Niche ingredients specialist Omega Ingredients is bringing real wasabi to the UK market, looking to differentiate its offering from adulterated or fake wasabi products.
The majority of the paste on sale in Britain today reportedly only contains 1-5 per cent real wasabi, with the Ipswich-based supplier’s chief executive Steve Pearce explaining that products have historically been adulterated or may not contain any wasabi at all.
Often, they comprise a mixture of mustard, horseradish, green food colouring, artificial flavourings and additives, which Pearce said misleads consumers and, in the case of the allergen mustard, can cause harm to unknowing individuals.
Despite this, wasabi remains an expensive and rare delicacy around the world, and Pearce explains that capturing and maintaining the flavour, heat and biomedical activity of the rhizomes after they are picked is crucial.
Unlike the mouth-burning sensation that accompanies synthetic wasabi paste, Pearce described real Wasabi as “a nuanced experience” since its pungency comes from a chemical reaction that occurs only when the cell walls are broken down by grating the wasabi stem.
“Each Wasabia japonica rhizome is hand-picked by trusted cooperative farmers in Malaysia and our unique process captures the distinct flavour properties and active components into a convenient user-friendly form,” he said.
“Our 'Wasabi kiiNote' is pure freeze-dried Wasabi japonica root and is ground into a powder, with no additives, no diluents, no carriers, quite simply 100 per cent wasabi.”
The Wasabia japonica plant, which is notoriously hard to cultivate, can be found naturally in mountain streams where there is a continuous supply of fresh spring water, at a temperature that remains between 8-20°C, and the perfect level of humidity.