Naturally grown in fresh water mountain streams, wasabi stems are cut and shipped to be freshly grated into an aromatic, slightly pungent and unique flavour. Wasabi that is processed into a powder or paste for convenient shipping and usage is but a pale suggestion of the real thing. Typically in the Western world, it is generally an imitation product made from horseradish and food colouring.
In many Japanese places a chef will grate, pound into a paste and serve minutes before it is going to be eaten. This preserves the unique flavour and smell that awakens our nostrils and enlivens our taste buds; the peak of this aroma and flavour diminishes within 15 minutes of being grated. So if you have never eaten freshly prepared wasabi then you truly have never experienced the real, scintillating sensation.
The plant is a member of the brassicaceae family which includes mustard, cabbages and horseradish, although, either individually or combined none of them can replicate even a hint of the true wasabi taste.
Pictured here are three stems of culinary excitement at the Missing Bell from mountain streams in Nara prefecture, Japan.
"This church had 134 years of weddings, blessings and Sunday school; it must be Inculcated with love, the walls must exude happiness and joy." Keiko Yamaga-White November 2007