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Wasabi - a Far Eastern rarity is conquering Europe!

Wasabi (Eutrema japonicum) - What is wasabi anyway?

Anyone who likes to eat Japanese, especially sushi or sashimi, knows it, the "green horseradish" or "Japanese horseradish". From a botanical point of view, there are clear differences between wasabi and horseradish. Nevertheless, for reasons of cost, horseradish is often used and referred to as wasabi. Nobody notices - or does they?

 

Buy real wasabi in the Pepperworld Hot Shop!

Where does the wasabi root come from?

First of all, it should be said that the part used is, strictly speaking, not a root, but a rhizome. In contrast to chillies, whose spiciness is perceived in the mouth, the wasabi spiciness rises into the nose similar to horseradish. And the taste goes in this direction too. Botanically incorrectly it is therefore also called "Japanese horseradish", "green horseradish" or "water horseradish".

Fresh wasabi rootstock

Like horseradish and mustard, it belongs to the cruciferous family (Latin: Brassicaceae), but it grows like cabbage. And even if the "wasabi root" is often mentioned, the part of the plant used is a vertically growing leafy rhizome from which the leaves are removed. It is then similar to a harvested Brussels sprouts plant.

The plant is at home in Japan. But also in Korea, the USA (Oregon on the west coast, North Carolina in the east), New Zealand and Great Britain the breeding is now practiced successfully. It thrives best in shallow, flowing waters (such as mountain streams). In addition, the plant needs a very specific climate that is neither too warm nor too cool, preferably between 8 ° C and 20 ° C. In addition, the plant does not like direct sunlight, which is why shading is usually necessary. All of this limits the growing areas and is one of the reasons why real wasabi is so rare and expensive.

And where does the sharpness come from?

The leaves also offer a bit of aroma and sharpness, but both are concentrated in that very rootstock. Like mustard and horseradish, it owes its pungent sharpness to so-called volatile mustard oils, the Isothiocyanates- here it is in particular Glucocochlearin and Sinigrin. However, the chemical composition is unique, which makes real wasabi unique in terms of aroma and “burning profile”.

How can you eat wasabi?

It can be consumed fresh as well as powder and paste. Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to enjoy freshly grated roots will appreciate these special properties. The picture below shows how the paste is still traditionally made in Japan today: there is rough shark skin on a wooden board and the required portion is always freshly grated.

 

Traditional production

Especially when enjoying Shushi, something would be missing without wasabi, soy sauce and pickled, spicy ginger. However, outside of Japan, fresh roots or wasabi freshly grated from the roots at the table in a sushi restaurant is hardly available. That is why it is offered as a paste in a tube or as a powder, which is mixed with water to form a paste. But here, too, there are strong qualitative differences, as we will make clear in the next section.

Real wasabi with sushi

Wasabi is not the same real wasabi

It is not only called "green horseradish", the vast majority of the pastes and powders sold outside of Japan actually consist of the (much cheaper) white horseradish, which is trimmed to green with artificial coloring. The yellow tartrazine (E 102) and brilliant blue FCF (E 133) are mostly used here, which - as you learned in physics lessons - then together result in green. And since other characteristics known from mustard are missing in the aroma, mustard or mustard extract is often added - and the "artificial wasabi" is ready.

Strangely enough, Japan can no longer meet its own needs itself and imports huge quantities from Taiwan, China and even the USA. Conversely, most of the Japanese imitations are exported and are therefore sometimes called "West Wasabi". Real gourmets know the difference, of course.

If authenticity is important, it is therefore worthwhile to read or inquire about the ingredients carefully before buying. Let's take a look at two such "wasabi" products:

Not a real powder: the green alga Spirulina colors the product

Not a real wasabi: horseradish is the main ingredient

The imitations can also be recognized by the low price of just a few euros per pack. Real wasabi is a rarity and it has its price.

Even if some of these artifacts don't even taste bad, they remain imitations, just as you can't imitate apples or pears. In addition, the health benefits that exist with real wasabi are missing.

Real wasabi powder

Real wasabi is not only spicy, but also a taste sensation. The spiciness is more pronounced but evaporates faster than with horseradish and the aroma has a slightly sweet, typical note.

And there are growers who prove that it can be produced without any additives. It's not as cheap as the imitations, but still affordable.

