Wasabi: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wasabi crop growing on Japan's Izu peninsula
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Wasabia
Species: W. japonica
Binomial name
Wasabia japonica

Wasabi (Japanese: わさび,ワサビ , 山葵 (originally written 和佐比); Wasabia japonica, Cochlearia wasabi, or Eutrema japonica) is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes cabbages, horseradish and mustard. Known as "Japanese horseradish", its root is used as a spice and has an extremely strong flavor. Its hotness is more akin to that of a hot mustard rather than the capsaicin in a chili pepper, producing vapors that stimulate the nasal passages more than the tongue. The plant grows naturally along stream beds in mountain river valleys in Japan. There are also other species used, such as W. koreana, and W. tetsuigi. The two main cultivars in the marketplace are W. japonica cv. 'Daruma' and cv. 'Mazuma', but there are many others.[1]



Fresh wasabi root for sale at Nishiki Market in Kyoto

Wasabi is generally sold either in the form of a root which must be very finely grated before use, or as a ready-to-use paste (either real wasabi or a mixture of horseradish, mustard and food coloring), usually in tubes approximately the size and shape of travel toothpaste tubes.[2] The paste form is usually just horseradish, since fresh wasabi is extremely perishable and more expensive than horseradish. Once the paste is prepared it should remain covered until served to protect the flavor from evaporation. For this reason, sushi chefs usually put the wasabi between the fish and the rice.

Fresh leaves of wasabi can also be eaten and have some of the hot flavor of wasabi roots.

The burning sensations it can induce are short-lived compared to the effects of chili peppers, especially when water is used to remove the spicy flavor.

Inhaling or sniffing wasabi vapor has an effect like smelling salts, and this property has been exploited by researchers attempting to create a smoke alarm for the deaf. One deaf subject participating in a test of the prototype awoke within 10 seconds of wasabi vapor being sprayed into his sleeping chamber.[3]

Wasabi is often served with sushi or sashimi, usually accompanied with soy sauce. The two are sometimes mixed to form a single dipping sauce known as Wasabi-joyu. Legumes (peanuts, soybeans or peas) may be roasted or fried, then coated with a wasabi-like mixture; that can be eaten as a snack.


The chemicals in wasabi that provide its unique flavor are the isothiocyanates, including:[4]

  • 6-methylthiohexyl isothiocyanate,
  • 7-methylthioheptyl isothiocyanate and
  • 8-methylthiooctyl isothiocyanate.

Research has shown that isothiocyanates have beneficial effects such as inhibiting microbe growth. [5]


A drawing of a wasabi plant, published in 1828 by Iwasaki Kanen

Few places are suitable for large-scale wasabi cultivation, and cultivation is difficult even in ideal conditions. In Japan, wasabi is cultivated mainly in these regions:

There are also numerous artificially cultivated facilities as far north as Hokkaidō and as far south as Kyūshū. As the demand for real wasabi is very high, Japan has to import a large amount of it from Mainland China, Ali Mountain of Taiwan, and New Zealand.

In North America, a handful of companies and small farmers are successfully pursuing the trend by cultivating Wasabia japonica. While only the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains provide the right balance of climate and water for natural cultivation of sawa (water grown) wasabi, the use of hydroponics and greenhouses has extended the range.

While the finest sawa wasabi is grown in pure, constantly flowing water, without pesticides or fertilizers, some growers push growth with fertilizer such as chicken manure, which can be a source of downstream pollution if not properly managed.


Wasabi on metal oroshigane

Wasabi is often grated with a metal oroshigane, but some prefer to use a more traditional tool made of dried sharkskin (鮫皮) with fine skin on one side and coarse skin on the other. A hand-made grater with irregular teeth can also be used. If a shark-skin grater is unavailable, ceramic is usually preferred.[6]


The two kanji characters "" and "" do not correspond to their pronunciation: as such it is an example of gikun. The two characters actually refer to the mountain Asarum, as the plant's leaves resemble those of a member of Asarum species, in addition to its ability to grow on shady hillsides. The word, in the form 和佐比, first appeared in 918 in The Japanese Names of Medical Herbs (本草和名 Honzō Wamyō). Spelled in this way, the particular kanji are used for their phonetic values only, known as ateji.

In Japanese, horseradish is known as seiyō wasabi (西洋わさび ?) ("Western wasabi").[7]


See also


  1. ^ Growing Edge (2005). the Best Of Growing Edge International 2000-2005. New Moon Publishing. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-944557-05-1. http://books.google.com/books?id=lZD95wlLhxIC&pg=PT67&dq=Daruma+mazuma#v=onepage&q=Daruma%20mazuma&f=false.  
  2. ^ Lowry, Dave (2005). The connoisseur's guide to sushi: everything you need to know about sushi. The Harvard Common Press. p. 205. ISBN 1-55832-307-0. http://books.google.com/books?id=wIOcYVPYfkAC&pg=PT228&dq=toothpaste#v=onepage&q=toothpaste&f=false.  
  3. ^ http://inventorspot.com/articles/wasabi_silent_fire_alarm_alerts__11514
  4. ^ Allen, Gary (2007). The Herbalist in the Kitchen. University of Illinois Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0-252-03162-5. http://books.google.com/books?id=Fniv9ShKmxcC&pg=PT148&dq=6-methylthiohexyl+isothiocyanate#v=onepage&q=6-methylthiohexyl%20isothiocyanate&f=false.  
  5. ^ Zeuthen, P.; Bøgh-Sørensen, Leif (2003). Food preservation techniques. Woodhead Publishing Limited. p. 12. ISBN 1-85573-530-X. http://books.google.com/books?id=TdQtFQZ5XCQC&pg=PA12&dq=antimicrobial+isothiocyanates&num=100#v=onepage&f=false.  
  6. ^ Andoh, Elizabeth; Beisch, Leigh (2005). Washoku: recipes from the Japanese home kitchen. Ten Speed Press. p. 71. ISBN 1-58008-519-9. http://books.google.com/books?id=vGGSh3PSwQAC&pg=PA71#v=onepage&q=&f=false.  
  7. ^ Raghavan, Susheela (2007). Handbook of spices, seasonings, and flavorings. CRC Press. p. 120. ISBN 0-8493-2842-X. http://books.google.com/books?id=m4vvs87XiucC&pg=PA120&dq=%22seiyo++wasabi%22#v=onepage&q=%22seiyo%20wasabi%22&f=false.  

Further reading

  • Shin IS, Masuda H, Naohide K (August 2004). "Bactericidal activity of wasabi (Wasabia japonica) against Helicobacter pylori". Int. J. Food Microbiol. 94 (3): 255–61. doi:10.1016/S0168-1605(03)00297-6. PMID 15246236.  

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address