Wasabi   山葵

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Fresh wasabi root should be kept in the fridge in a bowl of water, to keep it as fresh as possible.

Wasabi is grated on shark skin, which must be changed every year, to create a homogenous paste.

A field of wasabi

Wasabi chocolate has a surprising yet delicious taste.

Wasabi, my love

Who doesn't know this famous green paste that comes with your favourite sushi? Mouth-burning wasabi is a symbol of Japanese cuisine.

Wasabi, or Eutrema Japonicum, is a mountain plant, the root of which is used as a condiment in Japanese cuisine. It is a local species, similar to our horseradish. The small root is green with knobbly growths.

Wasabi and sushi

Wasabi paste is obtained by grating the fresh root. It is mainly used with sushi and sashimi.

It was associated, in ancient times, with medicinal use. During the Edo period the lack of fridges prevented people keeping fresh fish free of bacteria. Wasabi therefore began to be used as an antibacterial, spread between thin slices of fish.

People got used to the taste, and now no one can imagine sushi without a dab of this condiment

Most people use wasabi mixed, according to taste (an eternal debate among purists), with soy sauce to accompany sashimi. Sushi already contain a small amount of wasabi between the rice and fish, so it shouldn't need an extra helping! There are also cold meat dishes where wasabi is served alongside.

The tourist trap

Wasabi is the best known joke played on unsuspecting tourists in Japan! If you have lunch with a group of Japanese for the first time, you can be sure there will always be a prankster asking you to taste the wasabi and test your strength!

If this happens to you, endure the suffering, fight back the tears that rise in your eyes and the cough threatening to escape. If you can bear enough wasabi you will receive the respect of your (perhaps a little disappointed) neighbours.

Wasabi crazy

But wasabi is worth the effort - the taste is pleasantly spicy, and this miraculous root is known for its antibacterial and anti-carcinogenic properties. Bacteria won't dare to stay in your mouth!

Without realising you'll soon end up eating eat wasabi-flavoured chips, wasabi peanuts, even wasabi chocolates, as if nothing is amiss. Remember to bring home a tube of a souvenir wasabi paste, or better yet a fresh root - so much tastier. Fields of wasabi (which grows in the water, a bit like rice) can be seen everywhere, but it's a particular specialty of the Izu Peninsula or Matsumoto.

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