We have such a specialist for him Pepperworld Hot Shop tracked down in the United States. "Real Wasabi" not only imports the root stocks from other countries such as B. China, but has been successfully growing in South Carolina for a few years now. The results can be seen (and tasted).

A high-quality powder is produced from the roots through careful processing - 100% wasabi, without any additives.

You can go directly to the shop item here!

Real wasabi powder

The powder tastes weak and not very hot when dry. You have to stir it with about the same amount of water about 10-15 minutes before use and then let it stand, so that a thick paste is formed, in which the sharpness and aroma develop through the connection with the water (the same applies to the rest of the time for ground mustard - dry it is neither hot nor spicy).

Ground real wasabi is the next best thing to grated fresh root - hardly available outside of Japan.

Real fresh wasabi

As already mentioned, fresh wasabi is a real rarity in Europe. But if you have been able to test the aroma of the fresh, you would not want to do without it. The same thing happened to us Pepperweltlers, which is why we started looking for a trustworthy and reliable cultivation partner. With “The Wasabi Company” we found what we were looking for.

It is grown in the UK according to Japanese tradition and shipped directly to us by express air freight.

You can go directly to the shop item here!

Real fresh wasabi

Tips and more on how to use it

Two methods have proven effective for storage. You can either place the roots in a glass filled with water up to the approach and store them in the refrigerator (see picture below). The water should be changed regularly. Or you can wrap it in a damp cloth, for example a muslin cloth (which you can get from us directly). Here, too, regular changes and refrigerator temperature apply.

For storage in the refrigerator

This is what a wasabi rhizome looks like freshly cut:

In the bleed

Various accessories are generally recommended for use. For example, a special grater should be used to fully develop the aroma. A bamboo brush, with which you can wipe off wasabi residues and clean the grater, should not be missing. You can also get both articles from us atPepperworld Hot Shop!

You can go directly to the shop item here!

Stainless steel wasabi grater

You can go directly to the shop item here!

Wasabi brush made from bamboo

 

The wasabi can be rubbed well on the grater in circular movements. A lot of paste is created quickly. The grater has also proven itself for ginger roots. After rubbing the fresh wasabi, the full taste unfolds after about 60 seconds. Less severe than the horseradish-based imitations, but very aromatic.

And it keeps growing! If the root stays in the refrigerator for a long time, the plant can even continue to live and grow. Caution, daily water change provided, otherwise it will be cloudy and will quickly start to smell bad. After about 2 weeks the wasabi looked like the picture below. So she got a place at the kitchen window and lo and behold! Leaves sprouted and after a further 8 days even flowers appeared.

Wasabi plant with small flowers

Small flowers of the plant

Unfortunately, due to the lack of a cool environment, the remains of the plants died. Planting out was not possible due to the season. But at least the campaign gave us an insight into the appearance of the plant. Above you can see a size comparison of the pretty, delicate flowers with four petals, as found in cabbage, horseradish and other members of the cruciferous family.

Real wasabi plant in the garden?

We and one or two Pepperworld readers have also gained initial experience with plants for the home garden.

Click here for the plant contribution!

For the wasabi supply in the kitchen, we are happy that you can buy wasabi powder and fresh wasabi from us in the Pepperworld Hot Shop.

More tips on how to use wasabi powder

  • Like all spices, wasabi powder should be stored in a dry, cool place protected from light. Since the mustard oils in Wasabi are sensitive to oxidation, the container should be closed again immediately after removing the required amount.
  • In order to preserve the volatile components, it is best not to heat wasabi paste.
  • Like a high-quality wine, Wasabi needs some time to “breathe” in order to develop its aroma - but not too long, because the compounds released after the powder has been mixed with water evaporate after a while in the air.
  • Timing is therefore important: the optimal time to mix the wasabi paste is about ten minutes before use.The “peak” is reached after about 20-30 minutes, after which the aroma and sharpness slowly decrease again. "Reviving" is possible by stirring up the paste.
  • In addition to being used as an accompaniment to sushi and fish, the wasabi powder can also be used with other ingredients, e.g. B. in sauces and dressings, for example in Italian or ranch dressing or in vinaigrettes - it is also best to first stir the powder into a paste. The rule of thumb for dressings is about 10% (volume) of wasabi paste.
  • The American TV star chef Emeril Lagasse gave the tip to refine potato puree with wasabi, so it tastes great with grilled or roasted salmon or tuna (see also recipes).

 

Delicious wasabi recipes