Wasabi is a popular condiment used amongst lovers of Japanese cuisine.
It is a crucial component of sushi and sashimi platters and adds a unique flavor to other Japanese dishes as well.
Most people know wasabi in the form of a green paste served on the side of sushi and sashimi.
But the majority of what we eat is not real wasabi.
The green paste we’re familiar with is usually a mixture of horseradish, mustard, and food coloring.
True wasabi belongs to the Brassicaceae family.
And it grows in mountain streams in Japan.
But what sets wasabi apart from the horseradish and mustard mix?
Most of us have never tasted real wasabi, so we may not even get the point of comparison.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the flavor, growing conditions, and other facts about genuine wasabi.
Real wasabi has a mild sweetness with a faint kick of heat. It packs a punch but doesn’t linger for too long. It has complex flavors that are both earthy and herbal with some vegetal and floral notes.
What is Real Wasabi?
Real wasabi is a rhizomatous plant that grows in mountainous areas of Japan.
It is native to regions like Hokkaido, Shizuoka, and Izu.
The botanical name of real wasabi is Wasabia Japonica.
The plant belongs to the Brassicaceae family.
Real wasabi is a perennial plant that thrives in colder regions with moderate rainfall.
It is grown in soil that is rich in organic matter and has a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5.
To grow real wasabi, you need to keep a few things in mind.
The ideal growing conditions include an elevation range of 750 to 1250 meters.
The plants need partial shade to prevent the leaves from wilting.
They also require a constant supply of clean water to grow well.
Water quality is essential for the wasabi plant to thrive.
It should be clean and free from pollutants.
The wasabi plant has distinct features that make it unique from other members of the Brassicaceae family.
It has broad leaves that grow directly from the underground stem.
Wasabi has a front-facing petiole and an upright leaf positioning, which sets it apart from horseradish.
Real wasabi also has a short and thick stem that divides the leaves, which is where the wasabi stems are harvested.
The stems are then grated to make the wasabi paste that we all know and love.
What Does Real Wasabi Taste Like?
Real wasabi has a unique and complex flavor profile.
It packs a punch, but it doesn’t linger for too long.
The taste has a mild sweetness and a faint kick of heat that is more muted than horseradish.
The flavor starts with an earthy and herbal taste that is unique to real wasabi.
This is followed by some vegetal and floral notes that add depth to the flavor.
The aftertaste is slightly spicy, but it fades away quickly.
The heat of real wasabi is not as sharp as horseradish.
It is gentler and less abrasive, making it more pleasant to eat in larger portions.
It’s worth noting that the spiciness of real wasabi also depends on its age.
As wasabi ages, the spiciness becomes more pronounced.
The hardest part of finding real wasabi is that most of what we eat is not real wasabi.
If you’re in the United States and are eating wasabi with your sushi, chances are you’re eating a mixture of horseradish, mustard, and green food coloring.
How to Enjoy Real Wasabi?
Real wasabi is a premium product that is not easily accessible outside of Japan.
But if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on fresh or frozen real wasabi, there are several ways to enjoy its flavor.
- Fresh Wasabi Paste – If you have fresh wasabi root, then grate it to get a consistent and smooth paste. You can mix it with soy sauce or create a dipping sauce with mayonnaise. This allows you to get the full flavor of the wasabi.
- Wasabi Leaves – Wasabi leaves can be used in the same way as spinach or any other green leafy vegetable. You can chop the leaves and add them to salads or use them as a garnish. They have an earthy taste that goes well with the mild sweetness of the wasabi.
- Wasabi Salt – You can create wasabi salt by mixing salt with wasabi powder. This makes a great seasoning for vegetables, meats, and snacks.
- Wasabi Cheese – You can add wasabi to cheese recipes to create a unique flavor profile. It works especially well with cream cheese, Boursin, and Goat cheese.
It’s essential to remember that real wasabi has a delicate flavor.
So it’s best to enjoy it in small amounts to savor its unique taste fully.
Real wasabi is a rare product that is difficult to find.
But if you do get a chance to taste it, savor it.
Its delicate, complex flavor is truly unique, and there is nothing quite like it.
Compared to the horseradish mix, real wasabi has a mild sweetness with some vegetal and floral notes.
So if you’re wondering what real wasabi tastes like, it’s worth trying it out for yourself.
Jenny has always been passionate about cooking, and she uses her platform to share her joy of food with others. Her recipes are easy to follow, and she loves giving tips and tricks to help others create their own unique culinary creations.