Do you really know the real wasabi? We tell you everything

The first time I tried wasabi – many many years ago – I made the mistake of taking a well-heaped teaspoon for dessert … it burned to my hair! Nobody had explained to me what it was and it was my debut with Japanese cuisine at the now defunct Suntory, one of the pioneers and best Japanese haute cuisine restaurants in the capital. Raw fish also cost me its share, so the experience was somewhat traumatic. That changed radically when I went back to repeat 3 or 4 more times after learning a bit about this absolutely wonderful, delicate and nuanced gastronomy. And now I am a fan of it, raw fish and wasabi, a seasoning that used in its proper measure, and the authentic one -not some synthetic pasta that abounds in many places-, contributes to enhance the flavor of many dishes. What is wasabi It is not a root, but a plant from which the trunk, leaves and flowers are consumed. It is also known as Japanese mustard and belongs to the same family as horseradish and mustard. Its price is quite high (200-300 euros per kilo) due to the difficulty of its cultivation, which is all done manually, in special conditions of humidity and temperature, and can be in water (sawa wasabi) or on land (hatake wasabi ) and takes 2 years to collect. Outside of Japan, some of these varieties have been planted, but the result is not so sweet and smooth, but rather more bitter and spicy. And what we usually find in many Japanese restaurants is a tube pasta with horseradish zest. mustard, sweeteners, colorings and a small proportion of dehydrated and ground wasabi leaves. It is also marketed as a powder and mixed with water. It is not easy to find the original wasabi, this is the stem of the plant, which is processed in circular movements with a special shark or ray skin grater and wood -samegawa oroshi-, whose texture is rough, resistant and not very aggressive to preserve the flavor and aroma properties of authentic fresh wasabi. It is a true indicator of the quality and standard of the restaurant. The Japanese use the term hon wasabi to distinguish the authentic from the substitutes – kona wasabi and neri wasabi -. It must be consumed freshly grated because it loses properties after a few minutes. The wasabi flavor is very spicy but, instead of attacking strongly in the mouth -which also-, its strength is most perceived in the nose and for a short space of time, compared to the heat of the chili or chilli. The initial spicy flavor gives way to a fresh and sweet aftertaste, with a mixture of unique aromas and flavors, especially in the case of the natural trunk. Wasabi is attributed antibacterial, antiseptic, cleansing and antioxidant properties. It helps to clear the airways, strengthens the immune system, promotes blood circulation and contributes to good digestion. But it also has some contraindications and can cause hemorrhoids, hypertension and gastric discomfort. What is wasabi used for? Above all, it is used to accompany sushi and sashimi (usually diluted in soy sauce, although this practice is not entirely well regarded by the Japanese who prefer not to mix it with anything). But it is also added in small doses to all kinds of stews, soups, sauces, meats, vegetables, fish … And in the Japanese market there is a wide range of products that have wasabi in their composition: nuts, fried peas, cookies , all kinds of snacks, chocolates, pasta, beers … We, as an example of some of these culinary uses, we leave you 5 recipes in which we incorporate wasabi. Of course, always in moderate quantities. Step by step: sweet potato chips with wasabi mayonnaise A touch of wasabi in a mayonnaise gives it a most curious flavor. We are going to serve it with some appetizing sweet potato chips.VIEW RECIPE Step by step: salmon poke with wasabiAl poke, which is that dish of Hawaiian origin so in vogue in recent years, a dot of wasabi suits it perfectly. Ours has salmon, rice, and a wakame seaweed salad. Step by step: vegan maki-sushi Celery, carrot, avocado, cucumber, red cabbage and onion are the ingredients of this maki-sushi, which we accompany with soy sauce and wasabi SEE RECIPE Step by step: pancake maki-sushi with chicken, cheese Cream and wasabi Instead of using the classic nori seaweed found in maki-sushi, we substitute a crepe dough. We are going to fill it with a mixture of chicken, cream cheese, lettuce and wasabi and serve with some roe SEE RECIPE Step by step: tuna with pea crust with wasabi, pistachios and soy sauce In the market there are numerous products flavored with wasabi as is the case of some fried peas, which are the ones we are going to use, mixed with pistachio and soy sauce, to put on top of some tuna loins. SEE RECIPE