Anyone who has eaten at an Oriental restaurant is likely to know what wasabi is (and maybe even have experienced its intense heat). It is also called “Japanese horseradish”, though horseradish is a different plant altogether (although it can still be used as a substitute for wasabi). Wasabi is actually part of the same family of vegetables as broccoli, kale, watercress, horseradish and mustard.
The stem of the plant is used as a condiment and with its extremely strong hot flavour. In all actuality, the hotness is more like that of hot mustard than of a chili pepper and it still produces vapours that stimulate the nasal passages more than the tongue. It’s heat is not recommended for those who do not like foods that taste really hot!
Wasabi is generally sold either as a stem, but you must grate it very finely before use (dried powder is also available). Because it grows mostly submerged, it is a common misconception to refer to the part used for wasabi as a root or sometimes even a rhizome, while it is in fact the stem of the plant, with the characteristic pock marks where old leaves fell off or were collected.
As with many aspects of a healthy traditional Japanese diet, regular use of wasabi may be partially responsible for the longevity and health of the Japanese people. Fresh Sawa Wasabi contains protein, fibre, vitamins B6 and C, and the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese. Sawa Wasabi also contains a stable group of compounds called glucosinolates. These compounds are changed by enzymes to the bioactive unstable isothiocyanates (ITCs) if water is present when the cells are torn apart by being chewed or ground up.
There is a huge amount of research still being done on Sawa Wasabi, especially in Asian countries, to learn more about its medicinal and health benefits. We already know that it has anti-inflammatory effects, anti-microbial effects, anti-platelet effects and anti-cancer effects. For more information about the health benefits that wasabi can bring to your life, check out this website (https://wasabi.org/articles/medical-uses-of-wasabia-japonica/ )
The bottom line is this: enjoy a diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables (including items from the broccoli family), but you may gain further benefits by adding wasabi whenever you eat sushi, and consider trying wasabi covered peas or nuts as a healthy snack. Try these Wasabi Peas for a healthy and satisfying snack (http://www.ehow.com/how_5122468_make-wasabi-peas.html )
- Dried whole green peas
- Olive oil
- Rice vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- Wasabi powder
- Cover the dried whole green peas with 2 inches of water and soak them for at least 12 hours, preferably overnight. Cook them according to the packaging instructions. Drain well and let them air dry in a colander
- Preheat the oven to 200 F. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the peas, and toss them to coat well
- Grease a cookie sheet thoroughly, and spread the peas in a single layer. Bake for about 5 hours, or until the peas look dry and they are crispy when you bite into them
- Combine 2 tablespoons rice vinegar and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard in a large mixing bowl. Blend well. Whisk in 2 tablespoons tahini and 4 teaspoons wasabi powder. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the cooked green peas and coat them well with the wasabi mixture
- Increase the oven temperature to 250 F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet, and spread the peas in a single layer. Bake until the wasabi coating is dry, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and cool it on a wire rack
- Store the wasabi peas in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag for up to 3 days. Re-crisp them for eating after they have been stored by spreading them on a cookie sheet and baking at 250 F for about 10 minutes