Wasabi, the Green Pungent Japanese Condiment


Wasabi, also known as Japanese horseradish, botanically, is a plant that is related to the Brassicaceae family. This puts it in the same family as cabbageshorseradish, and mustard.

In Japan, this crop grows naturally along wetlands in the mountain valleys. The two main varieties are Daruma and Mazuma.

Wasabi is used in the culinary field for its stem which is used as a condiment. The stem has an extremely strong pungency flavor closer to mustard with a hint of hotness like the chili pepper.

It emits vapors that stimulate the nasal passages more than the tongue. The crop grows mostly submerged and therefore sometimes the stem is mistaken as a root or a rhizome.

The fresh stems may not be easy to find outside of Japan and more specifically around the Shizuoka area. it is pretty common to find colored horseradish and mustard paste being presented as wasabi even in Japan itself.

If you manage to find fresh stems in your local groceries then make sure they are fresh. They should be firm to the touch and not bear bruises or cuts. They should not be slumpy, mushy, or show any signs of rot.

Once at home, keep whole fresh stems in the refrigerator. There it can keep well for about two to three weeks.

In marketplaces, it is usually sold either as a stem, dried powder, or in the form of a paste in tubes.

Use of Wasabi in the Culinary Setting

The fresh stems should be washed thoroughly in cold running water to remove any dirt and soil. Trim off any protruding knobs on the surface and you may optionally peel off the skin if desired.

The stem must be very finely grated before use. The prepared paste loses flavor within minutes of preparing if left uncovered so it must be prepared soonest before serving.

Fresh wasabi leaves can be eaten as a vegetable, as they have the spicy flavor of the stems.

Traditionally, the freshly grated stem in the form of a paste is served on sashimi. It can also be used as a dip, a dressing on a salad, or an accompaniment to vegetable, meat, poultry, fish, and seafood dishes.

It can be used to flavor mayonnaise, vinaigrette, and lemon juice. Wasabi leaves in addition to the stems can be used in pickling.

It can also be enjoyed as a snack by dusting roasted or fried nuts such as peanuts, peas, or soybeans with wasabi powder. Other additions may be added depending on liking. These include oil, salt, or sugar.

Nutritional Benefits

Wasabi is known to have antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Hence it is used in food to kill harmful bacteria, especially in raw fish (sashimi) dishes, and not just to add flavor.

It also aids in digestion by stimulating the secretion of salivary, gastric, and intestinal digestive enzymes.

It contains no cholesterol, trace amounts of fats and oils, and contains 109 calories per 100 grams. It has decent amounts of carbohydrates and proteins.

It is a very rich source of vitamin C and a good source of B-complex vitamins, primarily thiamin and pyridoxine. It also has decent amounts of riboflavin, folates, niacin, and pantothenic acid.

it happens to have some good amounts of potassium. As for other minerals, it is a good source of calcium, copper, iron, and magnesium. Others include manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.

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