What is Wasabi?

The Chinese charactersfor Wasabi, mean “Asarum caulescens” since the shape of Wasabi leaves resemble this plant.

Wasabi was first mentioned in the Honzo-Wamyo, which is the oldest medical dictionary in Japan. In a recipe book of the time, Wasabi was introduced as an ingredient in a soy-based dipping sauce for carp sashimi.

During the Edo period (1603-1867), Wasabi began to be used as a condiment for soba. However at that time, Wasabiwas not well known among ordinary people as it was usedas a gift to present to Japan’s feudal government.

Wasabi was first cultivated at the end of the Edo period in Izu, now a popular region of Wasabi production. One reason for this was that the Tokugawa feudal government approved the area as being suitable for Wasabi cultivation.

It is also said that the Tokugawa feudal government encouraged the cultivation of Wasabibecause the Tokugawa family’s crestfeatured Asarum caulescens.

Today, Wasabi is well known as a condiment for Sushi, Sashimi, Soba and Chicken dishes. However, it is only fairly recently that Wasabi started to be used in Nigiri Sushi(Sushi shaped by hand).

At the beginning of the Bunka Nenkan period (1804-1818), it was first used to disguise the fishy smell of mackerel.

Then at the beginning of the Bunsei Nenkan period (1818-1830) someone had the idea of putting a layer of Wasabi between rice and a Konoshiro gizzard shad (a type of fish). This combination suitedthe taste of the time and became popular throughout Japan.

 

Facts

  • FAMILY: Cruciferae
  • ORIGIN: East Asia
  • MAIN PRODUCING DISTRICTS:

In Japan: Shizuoka, Nagano, Nara, Yamaguchi and in particular the foothills of the Amagi and Shinshu-Azumino mountains are well-known production centers. Other areas include the Highlands in Taiwan, Yunnan in China and Vietnam.

  • PART USED: Root system 

 

What types of dishes can Wasabi enhance?

 

Wasabi can be used to complement and enhance the following dishes: Sashimi, Nigiri sushi (small oval-shaped vinegared rice balls), Tekkamaki (vinegared rice rolled in seaweed with raw tuna inside), Tai-chazuke/Nori-chazuke (boiled rice and sea-bream with tea poured over it), Morisoba (buckwheat noodles served with a soy sauce flavoured soup), etc.

In other countries Wasabi is also used in different ways: to accompany steak, mashed potatoes, in sauces, dressings, and in may other dishes.