Whenever you’ve gone to eat sushi at a fine dining Japanese restaurant, you’ve come across Wasabi. Wasabi is Japanese horseradish that’s consumed as a dipping sauce along with Japanese delicacies. Strong in taste and just a pinch enough to tear you up, this condiment has garnered the interest of foodies around the world, through the ages. Why people love a condiment that has the potential to shock their taste buds will remain a mystery, but here are some interesting facts about this condiment, that you probably didn’t know before: 

1) Wasabi was used to prevent food poisoning 

While wasabi has become a flavour additive in the recent culinary scene of Japanese cuisine, so was not the case originally. Wasabi was used for the medicinal properties it had, years ago in Japan. The Japanese believed that adding wasabi to their meal could cure the disease caused by bacterias present in half cooked or poorly cooked meat. Interestingly, there could be a scientific reason backing this theory. On a detailed examination Wasabi was found to contain a chemical called allyl isothiocyanate, which is used as an insecticide and the condiment also has anti-bacterial properties.

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2) Wasabi wasn’t only meant for Sushi

Living in India, whenever we go to visit any Japanese restaurant, we are served wasabi along with sushi. In fact, this is what usually is the culinary norm outside Japan in most countries. However, did you know that the Japanese use wasabi along with dishes other than just sushi or sashimi? In the authentic Japanese cuisine wasabi is a versatile condiment that is added to soba noodles, wasabi rice, unagi (eel that’s had as a Japanese delicacy) yakinuki etc. 

3) Authentic Wasabi’s flavor wades away swiftly

The first thing to understand is that the chances of you finding an authentic Japanese horseradish are quite slim and therefore the Wasabi that you have probably been consuming at your favourite eatery, could be far away from what real Wasabi tastes like. The real Wasabi plant is rare because it is hard to grow Wasabi and that’s what makes authentic Wasabi expensive. However, there’s something more to this. Original Wasabi that is obtained from a real Wasabi plant loses its flavour within 15 minutes of being grated. Therefore, when chefs serve fresh and authentic Wasabi they are careful only to grate as much as is needed. Furthermore, the diners are informed about the fact that if they don’t consume the condiment soon enough, the taste will wade away swiftly. 

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4) Wasabi is from the family of cabbage 

This fact could be alarming to digest. Cabbage is not known particularly to be a flavourful vegetable in itself and so when you think of Wasabi hailing from the same family, things don’t add up. However, Wasabi does belong to the cabbage family even though it doesn’t taste anything like cabbage. While the cabbage is bland, the Wasabi is spicy and shock inducing. When you’re eating the Wasabi, you’re essentially eating it’s root that’s been ground to a paste. Wasabi is interestingly also good for your skin and hair as it’s rich in vitamin C. 

5) What you’re eating is probably not Wasabi 

As Wasabi is difficult to grow, the demand for authentic Wasabi far exceeds its supply. This has even lead to a price surge of up to 250$ per kg (approx ₹19,487) for Wasabi. The problem of finding fake wasabi across many restaurants is a real one. What restaurants have reportedly been passing off as Wasabi, is its artificial counterpart which is sold in a tube and is made from a mixture of European horseradish and mustard seeds. The fake Wasabi is extremely spicy and the green colour that it comes in is due to food colouring.