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| Wasabi (Wasabia japonica) |
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wasabi (Japanese: わさび, 山葵 (originally written 和佐比)) ; Wasabia japonica, Cochlearia wasabi, or Eutrema japonica) is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes mustard, horseradish and cabbages. Known as "Japanese horseradish", its root is used as a spice and has an extremely strong flavor. Its hotness is more akin to that of a hot mustard than the capsaicin in a chili pepper, producing vapors that irritate the nasal passages more than the tongue. The plant grows naturally along stream beds in mountain river valleys in Japan. There are also other species used, such as W. koreana, and W. tetsuigi. The two main cultivars in the marketplace are W. japonica var. Duruma and Mazuma, but there are many others.
Wasabi is generally sold either in the form of a root (real wasabi), which must be very finely grated before use, or as a ready-to-use paste (horseradish, mustard and food coloring), usually in tubes approximately the size and shape of travel toothpaste tubes. Once the paste is prepared it should remain covered until served to protect the flavor from evaporation. For this reason, sushi chefs usually put the wasabi between the fish and the rice.
Fresh leaves of wasabi can also be eaten and have some of the hot flavor of wasabi roots. They can be eaten as wasabi salad by pickling overnight with a salt and vinegar based dressing, or by quickly boiling them with a little soy sauce. Additionally, the leaves can be battered and deep-fried into chips.
For those who mistakenly consume too much of this condiment, the burning sensations it can induce are short-lived compared to the effects of chili peppers, especially when water is used to remove the spicy flavor.