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After looking at wasabi's Wikipedia page I was shocked to find out that real wasabi loses the majority of its flavor in 15 minutes if left uncovered and that in the United States "wasabi" is actually horseradish, mustard, starch, and green food coloring.

This made me wonder about much of the wasabi-flavored foods I have had such as wasabi peas, and the ingredients list of Trader Joe's Wasabi Peas confirms that their "wasabi" is nothing more than mustard. However, another brand of wasabi peas simply lists "wasabi" in their ingredients list which makes me wonder if it is legal in the US to label horseradish, mustard, and other things that clearly are not wasabi as wasabi. It also makes me wonder if I have ever had real wasabi in my lifetime living in the United States.

Does anyone have any insight into how much of the wasabi-flavored foods in the United States are authentic and how to know what is the real thing? I am also very interested in knowing more about the regulations that pertain to foods being labelled as "wasabi" when there is no actual wasabi in them.

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    I've always hated wasabi, it stabbed my nose with a thousand knives. I was surprised to find during my first trip to Japan that no, I don't actually hate wasabi ... I hate whatever that green stuff is you find at Japanese places in Australia. When wasabi was freshly grated in front of me, served immediately, it was infinitely better. All the wasabi peas and nuts I've tried, wasabi this or that, didn't taste anything like fresh wasabi in Japan. – Ming Dec 5 '14 at 1:41
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    From what I understand, almost none of our "wasabi" is wasabi. – Preston Dec 5 '14 at 2:20
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The vast majority of wasabi in the US is mostly horseradish.

Some brands like this one, contain no wasabi at all. That one is the #1 seller on Amazon.

Other brands, including this one, contain a small amount of wasabi, presumably just so they can put wasabi on the list of ingredients. Incidentally, that brand is made in Japan.

Real wasabi can be found without too much trouble. This brand is in the powdered form, you can also get it in a tube. I understand that real wasabi loses its heat very quickly after being grated, which may explain why I actually prefer the fake stuff. I've tried real wasabi in a tube, and I found it disappointingly mild. If I ever see a fresh wasabi stem I will buy it just to satisfy my curiosity. (Originally I called it "wasabi root", the wiki article linked to in the OP tells me it's actually a stem. Hmmm, learn something new every day.)

I have read that most of the wasabi in Japanese sushi bars is the same stuff we get here. Even in Japan, real wasabi is the exception, not the rule.

You bring up an interesting point about the legality of labeling a product "wasabi" when it doesn't contain any real wasabi. Our labeling laws usually wouldn't allow that. My guess is that it's a loophole just for wasabi, maybe written especially for Japanese exporters.

HA! There is even an on-line petition to ban the practice of labeling horseradish "wasabi".

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We were quite relieved that the wasabi we could buy in the U.K. (but Made In Japan) looks and tastes just like the tube we had previously bought in Japan. It is just labelled "wasabi" and, as already stated, only contains a little "real" wasabi.

I think what may be going on is that in Japanese you have 本わさび (hon-wasabi, which is the Japanese wasabi plant) and 西洋わさび (seiyou-wasabi, literally Western wasabi, which is the Japanese name for horse radish). So, from that point of view, horse radish is a type of wasabi, and Japanese wasabi is a type of wasabi.

  • But did they name it Western wasabi before or after people started serving it here and calling it wasabi? – Cascabel Dec 10 '14 at 17:10
  • A quick search says it was introduced to Japan in Meiji era (1868-1912) from Eastern Europe; I couldn't find anything about a name change since. – Darren Cook Dec 10 '14 at 17:20
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Wasabi is a rather pricey produce even in Japan, and most food is served with substitutes. It doesn't grow in the US or in Europe. So the rule of thumb is that if it anything cheap/affordable, it is not wasabi.

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