Wassup with Wasabi? That Green Stuff Next to Your Sushi Is Totally Faking It

Wasabi

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Photo by: olgakr

olgakr

We have no myth-busting news to impart about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, but we do have one bubble to burst: That little ball of green stuff you’ve been mixing into your soy sauce and calling wasabi all your life is, in fact, not wasabi at all, reports Washington Post Wonkblogger Roberto A. Ferdman. So, um, what is it?

Ferdman quotes sushi expert Trevor Corson: “ … it’s just plain old horseradish, plus some mix of mustard extract, citric acid, yellow dye no. 5 and blue dye no. 1. It comes in big industrial bags as a powder, and the chefs mix it with water before dinner to make that caustic paste.”

And if that description doesn’t set your nostrils to quivering, 99 percent of the “wasabi” we’re served in this country — and 95 percent of what is served in Japan — is the fake stuff, according to Ferdman. That’s because real wasabi, which comes from the wasabi plant, a distant relative of horseradish, and Corson says, “has a more delicate, complex and sweeter flavor,” is hard to grow, hard to handle and pricey.

How pricey? Well, a serving of fresh wasabi the size of the small faux dollop you’re used to getting on your sushi platter would run you an estimated $3 to $5.

I mean, seriously, wasabi with that?

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