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Articles - A Healthy Diet:

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Hot, hotter, wasabi: Anybody who enjoys the fiery taste of oriental spices, will get all they want with wasabi. Unlike pepper or paprika, wasabi unfolds its aromatic spiciness in the nose and throat rather than on the tongue. The reason for this are the volatile mustard oils, which determine the taste of this green paste. This makes wasabi a very unique spicy enjoyment, which is not limited to guests in Japanese restaurants.


Origin and appearance

Wasabi, in its original form, comes from Japan, hence the name “Japanese horseradish”. From a strictly botanical point of view this is not quite correct. Whereas horseradish is a classic root, the edible part of wasabi is a rhizome, which is actually the stem of the plant. Most rhizomes grow horizontally, but the wasabi rhizome grows vertically. The wasabi plant is difficult to grow: it grows only in slow-flowing water and doesn’t like it too hot or too cold. Direct sunlight is also taboo. Attempts to cultivate the plant outside Japan, New Zealand and Australia have been largely unsuccessful. No wonder then that fresh wasabi fetches between 200 and 400 EUR per kilo in Europe. Particularly in the West, the interest in this green rhizome is growing rapidly.


Shopping and quality

The word wasabi includes not only the fresh rhizome but also the dry powder and the finished pastes. The Japanese differentiate between “hon wasabi” – true wasabi – and “seiyo wasabi”, a substitute product consisting of normal horseradish, mustard, green food colourings and other ingredients. Freshly grated wasabi only keeps its flavour for about half an hour. After that the volatile mustard oils will have nearly completely evaporated. The same occurs with real wasabi paste, which is made of freeze-dried wasabi powder stirred with water. Ready-to-eat wasabi pastes, on the other hand, stay hot and flavoursome for longer because they contain preservatives to inhibit the oxidation of the mustard oils.



Numerous applications

For a long time, wasabi was only known as an expensive companion of sushi. But it’s capable of much more: Chips, roasted nuts and peas, even cheese or package soup get a completely new taste if wasabi is added. This breath of exotic flavour really makes your mouth water. A small downside: By no means every product that appears to contain wasabi actually contains real wasabi. A look at the list of ingredients will make this clear: Price is also a good indicator: real wasabi is not cheap.

Source: Dr. Christina Rempe, www.aid.de