Wasabi and hot mustard are two potent condiments that can be used alone or in conjunction with other condiments. Hot mustard dates back 6,000 years, as crude paste-like versions were mixed by the ancient Romans, according to the book "Field Guide to Produce: How to Identify, Select, and Prepare Virtually Every Fruit and Vegetable at the Market," by Aliza Green. Wasabi is a newer condiment, with cultivation dating back only to the 16th century.
The condiment hot mustard is made from mustard seeds mixed with vinegar, water and sometimes other flavorings and spices. Common throughout Europe, Asia and Africa, seeds are cracked or bruised to release the flavor. When the mustard seeds mix with the cold water it releases an enzyme called myrosinase, which degrades into mustard oil, giving the condiment its heat. Mustard is naturally hot when it's first mixed, thus it doesn't need chili peppers or horseradish to give it heat. To produce milder mustard, manufacturers can add flour or other ingredients to tone down the pungent flavor.
Native to Japan, wasabi is a perennial herb that grows wild along mountainside streams. Few areas are have conditions suitable to for growing wasabi, thus fresh forms of the condiment can be hard to find and expensive. Though it is a rhizome plant (a wandering root plant), it is more similar to ginger than to horseradish, according to Hiroko Shimbo's book "The Japanese Kitchen: 250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit." Once cultivated the root is kept in water until the grating process. To create the hot and potent green paste, the wasabi root is ground against a shark fin grater. The paste is then scooped up and either served as is or mixed for other culinary applications.
Hot mustard has many culinary uses---it can stand alone as a solitary condiment on hot dogs, burgers or sandwiches or be combined to create a sauce. Traditional Dijon, a naturally hot and robust mustard hailing from the Dijon region in France, can be used to bind together vinaigrettes or add flavor to marinades. Chinese hot mustard can be used similarly, giving a special kick to macaroni and green leaf salad dressing or add heat to barbecue sauces.
Wasabi is often served in its natural state with sushi and other Japanese foods. Like other spicy condiments it can be integrated with other oils, vinegars and mayonnaise to produce salad dressing and dips. Another application is whipping it with butter to produce a spicy sauce suitable to accompany hearty fishes, such as tuna, salmon or shark. Wasabi can also be used in conjunction with other spices to coat nuts, green pea and other crunchy snacks
Storage and Shelf Life
Mustard has antibacterial properties, and thus will not grow mold, mildew or harbor harmful bacteria at a room temperature. However, since unrefrigerated mustard can lose its potency, it is recommended to store it in an air-tight container, away from direct light, according to James Nardi's book "Life in the Soil: a Guide for Naturalists and Gardeners."
Fresh wasabi is perishable, thus it is usually ground and dehydrated for preservation and shipping purposes. Dehydrated wasabi is packaged and stored in two forms: The paste form, called neriwasabi, is available in a toothpaste-like container, while the powder wasabi is available in packets, labeled under the name konawasabi. To make the powder into paste, equal parts of water and powder are mix until combined
- "Life in the Soil: a Guide for Naturalists and Gardeners"; James B. Nardi; 2007
- "Savory Sweets: From Ingredients to Plated Desserts"; Amy Felder; 2007
- "Field Guide to Produce: How to Identify, Select, and Prepare Virtually Every Fruit and Vegetable at the Market"; Aliza Green; 2004
- "1,001 Best Hot and Spicy Recipes"; Dave DeWitt; 2010
- "Some Like it Hot: Spicy Favorites from the World's Hot Zones"; Clifford A. Wright; 2005
- "The Japanese Kitchen: 250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit"; Hiroko Shimbo; 2000
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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