If you have eaten in a Japanese restaurant before, you must be familiar with a certain spicy green condiment, usually placed in between the fish and the rice. Wasabi has a refreshing smell that is unique and a taste that hits you in the nose. However, what is wasabi and why is sushi eaten with it so often?
Traditionally, wasabi was used as it made the fish taste better and it fought the threat of harmful bacteria away from the raw fish. Today, people still eat wasabi for this reason, although the flavour is designed to bring out the taste of the fish, not cover it. Too much wasabi might overpower the taste of the fish, so it is best used with balance in mind.
Wasabi is derived from the rhizome of the Japanese horseradish, a plant native from Japan. It is quite rare and expensive, its cultivation is quite difficult and requires a lot of time and effort. With the price up to $250 per kilogram, the Japanese wasabi is one of the most expensive vegetables in the world, and adding real grated wasabi to your plate could cost you an extra $3-5. Only a few Japanese traditional and/or high-end restaurants can serve you real wasabi, because of its rarity and price.
Because of this, most wasabi paste served in your everyday restaurants are fakes made with mixing European horseradish, mustard, and green food coloring. Some of them include the real grated wasabi, even in a smaller amount. Buying the imitation is perfectly fine because it is much more convenient and reasonably priced compared to the real thing, however it will still have a slightly different taste!
To eat it with sushi, the best strategy is to dip one side with soy sauce and place a pea-sized dab of wasabi on the other. And then, using your fingers or the chopstick, place the sushi in your mouth and enjoy the experience!
Here at Sakae Sushi, you can also try the delicious wasabi fries. It is available as an add-on with any onirigazu order. You can order it here.