What is green and spicy and can always be found alongside sushi and fresh ginger? Wasabi, of course. The seasoning of choice in multiple Japanese sauces and dressing. Did you ever wonder what wasabi really is? True wasabi is different than the spicy green paste we have all become accustomed to. Real wasabi comes from the root-like stem of the Wasabia Japonica plant and is a cousin to horseradish and mustard plants. These plants all share a sharp taste and smell that comes from a common compound called allyl isothiocyanate. Real wasabi root is consumed shaved or grated and is known for its spiciness, not heat. The root itself loses flavor quickly once cut and is both very expensive and hard to find in the U.S. The commercially produced wasabi that is typically served in restaurants and available in grocery stores is a mixture of several ingredients, including horseradish, mustard, and food coloring. Check the label for ingredients as some pastes and powders may include a small amount of real wasabi. The condiment, both spicy and hot, can instantly clear out nasal passages if you aren’t careful. With that said, a word of advice: enjoy wasabi, but do so in moderation.
Go green with wasabi – all year long. Wasabi isn’t just for sushi!
- Add wasabi to soy sauce for dipping or make a marinade for fish, chicken, or meat. Try our Sesame Tuna Steak recipe!
- Make a vinaigrette: mix 2 Tablespoons each of soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar with 1 Tablespoon of toasted sesame oil, 2 garlic cloves and 1 1/2 teaspoons of wasabi paste. Makes ½ C dressing.
- Mix wasabi to taste with mayo or mustard to spice up a sandwich or a wrap.
- Try adding wasabi to a grilled cheese sandwich for extra heat.
- Kick up a pasta sauce with a bit of wasabi. Or try Japanese soba noodles that are simply served with a wasabi dipping sauce.
- Add wasabi to soups and stews to up the heat in a rich, hearty dish.
- Since wasabi paste is horseradish-based, it a great add-in to cocktail sauce. Or, mix a small teaspoon of wasabi paste into ketchup with a add a dash of soy sauce for a flavorful spin.
- Make a spicy almond snack:
- Mix 1.5 Tablespoons of soy sauce with 1 teaspoon of wasabi powder.
- Stir 2 cups of almonds into the mixture.
- Spread almonds out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 280` for 20 minutes, turning the almonds after 10 minutes.
- Once the almonds have cooled completely, toss through another 1-2 teaspoons of wasabi powder for an extra zing.
The wasabi we all know and love has a number of uses that make it a versatile addition to any number of recipes. Buy wasabi paste in a tube and store in the refrigerator once opened. Or, purchase a powder that can easily be made into a paste with a bit of water. The dry powder can also be used to mix into breadcrumbs or sprinkled into seasonings. Either way, wasabi is obviously a great compliment to sushi, sashimi, and other Japanese dishes like soba noodles, but it’s also worth trying in other dishes, sauces, and condiments!