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Wasabi, mustard and sushi

(Fresh wasabi root from Half Moon Bay Wasabi Company)

As some of you know, the majority of the wasabi served at US restaurants is the powdered kind, which contains yellow mustard, the source of its spiciness.

While fresh wasabi tastes and smells completely different, you may be surprised to find out that mustard is actually a good alternative to wasabi.

During the Edo period (some 250 years ago), mustard was a common condiment for Katsuo (Bonito, Skipjack Tuna) instead of wasabi because wasabi was not always available. For Katsuo, a standard condiment is ground garlic or ginger instead of wasabi. In a famous Japanese food manga, “Oishinbo,” there is a scene where Katsuo is eaten with Mayonnaise.

Some Japanese food bloggers have experimented with mustard as a substitute for wasabi in Sashimi and Sushi. Many recommend mustard with soy-marinated Tai (Red Bream/Snapper.) Most of them point out that mustard tastes good with some fish, but not all fish pair well with mustard. Almost all the food bloggers agree that whitefish tends to go well with mustard.

The food bloggers' experiment is based on Shimazushi, "Island Sushi," a recipe from Hachijo-Jima, an island located 287km (178 miles) south of Tokyo. The islanders substituted wasabi with mustard because wasabi was unavailable on Hachijo-Jima.

So, if you cannot get fresh wasabi, mustard is a good alternative for sashimi and sushi, especially for white fish.

Now, if you'd like to taste fresh wasabi, consider trying Fresh Wasabi from the Half Moon Bay Wasabi Company.

If you haven't tried it, freshly ground wasabi is unlike anything else. It has a distinctive, pleasant aroma that lingers in your mouth (or more like your nose), with a short burst of heat, followed by a long-lasting sweet aftertaste. This is something you cannot experience with fresh horseradish.

Fresh wasabi contains about ten different aroma compounds. 6-methylthiohexyl isothiocyanate is what gives wasabi its distinctive green, leafy aroma.

Make sure to use this wasabi grater, preferably one made using sharkskin. Why sharkskin? Because it produces the best flavor and aroma from fresh wasabi.

(Chojiro wasabi grater)

Can you use wasabi for dishes other than sushi? Yes, you can. Here are some recipes:

Of course, if you'd like to try fresh wasabi at your next sushi catering event, email us, and we'll bring the fresh wasabi with us.

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