What Is Wasabi Made of? What You Need to Know

You’ve probably tasted wasabi if you’ve ever eaten at a sushi restaurant.

But what is wasabi made of? Real wasabi is made from the root of the Wasabia japonica plant, also called Japanese horseradish. In comparison, fake wasabi is made of horseradish, mustard, cornstarch, and green colorant.

And why does it have that distinctive flavor? In this blog post, we will answer all of your questions about this Japanese mustard!

What is Wasabi?

grated wasabi
Real wasabi paste. Credit: canva

Wasabi is a type of horseradish that is commonly used as a condiment in Japanese cuisine.

You can find them at most Japanese restaurants. And they are specially served with sushi or other Japanese dishes.

The green paste has a strong, pungent flavor that is often described as “spicy” or “hot.” However, unlike chili peppers, the heat from Japanese wasabi does not linger on your tongue.

What is Wasabi Made of?

wasabi root
Wasabi root stem. Credit: canva

What is real wasabi made of?

The answer is simple. Real wasabi, or true wasabi, is made from the root of the Wasabia japonica plant, also called Japanese horseradish, a plant of the mustard family (Brassicaceae).

This plant grows naturally in mountain streams in Japan and cultivated on a wasabi farm for centuries. Its cultivation is limited because of its specific growing requirements.

The fresh wasabi root is harvested and then grated into a paste. This real wasabi paste can be used fresh, or it can be dried and powdered.

The wasabi powder is then mixed with water to create the familiar green condiment that we know and love.

What is fake wasabi made of?

Most wasabi paste is fake! Fake wasabi is made of horseradish, mustard, cornstarch, and green food coloring.

Sometimes, mustard is added to the mixture, and very occasionally, a tiny amount of real grated wasabi or dried wasabi powder.

It has a similar flavor to real wasabi, but it lacks the characteristic pungency and “heat.”

So, if you’ve ever eaten sushi and thought the wasabi was bland or tasteless, chances are you were eating fake wasabi!

How can you tell if wasabi is real?

When the wasabi becomes pasty and thick, it’s a sure sign that it’s manufactured from horseradish (pureed to give a completely smooth texture).

If the texture is gritty (from freshly grated by a ceramic grater), it’s more likely to be genuine wasabi from a fresh wasabi rhizome or plant stem.

Additionally, real wasabi paste will lose its flavor quickly when exposed to air, so it is probably fake if the paste you are using does not have a strong flavor.

Move on if the ingredients list has anything other than wasabi or Wasabia japonica.

What Does Wasabi Taste Like?

grating wasabi
Grating wasabi root. Credit: canva

Why is wasabi so spicy?

The heat in wasabi comes from the compound allyl isothiocyanate, also found in mustard and horseradish.

When you eat wasabi, this compound binds to the receptors in your nose responsible for detecting spicy flavors. This triggers a reaction in your brain that makes you feel like you are “breathing fire!”

The flavor of wasabi is also described as being sharp, pungent, and earthy. Some people say it has a slightly sweet taste, while others find it bitter.

Regardless of its exact flavor, there’s no doubt that wasabi packs a powerful punch!

Is wasabi bitter or spicy?

The answer is both! The heat from the allyl isothiocyanate compound in wasabi can be intense, but it dissipates quickly.

Some people also taste a slight bitterness in wasabi, which comes from the glucosinolates present in the plant’s roots.

Does real wasabi taste like horseradish?

No, real wasabi does not taste like horseradish. As we mentioned earlier, horseradish is one of the ingredients in fake wasabi.

While horseradish and wasabi share a similar pungent flavor, they are not identical. The European horseradish is hotter and fierier, while the authentic wasabi has a sharper, more complex flavor.

Is Wasabi Good for Health?

Benefits of wasabi

Wasabi is a good source of fiber, calcium, and potassium. It also contains vitamins C and E, as well as beta-carotene.

Some studies have shown that wasabi has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Additionally, the compounds in wasabi may help to boost immunity and protect against certain types of cancerous cells.

