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[whitespace] Whassup, Wasabi?

By Traci Vogel

BUSTER POINDEXTER may very well have been chomping on wasabi when he sang his cheesy 1987 hit, "Hot, Hot, Hot." Sometimes known as Asian horseradish, wasabi is actually a semiaquatic member of the cabbage family. Its tuberlike stem is ground into the pale green paste traditionally served as a topping on Japanese-style tofu and noodles. Although sushi etiquette formally discourages mixing wasabi and soy sauce, most Western diners first encounter the spicy green stuff as a sushi condiment, along with pickled ginger, instituting many an endurance contest between hotheads.

Wasabi is believed to act as an antidote to food poisoning, which is a useful property when served with raw fish. Research in Japan suggests that wasabi may also have anti-carcinogenic properties. Make sure, however, that the wasabi you want is the wasabi you get. Because real wasabi is harder to come by, imitation wasabi, made up of a little horseradish and food coloring, is all too common. These wasabi wannabes aren't nearly as sweet as real wasabi, which combines heat and sugar to complement the flavors of sushi.


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From the May 2-8, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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