It is well known that wasabi is the epithet attributed to an extremely spicy green sauce, typical of Japan: in reality, wasabi is the vulgar name of a plant, the Japanese radish, in botany known as Wasabia japonica, Cochlearia wasabi, or Eutrema japonica.
Wasabi: general information
Wasabi belongs to the same family as horseradish, cabbage and mustard (Cruciferae or Brassicaceae); this plant grows spontaneously along the river valleys and mountain streams of Japan.
The two most cultivated species of wasabi are definitely W. japonica var. Daruma and var. Mazuma. Both the leaves and the rhizome of the plant are used: the leaves, after drying, are used in the culinary field to give body and flavor to many dishes, such as salads, bread and cheeses. The root, on the other hand, is widely used to prepare very spicy and - it seems - particularly appetizing sauces. More than sauce, we should talk about pasta, given its exclusive and dense consistency: not surprisingly, wasabi sauces are available in tubes very similar to those of toothpaste.
Cultivation and import
Wasabi requires some ideal conditions of water and light: the superior quality one is grown on shady trees, sometimes on special “gravel soils”, covered by a veil of water gushing from mountain streams. [taken from /www.hort.purdue.edu/]
As can be guessed, the cultivation of wasabi is quite complex: especially in Japan, where the demand is very high, there are very few places suitable for the cultivation of wasabi on a large scale. To overcome this problem, some artificial structures specially designed for the growth of this plant have been built in Japan. Furthermore, there are significant imports of wasabi into Japanese territory from China.
As we have seen, the wasabi root is used for the preparation of sauces to be used as a condiment for meats and above all to accompany raw fish, a typical Japanese refinement. The sauce obtained has antiseptic properties and is very rich in vitamin C, a powerful natural antioxidant par excellence: this is why its use is recommended as an accompaniment to raw fish, sushi, soba, tempura and sashimi.
The wasabi sauce has a greenish color and the taste is very similar to daikon, but exaggeratedly more spicy.
This sauce is also known as "namida", ie tear: in fact, when taken in abundant quantities, the extreme spiciness of wasabi seems to induce tearing.
Commercially, wasabi sauce is found in the form of powder (less pungent flavor) or paste.
Given the high cost, wasabi is often adulterated with other substances: in fact, horseradish lends itself to "imitating" wasabi, so much so that it is often added to the original sauce to reduce costs on the final product. Furthermore, after drying, the wasabi root tends to lose its original smell: to overcome this drawback, horseradish and other spices are added, capable of making the aroma more full-bodied and intense.
Wasabi has a calorific value of 109 kcal; its carbohydrate content is around 23.5 g / 100g of product and has little protein (4.8g / 100g of sauce) and very little fat (only 0.63g / 100g of wasabi).
The wasabi sauce contains isothiocyanates, molecules responsible for the particular aroma of wasabi: 6-methylthiohexyl isothiocyanate, 7-methylthioeptyl isothiocyanate and 8-methylthioctyl isothiocyanate. [taken from http://it.wikipedia.org/]
Wasabi and medicine
A "current hypothesis seems to attribute to wasabi the property of increasing the pain threshold, therefore the endurance of the same would become more tolerated. This potential effect, however only partially demonstrated, seems to be due to the so-called wasabi receptor (based on studies carried out at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Florence).
In addition, wasabi boasts mild antibacterial, antiseptic and digestive properties: in order to reduce the bacterial load of raw fish, the sauce is an excellent expedient.
Botanical name: Wasabia japonica, Cochlearia wasabi, or Eutrema japonica
- Family: cruciferae or brassicaceae
- Growth: wasabi grows spontaneously along the river valleys and mountain streams of Japan
- Most cultivated species: W. Japonica var. Daruma and var. Mazuma
- Dried leaves: used in the culinary field to give body and flavor to many dishes
- Root: widely used to prepare very spicy and particularly appetizing sauces
Superior quality wasabi: grown on shady trees, or on special "gravel soils" covered by a veil of water gushing from streams
Japan: very consistent demand for wasabi: very few places suitable for large-scale cultivation → imports of wasabi into Japanese territory, from China, and construction of artificial structures for growth
- The wasabi root is used for the preparation of sauces as an accompaniment to raw fish
- Properties: antiseptic and antioxidant (it is very rich in vitamin C)
- Sauce color: greenish
- Taste: very similar to daikon but exaggeratedly spicier
- Another name of the sauce: “namida”, that is to say tear → the extreme spiciness of wasabi seems to induce tearing
- 109 kcal / 100g of product
- Carbohydrates 23.5 g / 100g of product
- Low protein (4.8g / 100g of sauce)
- Very low fat (only 0.63 g / 100 g of wasabi)
It blends antibacterial, antiseptic and digestive properties
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