100 Surprising Facts About Sushi - #11. It's NOT Wasabi You Are Eating
Do you know what wasabi is? Have you ever tasted real wasabi? Did you know it's likely that what you think wasabi is not really wasabi? Wasabi is a root vegetable. In English, it is called "horseradish" and is different from the horseradish you put on your roast beef. Wasabi is commonly called Japanese Horseradish and is different from horseradish spices. What is typically served at sushi bars in the US is a combination of (western) horseradish, mustard, and green food coloring, containing no real wasabi. There are, however, some that contain real wasabi or wasabi powder made from 100% wasabi. It is the mustard that gives strong burning "hot" sensation in your mouth and clears your sinus. Cultivating wasabi is very difficult, requiring clear and pure spring water, temperate, and controlled sun exposure. Nagano and Shizuoka are the two main regions of Japan that produce wasabi. Here are some great photos of the wasabi farm in Japan. There are several farmers and companies who sell fresh wasabi in the US including Real Wasabi in Oregon and ChefShop.com. Wasabi is recognized as one of the strongest antibacterial edible plants against salmonella and E. coil. A recent study shows that wasabi does:
Have Antioxidant benefits
Improve blood circulation
Suppresses hay fever allergy symptoms
Control the spread of cancer cells
Stimulate a healthy appetite.
Eliminate “fishy” smell from sashimi.
Unlike the powdered horseradish counterpart, the real wasabi is mild. The real wasabi has a sweet flavor with a hint of hotness and is full of a pleasant soothing aroma. If you love sushi and have yet to taste the fresh wasabi, I strongly encourage you to try it. You can order through Real wasabi.com, or go visit your local Japanese market to see if they have them. In San Francisco Bay Area, Nijiya Market in Japan town carries them as well as Tokyo Fish Market I'm Berkeley. Wasabi I think is a real delicacy similar to truffle - to enjoy its aroma. Wasabi roll (hand or cut) is a popular item in Japanese sushi restaurants. A palette cleanser that is a pure delight to have that fresh aroma spreading inside of your mouth.