Culinary uses, History and Cultivation.
Wasabi is a condiment traditionally used to garnish raw fish (sushi and
sashimi) and noodle (soba) dishes in Japan. The ground root-like rhizome pungently flavors
many foods in Japanese cuisine and its bright green color adds color contrast, for which
Japanese dishes are famous. In the last twenty years, because of low supply of fresh
Wasabi rhizomes, substitutes made of mixtures of horseradish, mustard and food coloring
have taken the place of freshly prepared Wasabi. Other parts of the Wasabi plant are also
used. The leaves and petioles are picked or can be powdered for use as Wasabi flavoring,
used now in many foods.
In traditional Japanese cuisine, Wasabi is prepared by grating the fresh rhizome against a
rough surface in much the same way that horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is prepared.
Some Japanese Sushi Chefs will only use a sharkskin grater. The sharkskin gives grated
Wasabi a smooth, soft and aromatic finish.
Many believe that the Wasabi rhizome should be carefully peeled first before grating. It
is recommended in either case to scrub the Wasabi rhizome with a soft brush before
The best way to enjoy the full flavor of Fresh Wasabi is to spread a little on the fish
and then dip the fish side of the sushi into soy sauce so that the sauce does not touch
the Wasabi. Good Fresh Wasabi does not just have its spicy hotness, but also the sweetness
and gentle fragrance to assist the taste of fresh fish with soy sauce.
Many diners, however, prefer to mix the prepared Wasabi with soy sauce, called
"Wasabi-joyu," and use this as a dipping sauce for the raw fish, or mix the
Wasabi directly into a bowl of noodles.
Tofu topped with soy sauce and prepared Wasabi is an example of another traditional food
using Wasabi. Wasabi leaves pickled in sake brine or soy sauce are popular accompaniments
to white rice. It should be pointed out that a considerable amount of the volatile aroma
and taste of the Fresh Wasabi would be lost when mixed with soy sauce or a heated dish.