized as angiosperm and included in Brassicaceae family, so taxonomically, it has a close relation with Broccoli (Brassica oleracea), Bok Choy (Brassica rapa), and Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea – Botrytis group).
Brassicaceae family is known for its ability to induce toxin metabolism and wasabi itself contains chemical substances that can reduce bacteria growth. Such secondary metabolites are some types of isothiocyanate. Those substances are the ones which are responsible for giving it its pungent and interesting flavor.
Wasabi is quite hard to grow. It is quite fragile and sensitive to its environment. Basically, the wasabi plant loves water. It needs clean fresh water running on its roots and would easily die in a place where the humidity is too high. It is also easily diseased when it is planted on an industrial scale. No wonder it is very high in price. A kilogram can be sold for US $160.
In relation to fact three, it is no surprise that sushi lovers outside of Japan have tasted authentic wasabi. The green paste or powder people usually eat alongside sushi may contain no wasabi in it at all. It is a substitute that consists of horseradish (totally different plant but is still from the Brassicaceae family), starch, mustard, and a green edible coloring agent. Outside of Japan, authentic wasabi is only served in high-class restaurants.
The part of wasabi used as a side dish is from its grated rhizome (root). Once grated, it can immediately lose its flavor. The taste itself is less pungent and not as strong as people usually think (because it is likely that most people have only tasted its substitute). The leaf itself is also edible and has a similiar taste and medical benefits.
Wasabi is very high in fiber and protein, and also very low in fat. So many benefits contained in one single plant.
So those are some facts about wasabi that a lot of people may consider surprising. As authentic wasabi is full of flavor and health benefits, why not try and track some down on your travels and get to try it yourself?
What is Wasabi? Get to know more about Japan’s iconic condiment!
A weekend at Azumino the land of wasabi farms and rivers, Nagano
The Latest in Bizarre but Tasty Japanese Kit Kat Flavors: Sake Kit Kats!