How to Buy and Use Wasabi
Wasabi is sometimes known as Japanese horseradish, an apt description, since its flavor is so reminiscent of the horseradish we know. The word wasabi is translated from the Japanese as “mountain hollyhock,” and it is from the ground, dried root of this plant that the hot spice is derived. Its fresh, pungent taste has made it a traditional condiment to serve alongside sushi and other Japanese dishes.
You will most often find wasabi sold in powdered form, either in jars, tins, or cellophane packets. Individually wrapped packets, which contain 1 to 2 tablespoons of the potent powder, will keep indefinitely stored in a cool, dry place. A small jar of the powder will keep for several months or longer once it has been opened. A little wasabi goes a long way, so buying it in small amounts may be wise.
Traditionally esteemed as an appetite stimulant, wasabi has also been said to aid digestion. In ancient Japan it was used for its powerful antiseptic qualities, and today, it is known to have high vitamin-C content.
Reconstitute wasabi by blending it with enough water to form a firm paste, with a consistency similar to miso or nut butter. Let the paste stand for 10 minutes or so before using to allow its flavor to develop. If you’ve ever seen wasabi paste served in a Japanese restaurant, you’ll note that only about a teaspoon is given with any serving.
Apart from its use as a condiment with sushi and wasabi is sometimes rolled into sushi as one of its elements. A dab of wasabi paste can be equally interesting served alongside sea vegetables or root vegetables. A little of its pungent flavor can also add a delightful bite to dressings.