In 1975 I had my first taste of wasabi while living in Japan. I grew up a lover of hot spicy chilis and so the zing of wasabi was not bad. But, unlike chilis, it left no “afterburn.” What it did do was send a rush through my brain and my nose. Not being one who ever took drugs, I only imagined that this was what it was like being high.
I was never one to look into the benefits of wasabi. I have just enjoyed, with fascination and wonder, the amazing flavor and the sensory rush it gives me. Although wasabi does have a strong, spicy taste, it is different than the taste of capsaicin (which I also love and will cover in another future gratitude piece), the chemical found in chili peppers that gives them their hot or spicy flavor. Whereas capsaicin gives the sensation of “burning” on the tongue, wasabi affects the olfactory sense, releasing chemical vapors that affect the nasal passage. And that is what I love about it. Indeed, The potent taste of wasabi is similar to hot mustard (which I also like), and it is most commonly used as a condiment. Since wasabi’s unique flavor is not oil-based as it is with chili peppers, the strong or uncomfortable sensation of eating wasabi does not last very long, and some people actually find it pleasant and invigorating, which is most certainly my case!
When we moved to Oita, Japan in the late 1980s I learned that this area of Japan was a major grower of wasabi. I had numerous opportunities to eat sushi with FRESH wasabi right out of the ground. Man oh man!! What a rush!
Of course, it is really a condiment, like mustard or ketchup, but chiefly used with sushi and sometimes with buckwheat noodles (also known as soba).
I have always loved sushi (sushi has rice and vegetables and sometimes raw or cooked fish and a dab of wasabi, in most cases). Sashimi, which is just cut raw fish, is also typically eaten with soy sauce and wasabi.
I have to admit that it is one of my favorite things in the world to eat! I am grateful that God created wasabi for our taste buds as well as for our health benefit.
In recent years there have been a few other products with wasabi, only available in Japan and not yet tasted by my tongue. But I thought it would be fun to share — no explanation is necessary. You’ll get the picture.
And finally, how can I not write a gratitude piece on Wasabi without including this classic TV Commercial from 2000. Yes, I know its a beer commercial. But who cares? Wasaaaabi…..