Wasabi

Wasabi (ワサビ(山葵)?, originally 和佐比; Wasabia japonica, Cochlearia wasabi, or Eutrema japonica), also known as Japanese horseradish[1] is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes cabbageshorseradish, and mustard. Its root is used as a condiment and has an extremely strong flavor. Its hotness is more akin to that of a hot mustard rather than the capsaicin in a chili pepper, producing vapours that stimulate the nasal passages more than the tongue. The plant grows naturally along stream beds in mountain river valleys in Japan. There are also other species used, such as W. koreana, and W. tetsuigi. The two main cultivars in the marketplace are W. japonica cv. ‘Daruma’ and cv. ‘Mazuma’, but there are many others.[2]

Uses

Wasabi is generally sold either as a root which is very finely grated before use, or as a ready-to-use paste in tubes similar to travel toothpaste tubes.[3] In restaurants the paste is prepared as needed by the customer using the root and a grater directly; once the paste is prepared, it loses flavor in 15 minutes.[4] Insushi preparation, because covering wasabi until served preserves flavor, sushi chefs usually put the wasabi between the fish and the rice.

Fresh wasabi leaves can be eaten, having the spicy flavor of wasabi roots.

Because the burning sensations of wasabi are not oil-based, they are short-lived compared to the effects of chili peppers, and are washed away with more food or liquid. The sensation is felt primarily in the nasal passage and can be quite painful depending on amount taken.

Wasabi is served with sushi or sashimi accompanied with soy sauce. The two are sometimes mixed to form a single dipping sauce known as wasabi-joyu.

Real wasabi is difficult to cultivate (see below), and that makes it quite expensive: as high as $70 to $100 per pound. Due to its high cost, a common substitute is a mixture of (western) horseradish (which normally costs less than $1/pound wholesale), mustard, and green food coloring. Although the taste is similar they are easily distinguished. In Japan, horseradish is referred to as seiyō wasabi (西洋わさび?, “western wasabi”).[5] Outside Japan, “real” wasabi is rare, and colored horseradish-based substitute is normally used instead; in the United States, wasabi can only be found in some high-end restaurants.[6]

Legumes (peanuts, soybeans, or peas) may be roasted or fried, then coated with wasabi powder mixed with sugar, salt, or oil and eaten as a crunchy snack. Inhaling or sniffing wasabi vapor has an effect like smelling salts, a property exploited by researchers attempting to create a smoke alarm for the deaf. One deaf subject participating in a test of the prototype awoke within 10 seconds of wasabi vapor being sprayed into his sleeping chamber. [7]

{Information courtesy Wikipedia}