1 lb bag $13.40
Famous for its pungent heat – which can trigger tears and unclog sinuses – wasabi is not just for sushi. In powdered form, just a touch can make boring old mashed potatoes or mayonnaise memorable. It can lend pizzazz to snacks like roasted chickpeas and macadamias. Substituting wasabi for chiles can transform Latin American standards into fusion dishes. Use the powder as is, in the same way you would add cayenne. Or turn it into a paste, by adding water and stirring thoroughly. Chefs disagree about the proportion of powder to water, with some recipes recommending 3 parts wasabi powder to 1 part water and others calling for a 5/3 ratio. It’s a matter of personal preference, regarding both the degree of heat and the paste’s consistency.
Wasabi powder also stands in for grated horseradish in recipes. That’s not surprising, because the overwhelming majority of wasabi products sold in the West – including ours – have horseradish (Armoracia rustanica) as the primary ingredient. Horseradish and Japanese wasabi are members of the Brassica family. Their roots have the same five-alarm taste. The big difference between the two is their degree of hardiness. Tolerant of wide temperature and humidity swings, horseradish plants thrive in both sun and partial shade, while Wasabia japonica blanches under the sun, tolerates only a narrow temperature range and requires the moisture found in non-tropical rainforests. As a result, cultivation areas are extremely limited, and Wasabia japonica’s price is astronomical.
The two botanical cousins share health benefits, as well as taste. Both can relieve respiratory congestion and are major sources of the fiber needed for a healthy gut. Both have antimicrobial, antifungal and antioxidant properties. Recent medical research suggests both can inhibit cancerous tumors.