Wasabi Japonica, a perennial aquatic brassica pant native to Japan. Found in shallow remote mountain streams loaded with nutrients and minerals. Wasabi actually translates as “Mountain Hollyhock”, known for its pungent spice and best know for using with sushi and sashimi due to its antibacterial properties.
The wasabi rhizome which is often mistaken for a root is the swollen stem that builds height ( 12-16 inches) and the heart shaped leaves grow from the crown, much like a palm tree.
The plant takes up to two years to reach maturity up in that time you can also eat the leaves and tiny white flower clusters that it produces.
It is the rhizome that is known for producing the wasabi paste, when grated finely with a special Japanese grater known as Oroshigane the cellular level is broken down.
The grated rhizome pastes unique flavour quickly fades and must be eaten fresh within 20 minutes of grating so it’s best to only grate a little as needed. Grated wasabi however can be frozen. I suggest using an ice cube storage tray covered with cling film, or you can wrap each ball of wasabi individually and defrost when needed. Fresh rhizome can be kept in a jar of water in the fridge for up to 14 days if the water is changed daily. Fresh grated wasabi is the real deal and is a stark contrast from the powdered variety that uses horseradish, mustard and additives.
There is a place in Dorset U.K. that recreates the conditions and uses the ancient Japanese cultivation techniques to grow their own wasabi. The Wasabi Company sell not only fresh rhizomes and wasabi kits, but when in season the leaves and flowers along with wasabi plants to nurture at home.
They also sell and extensive range of Japanese products to make your own cuisine at home more authentic.
I was lucky to get some wasabi flowers this year as they have just come into season (March-April) the pretty white flowers not only make a nice garnish or you can use in salad. What I recommend is packing some in a jar and adding some brown rice vinegar to make your own pickled wasabi flowers and the best bit is the process also makes wasabi flavour vinegar in the process !
I also tried some fresh rhizome and even though I do not eat fish I decided to use the grated wasabi to add flavour to a multitude of dishes.
Wasabi edamame mash : you could also do this with peas. Simply boil mash and add a little wasabi paste. A Japanese touch with tofu fish and chips.
Wasabi potato salad: steam or boil two small peeled potatoes, when done mash them and add some sliced cucumber that has been salted for ten minutes then washed along with some sliced red onion (simply either use kewpie Mayo with a little wasabi paste mixed in and add to mashed potato or follow my potato salad recipe and make your own vegan kewpie. Perfect for adding to salads.
Wasabi guacamole: mashed avocado with some wasabi paste mixed in. Makes the perfect dip with a kick.
Wasabi mayonnaise: mix wasabi paste into mayonnaise. Why not hollow out pieces of cucumber and add this inside to make little cucumber cups. It’s a lovely balance of refreshing cucumber, creamy vegan mayonnaise and spicy wasabi .
Wasabi vinaigrette’s & dressings : add wasabi to your favourite salad dressings.
Try 1: Yuzu juice, olive oil, vegan honey or maple syrup and grated wasabi. 2: Brown rice vinegar, mirin, miso, sesame oil and grated wasabi. Experiment with different oils and vinegars.
If you want to buy some wasabi or check out the other Japanese ingredients the Wasabi Company have to offer just click the link at the side or bottom of the page depending on your browser. I can definitely recommend the Yuzu jam and the sudachi kombu ponzu.
When in season they even sell fresh fruit like Yuzu and sudachi perfect for adding that professional touch to your Japanese meals. They have an extensive range of soy sauce, miso,vinegars, noodles, rice, tea, sake and more. Just check the ingredients as not all items are vegan and may contain bonito or fish stock.