Along with spread of sashimi
Powdered wasabi, the origin of processed wasabi, was devised in the early Taisho Era (1912-1926). A tea broker in Shizuoka hit upon the idea of drying raw wasabi like tea and selling it as a powder. However, there was the drawback that pungency and flavor were lost. Because of that, the powdered wasabi was sold after being mixed with western mustard to supplement the pungency.
Sales of powdered wasabi increased not only to ryotei restaurants and ryokan inns but also to families. As a result, the number of companies that produced powdered wasabi increased, leading to the establishment of the Zenkoku Kona-wasabi Kyokai (National powdered wasabi association) in 1955. Powdered wasabi that was not mixed with western mustard was also sold for the first time in 1969.
When mass merchandise outlets such as supermarkets increased, sashimi began to line sales counters in a packed style. Then, development of neri-wasabi (wasabi paste), which is powdered wasabi kneaded with water in advance, progressed so that people can eat sashimi immediately.
The first company that sold wasabi paste in tubes was S&B Foods Inc. When powdered wasabi is dissolved in water, the flavor lasts for only two or three days under normal conditions. The company then developed a technology that retained the flavor for several months even in normal temperatures by adding spices secondarily. It also obtained a patent for the technology.
In 1987, S&B sold tubed wasabi that used hon-wasabi (Japanese horseradish). It made the tubed wasabi closer to real hon-wasabi and improved the color and hardness. In 2009, S&B sold Honnama hon-wasabi, whose raw materials were 100 percent hon-wasabi.
How can the pungency that easily volatilizes be retained? We visited the production sites that are conducting various trials.
This is a container that was cooled with liquid nitrogen, said Takahiro Okada, head of the Okhotsk factory of Kinjirushi, and pointed to a metal container with a diameter of about two meters. It was covered with a white fog from the cold air. The container is used to grate wasabi at an ultra-low temperature. The production method was developed by Kinjirushi in 1973. By grating wasabi at minus 196 degrees, the container stops enzyme reactions and preserves the flavor.
The raw material, western horseradish, is diced and washed. There is the know-how on how to wash it to maintain the pungency as much as possible. As for how to grate wasabi, the company also has its own methods to produce the feel of fibers favored by consumers.
By utilizing good points of western horseradish, we are aiming to make products that bring out not only the pungency but also the taste, sweetness and umami (savory taste), said Okada.