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I don’t consider my sushi dishes to be complete when they don’t have wasabi. Its strong flavor gives my sushi dishes a real zing. Recently, I was surprised to learn that whatever I have been using in my dishes wasn’t real wasabi but are plica of the same. This got me curious and searched on how to make real wasabi.
So, how do you make real wasabi at home? Real wasabi is made by the grating fresh subterranean stem (rhizome) of wasabi plant. This will give you a green paste sticky enough roll into a ball. Wasabi plant is the only solution to making real wasabi.
You may have seen somewhere that you can also make real wasabi by reconstituting wasabi powder made from dried wasabi plant with water. Well, that may be misleading because whatever you will get will not be real wasabi. It will not have all the qualities of real wasabi.
What is Real Wasabi?
Wasabi is the green sticky stuff you get served with your sushi dish. You may have been taking sushi all your life, but you will be shocked to learn that you may have never taken real wasabi not even once.
Real wasabi is made by grating wasabi plant only native to Japan. Any other paste or powder that claims to be real wasabi is most likely fake. However, some wasabi powders are made from dried wasabi plants and can be used to make something close to real wasabi. They may not have all the qualities of real wasabi, but they are better off compared to the fake ones.
Fake wasabi is a mixture of horseradish, mustard, and food coloring. If you are lucky, you may find one with a little bit of real wasabi in the mixture. Most of them will be labeled authentic wasabi to confuse customers.
Importance of Wasabi
Most people will add wasabi in their sushi dishes because of the flavor it gives. However, that is not the only purpose it serves. Real wasabi produces a strong aroma that minimizes the smell of fish. Raw fish doesn’t have an appealing smell and can make you hate your sushi dish. Wasabi’s aroma makes your sushi taste great.
Wasabi also has antibacterial properties. It will disinfect raw fish hence reducing the risks related to eating uncooked fish. Generally, wasabi makes your sushi taste better and safer for consumption.
Related Article: How Much Does A Wasabi Root Weigh?
Difference between real and fake wasabi
If you have never taken real wasabi, you may not note the difference between a real and a fake one. However, fake wasabi lacks the subtle herbal notes of real wasabi. If you are keen on the taste, you may note their differences.
The taste of fake wasabi is very strong and will override the delicate taste of the fish to give you a strong spicy taste. Real wasabi, on the other hand, is more of an aroma of spiciness instead of having a strong spicy taste.
Real wasabi has a more herbal taste compared to the fake one. It has a smoother and cleaner taste when compared to one made out of horseradish and other mixtures. Fake wasabi has a harsh taste and one that is not fresh.
Real wasabi has compounds that are highly volatile and will break down within minutes of a grating. This makes it have a short shelf life. It tastes best when fresh. Fake wasabi, on the other hand, has a long expiration date.
Growing wasabi plant for making real wasabi is not easy. It requires a lot of water and will take time to be ready for grating. The low supply and increased demand for wasabi plant make it very expensive.
Fake wasabi, on the other hand, can be made from a mixture of horseradish, mustard, and food coloring which are readily available. This makes it relatively low priced compared to the real wasabi.
Well, based on these differences, I bet you may have never tasted real wasabi in your life. Finding real wasabi is not easy. Most if not all the wasabi you will find in your local grocery, restaurant or supermarket is made out of horseradish and artificial flavoring.
The stuff you buy may feel like real wasabi, but if you have used the real wasabi before, you will note the difference. So, now that you know you may have never come across real wasabi, how do you make one?
Preparing Real Wasabi
Making real wasabi is fun and fast. It doesn’t involve using complicated tools or following a difficult process.
- Fresh wasabi root
- Wasabi Grater
- Wash the wasabi plant and trim any bumps it may have.
- Then hold the plant from the leafy end and trim the root-end. This is meant to give you a fresh surface for grating.
- Grate your wasabi plant in a circular motion into a small pile and leave it for a minute or two for flavors to develop.
- It’s ready to serve with your sushi dish.
With such a simple process, you will have real wasabi that will flare up your sushi dish.
Precautions to Take and Added Tips
One thing you need to be careful about is to avoid leaving the wasabi you have prepared exposed for too long. If you leave it for more than 15-20 minutes exposed to air, it will lose some of its flavors.
You should, therefore, prepare it just before serving your sushi dish. You can cover it to preserve the flavor or gather the paste into a ball. That is why you will find wasabi being sandwiched between fish and rice in a sushi dish. It is meant to preserve the flavor.
Real Wasabi Substitute
As I said earlier, it is very hard to find wasabi plant to make real wasabi. So, does it mean you will never have a chance to enjoy a sushi dish with something close to wasabi? There is a substitute although it doesn’t have the exact properties of real wasabi.
I’m not talking about that stuff you have been using all along made of mustard, horseradish, and food coloring. I’m talking about wasabi powder made from the dried roots of wasabi. It may not live up to the performance of real wasabi made using fresh wasabi roots but its better compared to the fake ones.
However, you cannot buy this powder from any other dealer. Choose a trusted dealer, or else you end up with the same horseradish stuff you have been using. It has to be processed well to retain much of the original flavor of fresh wasabi root.
To know you have the right powder, check the following:
- Finely ground to ensure all the flavors will be released
- No smell and light green. A dark green powder signifies addition of artificial colors or flavoring
- Well sealed packaging to ensure flavor is not lost
To prepare your wasabi out of this powder, use cold water to mix it as per your preference. You should stick to cold water only to avoid affecting the taste and flavor of the paste you will be making.
Remember the compounds responsible for flavor in wasabi are highly volatile. When they are exposed to a warm environment, they will quickly evaporate. Cold water can reduce the amount of volatiles lost before the formation of flavors.
Where to get rhizomes for Real Wasabi?
You may formation of whether it’s possible to grow your wasabi. Right? Well, it’s easier said than done. As pointed out earlier, this plant requires a lot of water and takes a lot of time before they mature for use. Buying rhizomes for grating at home
The question now is, where do you get them? Well, if you live in a neighborhood populated with either Japanese or Asian communities, you can find these roots from grocery stores. However, that won’t be that easy. Alternatively, you can buyonline from reputable dealers.
How to Store Your Wasabi
Since these wasabi roots aren’t easy to find, it means when you come across them, you will most likely buy in plenty. So, since you won’t use them all in one day, how do you store the surplus?
Wrap each piece of rhizome using a damp cloth or towel, put them in an uncovered bowl and put them in a fridge. Don’tmake the mistake of using plastic to wrap them. They need to have air circulation for them to retain their freshness. That’s why you go for a towel or cloth.
Again, dampness is also meant to keep them fresh. This way, they can last for a couple of weeks. The roots will darken around the edges, but that should not worry you. Just scrape off the outer layer before grating.
If you have leftover paste or powder, don’t leave it at room temperature. The volatile compounds will escape leaving your wasabi without flavor and tasteless. You should refrigerate it immediately after grating. Ensure you wrap it tightly to prevent exposure to air.
Is consuming too much wasabi harmful in any way?
No. It will not cause you any harm. However, if you have any digestive complications, you should take care.
What is the importance of grating when preparing your wasabi?
The flavor you get from real wasabi is a result of the reaction of different compounds in a wasabi rhizome when they come into contact. Their cell walls must be broken down for this to be achievable. That is why you go for fine grating instead of coarse grating or chopping them.
Related Article: What Is The Green Spicy Sushi Sauce?
Real wasabi is only made by grating a fresh wasabi root only. All the other pastes you find in the stores are fake. The fact that wasabi isn’t easy to grow and there is high demand makes it hard to find the real deal. When you find it, you will also have to spend some