So, not only does wasabi add flavor to your food, but it may also be good for your health!

What happens if you eat a spoonful of wasabi?

Be prepared for an intense burning sensation if you’re brave enough to eat a spoonful of wasabi!

The heat from wasabi can be overwhelming, so it’s best to start with a small amount and gradually increase the amount you eat.

Overeating wasabi at once can cause watering eyes, runny nose, and even temporary blindness. So, proceed with caution!

What does wasabi do to your brain?

When you eat wasabi, the allyl isothiocyanate compound binds to the receptors in your nose that are responsible for detecting spicy flavors.

This triggers a reaction in your brain, which response by causing the body to variously sting, burn, itch, cough, choke, or drip tears. And that makes you feel like you are “breathing fire!”

The heat from wasabi can be intense, but it dissipates quickly.

Can wasabi help you lose weight?

Some people say that wasabi can help you lose weight, but there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

While wasabi does contain compounds that may have some health benefits, there is no evidence that it can help you lose weight.

So, if you’re looking to shed some pounds, you’ll need to find a different method!

Wasabi and Sushi

wasabi paste sushi
Wasabi paste and sushi. Credit: canva

Why is wasabi used in sushi?

Wasabi is used in sushi because it pairs well with the flavor of raw fish. The sharp, pungent flavor of wasabi helps offset the fishy taste of sushi.

Additionally, wasabi has antibacterial properties. The heat from wasabi can help to kill any bacteria that may be present in the raw fish.

Specifically, “6-methyl sulfinyl hexyl isothiocyanate” has been identified in wasabi as an anti-microbial agent effective against bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

For these reasons, wasabi is an essential ingredient in sushi!

How much wasabi should you use?

The amount of wasabi you use is up to you!

Some people like to add a lot of wasabi to their sushi, while others prefer just a tiny amount. It all depends on your personal preference.

If you’re unsure how much wasabi to use, start with a small amount and gradually add more until you find the perfect balance for your taste buds!

How do you eat wasabi with sushi?

Traditionally, sushi is eaten with your hands.

First, take the sushi rolls in your hand and dip them into soy sauce. Then, add a small amount of wasabi to the soy sauce and mix it.

Finally, eat the sushi! The wasabi will be outside the sushi, so you can control how much you eat.

Of course, you can also use chopsticks to eat your sushi. If you do, be sure to dip the sushi in soy sauce before adding wasabi.

How to Use Wasabi

Now that we know all about wasabi let’s talk about how to use it!

Wasabi can be used in various ways, both as a condiment and as an ingredient in Japanese food recipes.

Here are some ideas:

  • Serve wasabi paste with soy sauce as an accompaniment for sushi and sashimi.
  • Add wasabi to soy sauce to create a spicy dipping sauce for tempura.
  • Make a wasabi mayonnaise by mixing wasabi paste with store-bought or homemade mayonnaise.
  • Use it as a sandwich spread or add it to deviled eggs.
  • Stir wasabi paste into miso soup or use it as a topping for soba noodles.
  • Make a spicy wasabi vinaigrette by mixing wasabi paste with rice vinegar, vegetable oil, honey, and soy sauce.
  • Use it to spice up grilled meats or vegetables.
  • Add wasabi to a Bloody Mary or other savory cocktails.

We hope you enjoyed learning all about wasabi! Now go out and enjoy this delicious condiment in all its forms!

 FAQs

Is wasabi horseradish?

According to a new video from the American Chemical Society, the vast majority of wasabi consumed in the United States is simply a combination of horseradish, hot mustard, and green food colorant.

In reality, about 99% of all wasabi sold in the US is fake, according to The Washington Post.

Which is hotter, wasabi or horseradish?

Horseradish is hotter than wasabi, but the heat from horseradish dissipates quickly. The fresh wasabi paste has a more prolonged heat that can be intense, but it also dissipates quickly.

Can you grow wasabi in America?

Yes, you can grow wasabi in America. The plant grows best in shady, moist conditions with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

While wasabi plants are native to Japan, they can also be found in North America, Europe, and Australia.

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