WASABI is a plant from the Cruciferae family whose root is grated and eaten as a condiment. It originated in Japan and is largely produced in Nagano, Shizuoka and Shimane Prefectures. WASABI has a long history and the word is documented in records which are written on wood and are said to have been written in 685 A.D. Initially it seems to have spread as a medicinal herb, but it was widely used as a condiment during the Kamakura period (from the end of 12th century to the 14th century).
WASABI is an excellent complement to soy sauce and has antimicrobial effects which protect against food poisoning, so it is suitable to eat with raw fish such as sushi. People also traditionally eat it mixed in the broth of their Soba noodles to bring out the flavor of the fish stock and they serve it with eel to reduce the taste of the oil. Furthermore, clear antibacterial sheets which contain an ingredient extracted from WASABI, are often used in boxed lunches sold in stores.
WASABI is also an excellent complement to western food. For example, it is served with steak and roast beef and used to add flavor to pasta. Sauces and desserts that use raw WASABI are often seen these days in French cuisine that is influenced by Japanese food.
There are many processed foods available which contain WASABI, such as WASABI mayonnaises and dressings and WASABI-blended cheeses and sausages. WASABI is also widespread in the snack industry and there are WASABI-flavored potato chips and rice crackers in supermarkets and convenience stores. You can also purchase WASABI-flavored foods in department stores and supermarkets, making them perfect for a souvenir.
You might find unique WASABI-flavored foods, such as WASABI chocolate or ice cream, at souvenir shops in WASABI production areas. If you want to taste fresh WASABI, a grater made with shark skin is recommended because it grates WASABI very finely.