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Video:How to Prepare Fresh Wasabi

with Jonathon E. Stewart

Real wasabi can be a little tricky to find, but once you do, your palate will be opened to a whole new sensation. Learn how to prepare real wasabi, and settle for no imitation.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Prepare Fresh Wasabi

Hey guys! Jonathan Stewart here for About.com. You know that little dollop of green paste that comes with your sushi? You've probably come to know it as "wasabi," even though in most places it's more likely than not to be a mixture of horseradish, Chinese mustard, cornstarch and green food coloring. So what's the deal with real wasabi? Take a look at the following tips, and you'll never go back. Check it out.

Wasabi Root

Also known as wasabia japonica - wasabi root, the rhizome is expensive and typically hard to find in the States, and can even be rare to find in Japan. When shopping for one, keep an eye out for a root that looks like a cross between a miniature green pineapple and a potato. Or a nubby, little green carrot.

Types of Wasabi

There are two kinds of wasabi - sawa wasabi, which is grown in mountain streams, and oka wasabi, which is grown in fields. Like a good coffee berry, the shaded, mountain-grown sawa wasabi tends to be the wasabi of choice. A single root, which should be about an inch and a half in diameter and around six inches long, can be pretty pricey - nearly 30 bucks - but then again, so can a couple martinis at a bar in Manhattan.

Storing Wasabi Root

Wrap your wasabi root in a damp paper towel and keep it in your refrigerator for up to 30 days - it's a good idea to rinse it with water once a week while it's being stored. But of course, the sooner you use it, the better.

Grating Wasabi

The traditional Japanese tool for grating wasabi is a piece of sharkskin stretched over a block of wood. And you thought the wasabi was hard to find... for those of us with access to a Target, these work just as well. A wasabi or ginger grater is ideal for grating your wasabi, but just know you can always use a fine cheese grater or a zesting rasp.

Rinse the root one last time under cold running water and peel the outer skin using a paring knife or peeler. Remove any knobs or bumps to attain a smooth surface for grating, and give it one more rinse and scrub to ensure that all dirt is gone. Hold the root at a 90 degree angle to the grater and grate, using a circular motion.

Shark-skin grater aside, we are now participating in a thousand-year-old tradition. Neat!

Serving Wasabi

Once you've grated enough wasabi to satisfy your tastes, gather the grated wasabi into a ball and let it sit for at least 10 minutes, during which the famous wasabi flavor will develop. Within 15 minutes of grating, serve the wasabi at room temperature. If you have to serve it later, try covering it with plastic, which will help preserve the flavor as long as possible. Be sure to store any unused root back in the fridge, wrapped in damp paper towels.

Wasabi is obviously a little spicy, and should be treated like a fresh chile pepper - be sure not to touch your eyes or sensitive skin after handling it. The fresh wasabi leaves are also edible and share some of the same hot flavor of the root. Boil them quickly with a little soy sauce for a wasabi salad or do it up the 'merican way, and deep-fry 'em into chips. Yum!

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