The green root of aquatic plant, wasabi is available fresh in Japan, its place of origin, but in other countries it is more typically sold as a tube of bright green paste, or in powder form. Wasabi's searing heat can get right up your nose, but used judiciously it adds zing to fish, beef, and chicken plus starchy ingredients such as rice and potatoes.
IN THE KITCHEN
Wasabi is essential for sushi, smeared over the rice after shaping, or as a condiment mixed with soy sauce. Try blending the paste and some toasted sesame seeds into soft butter, then chilling it to make a tasty fusion-style topping for grilled steaks or oily fish, or a flavouring for mashed potatoes. Mix it into a salad dressing with soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin and dashi, or make a Japanese-style guacamole by mashing wasabi with avocado, soy sauce, miso paste and rice vinegar.
Wasabi paste has the edge when it comes to convenience, however wasabi powder has the advantage of fewer artificial additives. In specialist Japanese stores you may be able to find the wasabi root frozen.
Wasabi powder simply needs to be blended with water to make a smooth paste, while ready-made wasabi paste can be squeezed straight from the tube. If you happen to come across the fresh or frozen varieties, peel the root and then grate it finely.