All About Asian Food

Would the Real Wasabi Please Stand Up?

wasabi paste.jpgIf you're a sushi fan, chances are you're in love with that notorious neon-green paste known as Wasabi. Half the fun of going out for sushi is watching friends' reactions when they try this popular Asian condiment for the first time. "It's Wasabi," you exclaim to the sashami neophytes at the table. You convince them to try it and laugh as they experience the sinus-clearing wonder of Wasabi.

We hate to disappoint you but that fiery putty most likely wasn't the real Wasabi. All this time, you've been flavoring your fish with a combination of horseradish, spicy mustard, and food coloring. Yes, you were duped by Wasabi's evil doppelganger, Japanese horseradish. Once you understand the origin of authentic Wasabi, you'll see why the server brought an impostor to your table.

Wasabi Japonica is generally sold in the form of a root and it quickly loses flavor if it's exposed to air. This is thewasabi root.jpg main reason that the tuber is not typically sold in a tube. It costs about $10 for one little root, so a quick look at the price tag will tell you if it's real Wasabi or not. But why is authentic Wasabi so expensive?

This cute root has a list of demands that rival an A-list celebrities'. It requires a cool, damp climate and although it can grow in the ground, it prefers a luxurious gravel bed. Clean water is a must and the temperature must be mild, not the least bit hot for Wasabi's survival. Wasabi grows successfully in few areas, namely Japan and the Pacific Northwest.

wasabi peas.jpgThe flavor of Wasabi Japonica is revered throughout Japan and the rest of the world. If the real stuff shows up at your table the next time you're at a sushi bar, consider yourself lucky. If not, perhaps you could find true Wasabi at your local Asian food mart and experiment with some new cooking techniques. Or get your fix with these addictive Wasabi Peas. Be warned: this is one condiment that will make you cry! To search for Wasabi-flavored products shop


RobertMadewell said:

Where can I buy seeds? I live in the Ozarks, which has a mild climate, but cool in autumn and early spring. I'd like to try planting wasabi to see how it fares here.

Asian Food Grocer said:

I'm not sure where to exactly buy wasabi seeds. Looking online briefly, I found a company in New Zealand and one in Seattle that may be able to sell you seeds, or at the least give you more information. These companies do, however, sell wasabi plants at 3 for $7.50. I also read that the Japanese government sells seeds for $1.00 a piece!!, but I couldn't find who their buyers are. Good luck!

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Wayne said:

Interesting article. My wife says I should have been born in Japan, I can eat sushi for every meal, and have at times. I'm very lucky to have a sushi chef, born in Japan, as a long time friend. We are the "American grandparents" for his children. Meals at his home are always a delight to the senses. We now have a second home on the Oregon Coast, with the climate there I think I could probably grow the plant, there are several streams that run around the property, and it is always cool and damp. Might be worth the effort.

Carl Nelson said:

When I lived in Japan we used to get wasabi in a powered form. We mixed it with water or vinegar,i can't remember which, in a shot glass and turned the glass upside down on the counter top for a period of time. Was that the real thing or the mixture you describe?

A wasabi story. We had a man that just reported from the States and he thought it was Guacamole and before anyone could stop he had gotten a pretty good amount on a potato chip and ate it. It not only cleared his sinuses but it was a while before he could breath.

KKay said:

Is there a brand of wasabi you recommend?

dandysmom said:

I'm confused. You say wasabi is confused with Japanese horseradish; all the references I've seen say wasabi is Japanese horseradish. I thought the fake stuff was regular horseradish, mustard and green coloring.
Also, is the stuff in a tube as fiery as what I make with powder and water? Doesn't it lose its bite like that;I always make mine fresh each time with the powder and water.
There are lots of non traditional uses for wasabi: I like to make some as a dip for shiu mai and spring rolls; also on a ham sandwich instead of mustard, or a little on a tuna sandwich.

A real and fresh raw wasabi is often called hon-wasabi (true wasabi) specifically to differentiate from other fakes. Once grated, it presents an excellent mild flavour and the taste is not comparable to a commercial tubed paste, or ones that are made from powdered('kona') wasabi, those are prepared just from only (100%) dried and powdered (European) horseradish, called "seiyo'o - wasabi." Seiyo'o - wasabi is FAR different from the Japanese green and fresh horseradish, and they contain mustard and colorants as additives to presume the wasabi.


mutuelle said:

i never got a chance to taste Wasabi. but if i get an opportunity i will surely do it lol

asian food said:

I think every shop sells wasabi nowadays. Japanese dishes are popular.

Vi nam said:

Because of the difficulty to acquire true Wasabi (also known as Wasabi Japonica), the stuff that we eat in the U.S. is usually real horseradish mixed with green food coloring, mustard and soy sauce.

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