Real, true wasabi is a rare find and an unmatched taste experience: fresh and clean, with subtle herbal flavors and an unforgettable, quick heat. Highly coveted in Japan, aquatic wasabi is seldom grown anywhere else . . . and it is NOT the same thing as the fiery green paste served that we've learned to call "wasabi." Sushi restaurants almost always use imitation wasabi: a mixture of horseradish and green coloring, with a little dry mustard added. Fresh Wasabi - A Unique Taste Experience Fresh wasabi is strong and hot but, unlike the imitation product, there's no harshness, and no lasting burn. It has a green, herbal, distinctly plant-like taste; it's a very clean, pure flavor. The flavor-producing compounds in wasabi are extremely volatile - meaning that fresh wasabi loses its pungency and hot flavor in about 20 minutes. It must be eaten freshly grated! Wasabi With Everything! You can imagine freshly-ground wasabi with your sushi. But, that's not all. Think of it with grilled fish or as an accompaniment to fresh lump crab salad. Dotted atop steaming mashed potatoes or along a plate like a beautify green-ish coulis. From steak to fresh vegetables, it's a brilliant accompaniment. But wait, there's more: don't forget the wasabi leaves and their long stems! The large, heart-shaped leaves and crisp stems, known as petioles, are edible and excellent. Pleasantly spicy, resembling spicier varieties of salad greens but with a distinct hint of wasabi flavor, they're flavorful and refreshing - and the touch of heat fades quickly, as with the grated rhizome. Even more than the rhizomes, the leaves are extremely unlikely to be found outside of Japan. What better touch (and conversation piece) for your next springtime dinner party than a wasabi-leaf salad? Potential Health Benefits In an article published in the August, 2007 edition of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review, Brian and co-author Glen Nagel, N.D., detail some of the potential benefits of wasabi, some of which are summarized below. * Wasabi is a member of the super-healthy cruciferous family, which includes kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, mustard and more. * In Japan, wasabi has long been believed to have medicinal properties. Certain compounds called ITCs (isothiocyanates) in wasabi inhibit some strains of bacteria, yeast and mold; it is believed that wasabi's anti-microbial effects are a reason that it became a part of the diet in Japan, an effective complement to any ill effects of raw fish. * ITCs also have anti-inflammatory effects, meaning that wasabi may be useful for controlling seasonal allergies and asthma. Brian and his family are convinced that it is, and they have success stories of friends and family members helped greatly by wasabi (in freeze-dried capsule form). STORAGE: Rhizomes: Individually wrap each rhizome in a damp paper towel and then store them in a bowl, uncovered, in the fridge. Do not use plastic; the rhizomes need air circulation. Keep the paper towels damp, and rhizomes will store well for two weeks. If they darken on the edges, scrape off outermost layer with a vegetable peeler. Leaves and Petioles (Stems): These store very well in the fridge for about 10 days. Wash leaves and petioles and leave them moist; store in sealed plastic zip-type bag. Preparing Wasabi: Preparing wasabi to eat is a snap - and it's fun, too! Start by washing the rhizome and trimming any bumps from the outside. Then, trim the leafy end of the rhizome and grate from that end first. Using a circular motion, grate wasabi pushing to gratings into a small pile. Let it rest one to two minutes for flavors to develope - and then, serve! NOTE: Wasabi loses its flavor very quickly - in about 15-20 minutes when exposed to air - so gathering the shavings into a ball not only keeps it together for easy use as a condiment, but minimizes exposure to air. TIP:You can freshen up wasabi that's lost its flavor by grating a little fresh wasabi into the pile and gathering it all into a ball again, rolling it between your fingers. Wasabi should be "sticky;" it should stay in a ball-shape.
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