Wasabi or is a plant of the family Brassicaceae, which also includes horseradish and mustard in other genera. A paste made from its ground rhizomes is used as a pungent condiment for sushi and other foods.
It is mostly found in Indian cooking, where it is also known as bishops weed or carom. It is particularly suited to the delicate vegetarian fare found in the state of Gujarat. In India, the major Ajwain producing states are Rajasthan and Gujarat, where Rajasthan produces about 90% of India’s total production.
Wasabi is generally sold either as a rhizome or stem, which must be very finely grated before use, as dried powder, or as a ready-to-use paste in tubes similar to toothpaste tubes.
The part used for wasabi paste is variously characterized as a rhizome, a stem, or the “rhizome plus the base part of the stem”.
In some high-end restaurants, the paste is prepared when the customer orders, and is made using a grater to grate the stem; once the paste is prepared, it loses flavor in 15 minutes if left uncovered.
In sushi preparation, chefs usually put the wasabi between the fish and the rice because covering wasabi until served preserves its flavor.
Fresh wasabi leaves can be eaten raw, having the spicy flavor of wasabi stems, but a common side effect is diarrhea.
Legumes (peanuts, soybeans, or peas) may be roasted or fried, and then coated with wasabi powder mixed with sugar, salt, or oil and eaten as a crunchy snack. In Japan, it is called “wasabi-mame” (lit. wasabi bean).
It is similar in taste to hot mustard or horseradish rather than chili peppers in that it stimulates the nose more than the tongue.
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