Wasabi is a Japanese horseradish which is an important spice in Japanese cuisine. It is often grated, so it can easily be put on different kinds of foods. It has a strong and unique flavor that stimulates deep inside the nose, which is totally different from the flavor of chili pepper. To distinguish between the Western horseradish, it is often called hon-wasabi, “hon” meaning real.
In Edo period (1603-1867), as sushi and soba buck wheat noodles became popular, wasabi also became a common spice. Back in Edo period, people picked wasabi as a wild plant, but villagers in Shizuoka prefecture started to plant them on their own, and it is now cultivated by many farmers.
Wasabi is often grown in the mountain stream where the water is clean and pure. However, it can also be grown in the fields, but the roots will not be that big compared to the one which is grown in the stream. Azumino city in Nagano prefecture is a famous location producing wasabi.
The grated one is not only used for dishes such as sushi, raw fish, soba, but also can be used for Western dishes such as roast beef and spaghetti. French dishes which are influenced by Japanese dishes sometimes use wasabi as sauce. it has a sterilizing effect, so it is often used for raw food.
There is a delicious dish called wasabi-don which uses hon-wasabi, dried bonito, and soy sauce, on a bowl of a rice. It has a slight sweet taste first, and then the unique stimulating taste comes after that. There is also wasabi ice cream which looks like melon ice cream, but the slight stimulating taste is surprisingly tasty.