Megumi is a certified wine and Japanese sake expert as well as is a vegetable sommelier, seasoning sommelier, vegetable and fruit beauty advisor, junior food education meister, food coach, IFA olive specialist, and Edo Tokyo vegetable concierge. She wears many hats, crafting and publishing family-oriented recipes, writing columns, teaching at a cultural center, running the Aomori Vegetable Marché, and making radio appearances.
She uses her knowledge as a vegetable sommelier pro and seasoning sommelier to develop new recipes and products, introducing the charm and flavor of fruits and vegetables to all generations. She's very active, making appearances on on NHK Radio's "Saitamazu" and Television Saitama's "Machikomi."
She's a food expert that's a certified vegetable sommelier and seasoning sommelier pro. You may see her at workshops or nutrition lectures, elucidating the relationship between housewives and seasonings. She's also well-versed in kitchen appliances and oversees the development of various condiment-related items. And to top off her wide-ranging lists of accomplishments, she also helps craft recipes for condiment brands and pens food columns.
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Table of Contents
Wasabi is more than just a notoriously spicy condiment. Depending on what kind of wasabi you choose, you can get a completely different level of spice and flavor.
Not all wasabi is actually real wasabi. There are two types, “real” wasabi, which is actually made from wasabia japonica, and “Western” wasabi, which is just grated horseradish. They taste differently and burn in completely different ways.
Water wasabi can only thrive in the presence of clear water, such as near a running stream or in a valley. Land for its cultivation, even in Japan, is extremely limited.
Field wasabi, too, has its own conditions; it can only be grown where the air is humid and the temperature cool. Therefore, you could say that real wasabi is a semi-rare and precious food.
When you grate wasabia japonica, it comes out to a pale yellow-green; when you taste it, the spice is elegant, with a clear, refreshing note winding through it. Real wasabi will never overpower a food, but rather enhance its flavors. Therefore, products made from wasabia japonica are in high demand, which has driven prices up.
Wasabi japonica is also cultivated in China; however, if you mean to be picky about flavor, try to stick to Japanese-grown wasabi.
If you do manage to get your hands on real wasabi, make sure of the following as well. For fish such as sashimi or sushi, use wasabi that’s finely grated; for meats, use wasabi that’s more roughly grated.
Western wasabi is made of horseradish, largely grown in the States or Europe. And as you may know, horseradish is a popular spice to be had along with roast beef.
In order to meet the growing demand for wasabi, most of the condiments you see in the supermarket have horseradish in them, even in Japan. Horseradish is about 1.5 times as spicy as real wasabi, and it’s what gives your nose that burning sensation.
Because it’s so strong, if we had a choice, we’d pair it only with meats – that is, foods that are bolder in flavor.
If you can, taste the wasabi—if not, read reviews—to make sure that you enjoy every bit of the eating experience.
The first thing that comes to mind when you think about wasabi is likely some form of green paste; but, actually, wasabi can also come as a powder. Think about how you mean to store and use the wasabi when deciding between the two forms.
You can also find a great variety of tubed wasabi; for example, there is the grated kind, made by grating the wasabi root, and the kneaded kind, in which wasabi powder is mixed with water and kneaded into a kind of dough.
You can also get authentic wasabi made from the real root or products that have had their flavor deepened with the addition of soup stock.
Tube wasabi varies greatly in both taste and texture, so you should be able to find something you like. If you like a crisp crunch to your wasabi–something you can chew on–you can also find roughly chopped wasabi in a jar.
Wasabi that’s been made into a paste has a relatively short shelf life. To enhance umami, brands also tend to add in salt and other flavorings, so if you’re looking for clean wasabi, make sure you read the ingredients list.
Powdered wasabi’s pretty much guaranteed to be made from horseradish, so it’s going to be spicy. It won’t ever be able to measure up to the full and mellow spice of real wasabi.
However, it contains less extra flavors and keeps for longer. Try getting powdered wasabi if you’re worried about preservatives or you can never seem to finish tubed wasabi before the expiration date. It’s also a great gift to bring or send back to the States for friends and family.
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Fresh Wasabi and a Botanical Scent and Just the Right Amount of Spice
Has a Refined Flavor That Brings to Mind Traditional Japanese Restaurants
Meisho Japanese Hon-Wasabi
More Fragrant Over Time, Bringing Your Meal to an Elegant Finish
Refreshing Flavor That Balances With Other Foods
Tokusen Hon Kaori Nama-Wasabi
Invigorating Aftertaste and a Heat that Leaves Your Tongue Tingling
Gentle Heat that Warms Up Your Whole Mouth Upon First Bite
Plays the Lead Role in Adding Umami Flavor
We gathered 7 popular Japanese wasabi from various e-commerce sites and tested them for their spice, fragrance, flavor, compatibility with other foods, and aftertaste. Finally, we looked at how all the elements worked together and gave each wasabi an overall score.
We then graded each product on a five-step scale from 1.0 to 5.0. A 5.0 score simply means the wasabi was extremely spicy, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
It was not only hot but also extremely fragrant, so it may overpower some foods – the natural spice of horseradish came out full force. Get it if you’re specifically looking to crank up the heat, but unless you’re a spice-addict or looking to prank your friends, MUSO’s wasabi may be a bit too much to handle.
We had the three sommeliers do a smell and taste test. They judged how well-balanced the smells were and then graded each product on a five-step scale from 1.0 to 5.0.
It smelled neither too strong nor too weak but was in that sweet spot that whets that appetite and makes eating all the more pleasurable.
Our experts tried the wasabi and weighed all the flavors, then graded each product on a five-step scale from 1.0 to 5.0.
Generally speaking, products that were all or mostly real wasabi were rated highly, as their flavors weren’t as overpowering as those of horseradish. We thought it appealed to Japanese sensibilities. Real wasabi has a brilliant scent that makes itself apparent in every bite, as well as a chilling taste that clears the sinuses.
We served wasabi with kamaboko (processed fish paste) to our experts and had them judge how well the flavors worked together. They then graded each wasabi on a five-step scale from 1.0 to 5.0.
It had quite a bold flavor, so it never paled in comparison to other ingredients.
We had our experts grade the aftertaste each wasabi left behind when eaten with other foods, using a five-step scale from 1.0 to 5.0.
This was true of most products made of real wasabi, but there was a sweetness and clear aftertaste that lingered even after we finished eating. It was a dining experience we found ourselves craving more of.
When you grate wasabi, you break its cell walls and catalyze the release of an enzyme called myrosinase. This then mixes with the wasabi and produces an organic compound known as allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), which is what makes wasabi spicy. AITC also has strong antimicrobial properties and is even said to fight bacteria that cause food poisoning.
Wasabi is also known to increase appetite, improve blood circulation, and detox, so see if you can give it a bigger place in your diet.
Cooking is more than just a way to put food on the table. You can experiment with flavors, electric devices, and amazing ingredients to make a great tasting dish. It can get a bit monotonous to eat similar flavors all the time, though, so why not experiment with some Japanese ingredients?
No. 1: Kameya | Wasabi Araoroshi | 3 pack
No. 2: House Foods | Ryoutei Nama-Wasabi
No. 3: S&B | Meisho Japanese Hon-Wasabi | 2 pack
No. 4: Kameya | Oroshi Hon-Wasabi | 4 pack
No. 5: House Foods | Tokusen Hon Kaori Nama-Wasabi
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