Wasabi, like many other spicy foods, is divisive. You either love it, or you hate how it seems to burn your nose and mouth.
We’ve said before it’s not for the faint of heart because of its heat. However, some people really hate wasabi and find it completely disgusting.
If you fall into that category, we’ll explain to you why wasabi is so nasty for some people and what components lead to that sometimes intolerable spiciness.
Quick Answer: Why is Wasabi so Nasty?
Here’s something you might not have known: most the wasabi used in restaurants or in stores is fake. So, odds are, you’ve never actually eaten real wasabi.
The wasabi you usually see in local grocery stores and restaurants is made from a combination of ingredients like horseradish, mustard seed, and green food dye. Horseradish and mustard seed are both spicy foods because of the presence of allyl ithiocyanate in them, which makes the wasabi paste intolerable for those who dislike spice.
What is Real Wasabi Like?
Because there’s a good chance you’ve never had real wasabi, you could be wondering if the real stuff is any better than the fake stuff. Well, that depends on what kind of taste you like.
Real wasabi is still spicy enough to make your nose run. However, it has a much fresher, greener taste that will appeal to you if you’re a veggie fan.
What Makes Fake Wasabi Nasty?
As you might recall, the fake wasabi you’re getting at most restaurants is made from a mixture of horseradish, mustard seed, and green food coloring.
There are studies which show that our brains set expectations on how something will taste based on what color it is. When you think about the color green, what kind of taste are you usually expecting?
More likely than not, green makes you think of something natural and leafy. You’ll probably expect a fresh, herby, or earthy taste from something that’s green. Wasabi paste can therefore be extra shocking to our senses, because the fake stuff definitely doesn’t taste like a vegetable.
Additionally, the allyl ithiocyanate in the horseradish or mustard seed is extremely potent. It was actually evolved as a defense mechanism for plants, which is why we taste it when we chew the wasabi paste. It’s designed to make you want to avoid eating it by nature.
If you have a low tolerance for spice, it’s only natural that you would think wasabi is nasty.
If you think wasabi is nasty, keep in mind that you probably haven’t eaten authentic wasabi before. True wasabi is extremely expensive, because it’s hard to grow. As a result, most restaurants and stores use an imitation made from horseradish or mustard seed with green food coloring.
Real wasabi has a much fresher taste. It may appeal to you more if you can find it, because its fresh taste better matches the green coloration.