Wasabi is a light-green-colored Japanese "horseradish" sauce suitable for the sushi, seafood, noodles, dressings and marinades of Asian/Japanese cookery. It is said to be an antidote to prevent food poisoning since it is often used with raw fish (sashimi). Wasabi is usually accompanied by soy sauce. They may be mixed together to form a sauce; however the best way is to apply wasabi and some soy sauce to the same piece of fish in such a way that they do not mix prior to eating.
True wasabi root is actually fairly expensive due to its low supply, therefore most of the people in the world (even in Japan) are eating western horseradish and mustard with food coloring, which can even be made in your own kitchen. Generally, the common dried and paste forms of the product are imitation. The plant can be found only by special purveyors (see www.freshwasabi.com), and is grown either in dirt or water in a variety of countries (Japan, USA, and New Zealand to name a few). It's said that water-grown wasabi is a higher quality. When true wasabi is made, it is prepared by grating the rhizome on a rough surface. Some, but not all, chefs peel the rhizome first. The preferred surface of some sushi chefs is a sharkskin grater, reputed to give a smooth, soft and aromatic finish. It is then allowed to rest for several minutes to develop its flavor before use.
Wasabi is related to watercress, but the root has a hot flavor similar to horseradish (although not as harsh).
Article compiled from submissions to the May 2003 CCF Trivia Contest by:
Harry from Boerne, Texas
Anne-Marie Hofman, Specifications Officer Australia