Thursday, November 24, 2011

For The Love of Wasabi

Truth Hurts

Do you know there's a good 90% chance that the wasabi you're having at your favorite sushi joint is not real?

The simplest rule of thumb to differentiate is to taste them bare, just the wasabi, and see if the hot tingling feeling attack your tongue or your nostrils. If it's the earlier, then I could argue 99% its not real wasabi. It's usually made from a mix of horseradish, mustard, and green coloring. 


Sad isn't it? For the premium price we pay for Japanese food, you would only expect the best authentic ingredients. But apparently the price of real wasabi is reserved for high-end restaurants. At $99 per 500 gram (source: Real only a few can afford it.

However, this just adds my curiosity even more. I wanted to taste the real wasabi grounded from the root. Several source claimed it to (of course) attack the nostril with a glimpse of sweetness on the palate. I also wonder if the hot tingling sensation is similar to that of the 'fake' wasabi or is it exquisitely different? A question I will continually seek for answer until I have the chance to taste it myself.

That's a whole 'notha story. Now you've gotta be wondering what constitute the expensive price? The answer is simple, and you might find it in almost all primary school economic book.


Wasabi plant is one of the most difficult plant to grow considering the selective climate that it requires, the treatment of growing, and also the two years gap it takes to grow from seedlings to maturity. In contrast with that, the worldwide increasing demand for wasabi. In the end demand supersede supply and create imbalance of trade, thus the high price.

In Japan itself, only several areas are suitable for large scale wasabi cultivation namely Shizuoka, Nagano, Shimane, Yamanashi, and Iwate prefecture.

Here's a look of a wasabi farm in Nagano. My dad happen to visit it sometime ago, I hope it shed some light to you Biters.


Wasabi plant grows naturally along stream beds in mountain river. In several areas, they are planted on terraces with a continuous flow of mountain spring water. Below is a quick look of the like in Shizuoka (source: Shizuoka Gourmet)

The most interesting thing is that the water coming in to one section of bed terrace is directly tunneled out so that it wont contaminate other sections. This allows only bed sands and water to come into the field, nothing else.


A wasabi that reaches maturity will grow to one meter height. It will be harvested mainly for the root, the leaves can be eaten raw or pickled, the stems will be pickled in Sake and become what they call "Wasabi Tsuke". In other words from top to bottom each part of wasabi plant is usable and edible.

Other than being used as sushi companion, research has also develop wasabi as a material to wake deaf people up in the case of emergency. An attempt that has redeem the group of Japanese researchers the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

All in All

This little plant still fascinates me somehow even with all the things I wrote up there. I suppose this curiosity can only be cured by actually eating the 'real' one. If you do know where I could find them, let me know. ;) Here's a look of the real wasabi, grounded using a dried sharksfin.

Arigato Gozaimashita, Haik!

Fellexandro Ruby
Food Conversationalist, Photographer & Wasabi Lover

1 comment:

  1. The last time I had real wasabi (which I grated fresh with a grater) was at Ajihara, Melawai. Few places still provide fresh wasabi, I'll try to remember other places. Good luck hunting ;)


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