Wasabi is among the most used ingredients in Japanese cuisine. This is a spicy green paste made with a strong variety of Japanese horseradish. Its flavor is very particular and cannot be combined with typical ingredients of Western cuisine. But let's find out more about wasabi: how to make it and how to use it, to best use it as a condiment or as a basic ingredient for the preparation of sauces and creams.
Wasabi: how it is obtained and what is its flavor
Wasabi comes in the form of a bright green paste that, in Japanese restaurants, is usually served in a separate bowl. It is obtained from the root of Wasabia japonica, also known as Japanese radish or wasabi. Describing its flavor is not easy; saying that it is a spicy ingredient does not fully convey the idea. Unlike chilli, for example, it expresses its spiciness especially in the upper part of the palate, often stimulating tearing. For this reason it is advisable to taste a very small quantity the first time you try it, so as to understand how far we can handle its flavor. You can then dip your sushi or sashimi in wasabi.
How to make wasabi with fresh root or powder
Wasabi is generally prepared from the fresh root, but it can also be made from powder. Buy a fresh root from an Asian food store, remove the leaves, wash it and let it dry in the open air. Grate it with a small steel grater; traditionally a grater made with a wooden board with the handle covered with ray skin is used. Once you have grated the desired amount, form a small ball, let it rest for about 10 minutes and serve. Remember to wash your hands immediately after touching this root, and avoid contact with the eyes. If you have trouble finding the original ingredient, you can use European horseradish and add a spice mix.
Alternatively, you can also use pure wasabi powder, always available in specialized stores. Mix the powder and water in equal parts and stir until the mixture is homogeneous.
How to use wasabi and what dishes it can accompany
Wasabi is usually used as an accompaniment to typical dishes of oriental cuisine, such as sushi, sashimi and tempura. A combination that is also born thanks to the antibacterial properties of wasabi, essential when consuming raw fish. Wasabi is also able to reduce the smell of fish and prevent poisoning. The fresh wasabi root can be added fresh, even directly on dishes; for example in sushi, between rice and fish, as in the preparation of Hosomaki, the typical sushi rolls or Nigiri, small rice balls with wasabi and raw fish. The wasabi sauce can be also dissolved in soy sauce to accompany the sashimi.
How to store wasabi
Homemade wasabi paste can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days in an airtight container. However, the advice is to consume it immediately to prevent it from losing flavor. The wasabi root, in fact, reaches its maximum taste 10 minutes after you have grated it. After that it will have a more delicate taste. It will therefore be necessary to adjust with the times to serve it in the way you prefer.