That Isn't Wasabi On Your Sushi

Photo: Getty Images
Spicy news, sushi lovers: No longer is artificial crab meat the primary impostor invading our beloved rice-and-seaweed feasts. It turns out, the alleged wasabi we slather on our tuna sashimi is likely fake.

"The truth is, you've probably never eaten real wasabi," Chemical & Engineering News senior editor Sarah Everts says in a recent video from the American Chemical Society.

The sinus-clearing, tongue-tingling stuff we're acquainted with is mostly horseradish dressed up in a bright-green costume. Nestled next to those unnaturally pink piles of pickled ginger, the dollop of green is usually a mixture of European horseradish, hot mustard, and dye.

In fact, true wasabi is so difficult to cultivate, it's even a rare sight in Japan. The BBC reported only 5% of the "wasabi" we eat actually comes from wasabi root. But fine diners can easily identify it when they see it, because bona fide wasabi comes freshly grated, like Parmesan cheese. Only upon shaving does the condiment release the enzymes that provide its signature punch and that satisfying zing only sticks around for around 15 minutes.

If sushi loyalists insist on authentic wasabi, it'll cost them, as the BBC also noted wholesale wasabi runs about $160 per kilogram. Maybe that horseradish mush isn't so bad after all.

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