Prepare to spice up your taste buds with the bold and zesty Japanese condiment - wasabi! This pungent and fiery ingredient has been a popular staple in Japanese cuisine for centuries, renowned for its unique flavor and heat. But wasabi isn't just a delicious addition to sushi and sashimi. In this article, we'll dive into the fascinating history of wasabi, explore its incredible health benefits, and share various ways to use and store it. Plus, we've got a bonus wasabi recipe that you won't want to miss!
What is wasabi?
Native to Japan, wasabi comes from the same plant family as horseradish and mustard. The Japanese believed that wasabi had antibacterial properties and could help prevent food poisoning, making it a popular ingredient for preserving raw fish. Additionally, wasabi was thought to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties and was used to treat various ailments such as asthma, arthritis, and toothaches.
Today, wasabi is primarily enjoyed as a flavorful and spicy condiment that adds a unique kick to sushi, sashimi, and other Japanese dishes. Check out our blog post What Is Wasabi to find out even more about this plant, and how to tell the difference between real and fake wasabi.
Health benefits of wasabi
Aside from its delicious taste, wasabi also has several health benefits. It contains isothiocyanates, which have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce inflammation in the body. Wasabi is also rich in antioxidants, which help protect the body against damage from free radicals. Additionally, it is low in calories and a good source of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, potassium, and calcium.
Did you know that, in 2011, a Japanese research team developed a wasabi smoke alarm to help people with limited or no hearing ability become aware of fires? The vapor when released in a room, woke most participants within ten seconds. Sounds like a fever dream, doesn’t it?
How to make wasabi paste from fresh wasabi
What ingredients do you need to make wasabi? While wasabi paste can be found pre-made in most grocery stores, making fresh wasabi paste at home is a fun and rewarding process. The first step is to purchase a fresh wasabi rhizome (stem) at large supermarkets, specialty food stores, or online.
It's important to note that wasabi loses its flavor and potency quickly, so it should be grated just before serving.
Next, you'll need a traditional Japanese grater called an oroshigane. While the traditional oroshigane are made with shark skin (which retail from around 3,000 to 5,000 yen, depending on the size), you can also find less expensive metal versions. If you don't have one, you can use a fine microplane grater or the smallest holes on a box grater. Be aware that using a traditional grater will produce a finer texture and stronger flavor.
- Fresh wasabi stem
- Grater (traditional shark skin or metal)
- Bowl of ice water
First, prepare the wasabi by trimming off the stem and any rough or damaged parts. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the thin outer layer of the skin.
Hold the grater at a slight angle and begin grating the wasabi in a circular motion. You can use the side of a chopstick or a small brush to help push the wasabi through the grater and prevent it from sticking.
As you grate, the wasabi will begin to release its signature heat and fragrance. Keep going until you have a small mound of grated wasabi.
To prevent the wasabi from oxidizing and losing its flavor, it's important to keep it cool. The traditional method is to place the grated wasabi on a small wooden board and cover it with a damp cloth. However, you can also put it in a small bowl and place it in a larger bowl of ice water. Now, you can enjoy your freshly grated homemade wasabi paste in a variety of ways.
Other ways to make wasabi:
Wasabi can be found in different forms for culinary use. Fresh wasabi (the stem of the plant) is the most expensive and traditional form. It can also be purchased in a dried powder form or as a ready-to-use paste packed in tubes. However, there are alternative ways to make wasabi paste using other ingredients.
The most common method is to mix grated horseradish with mustard powder, cornstarch, and green food coloring. This blend mimics the flavor and texture of real wasabi, but with a slightly different heat and aroma.
How to make wasabi from powder
Another method is to use wasabi powder, which is made by freeze-drying grated wasabi and grinding it into a fine powder. Its distinctive light lime hue and pungent taste and aroma are what sets it apart from other seasonings. Compared to fresh wasabi, the powder has the significant advantage of a longer shelf life. As long as it's kept in a cool, shaded area, it will maintain its taste and aroma. Then, it can be effortlessly turned into a paste and utilized as a cooking spice.
To make wasabi paste from powder, start by combining equal parts of wasabi powder and water in a bowl. Mix the two ingredients vigorously until you reach the desired consistency, which should be slightly dry and not too runny. Cover the bowl and let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes, to bring out its full flavor.
How to use wasabi
Wasabi is a versatile condiment that can be used in a variety of ways. The most common use of wasabi is as a condiment for sushi and sashimi, where it is typically mixed with soy sauce to create a dipping sauce. It can also add heat and flavor to other dishes, such as stir-fries, marinades, and dressings. Wasabi-lieve it or not, it's delicious!
In the winter, adding wasabi to hot pot dishes like nabe are a great way to warm up, and you can try this delectable dish as part of the Wasabi Kaiseki Meal in Shizuoka.
Wasabi mayo recipe
Here's a simple recipe using wasabi paste:
Wasabi Mayo Spread
- 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon of wasabi paste
- 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar
- Salt to taste
In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and wasabi paste until well combined. For additional flavor, you can also add other seasonings, such as garlic or ginger.
Season with salt to taste. Serve as a spread for sandwiches or as a dip for vegetables. It tastes amazing with roast beef!
Note: Adjust the amount of wasabi paste to your liking, depending on how spicy you prefer the spread. You can also add other seasonings, such as garlic or ginger, for additional flavor.
Vegan option: To make the vegan version of wasabi mayo, substitute the regular mayo for a soy or almond vegan mayo.
How to store wasabi
Fresh wasabi should be wrapped in paper towels and stored in the refrigerator for two to three weeks. Many different wasabi recipes are available, from sweet to savory, which would help utilize the entire stem. Wasabi paste can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Wasabi powder should be stored in a cool, dry place and used within six months of opening.
Buying high-quality wasabi
When purchasing wasabi, it's important to buy from a reputable source. Look for fresh wasabi if possible, or high-quality wasabi powder that is free from additives or fillers. When making other wasabi recipes, be mindful of potential additives affecting the taste and overall result. Consider purchasing in bulk to save money if you use wasabi frequently.
You can purchase true wasabi as part of the byFood Japanese Pantry Staples Box.
Wasabi is a flavorful and spicy condiment and has several health benefits. Making fresh wasabi paste at home is a labor of love, but it's also a rewarding way to experience the true flavor of this unique ingredient. With a little bit of patience and practice, you'll be able to create a condiment that's sure to impress your friends and family.