The light green paste served alongside your favorite sushi rolls is wasabi. Maybe you’ve tried some of this sharp paste with its spicy kick. But, what if we told you that the very same paste you’ve been told is wasabi isn’t true wasabi. In fact, most people have never tasted real wasabi.
You might be asking yourself, if that’s not true wasabi then what have I been eating and what is true wasabi? Most wasabi served in casual restaurants and sushi spots is actually made of horseradish and sometimes even mustard. Real wasabi has a more subtle spicy kick that fades much faster than imitation wasabi.
Real fresh wasabi will have a grittier texture, as the traditional way to serve it is to grate it in a circular motion over a sharkskin wasabi grater. Imitation wasabi has a much smoother and thicker consistency, as the horseradish is usually pureed into a paste.
The reason why real wasabi is so uncommon is not some grand conspiracy to rob people of the fiery delights of the real deal. Real wasabi is much harder to find, because it’s much more expensive. The plant that wasabi is sourced from, Wasabia japonica, is incredibly hard to grow as it needs to be partially submerged in moving water. To further complicate things, the plant is extremely sensitive to small changes in environment or humidity and can die off at the slightest change.
Though imitation wasabi is not true wasabi, its flavor closely resembles the real thing and makes for a pretty great and more accessible substitute.
Wasabi isn’t just for sushi. Within Japan, wasabi is a popular condiment used to accompany soba noodles, mixed into dipping sauces for yakiniku (grilled meat), chazuke (a rice dish of fish with tea or dashi broth poured over), yakitori (grilled meat skewers), and more. It is even a popular flavoring used to season snacks like wasabi peas, chips, crackers, and more.
If you’re looking for a way to add a flavor boost to your meals, wasabi is the way to go. For a quick and delicious addition to sandwiches, burgers, steaks, dips, and even salad dressings try Kikkoman’s Wasabi Sauce. It adds a creamy almost mustardy zing to any food it’s added to and is made using real wasabi too.
Another tasty idea? Try crushing up these Hot Wasabi Peas and sprinkling them on top of salmon or chicken for a slightly spicy crunch. You can even toss some wasabi peas into soups and salads for an added crunch. Wasabi peas also make a great snack all on their own too.
For more fun ways of incorporating wasabi into your cooking, give Noriten Wasabi Flavored Seaweed Tempura Chips a taste. Just like wasabi peas, these tempura seaweed chips make a great snack. They are also often used to top bowls of udon or soba. Or, take things to the next level by using these tempura seaweed chips to scoop up spicy tuna (combine fresh or canned tuna with Japanese mayo and sriracha).
But where can you find all these great items? As the first nationwide online Japanese grocery store, Bokksu Grocery makes shopping for Japanese ingredients and snacks simple and convenient. No more waiting in long lines or crowding in tiny cramped Japanese grocery stores. Order groceries online from the comfort of your own home. You’ll not only find a great selection of wasabi snacks and condiments, but many more high quality teas, sauces, spices, pantry staples, dry goods, and kitchenware. Stock up on your favorite Japanese kitchen essentials, and try a few new things too.
Wasabi is a unique ingredient and popular condiment that will add a little heat to any dish. Don’t just relegate it to the role of sushi sidekick. A little bit can go a long way to spicing up your usual fare.
By Melanie Totenberg