The flavors of Japanese cuisine, and especially of sushi, are known for being light and subtle. Yet two of the primary condiments or sides that are commonly served with sushi are wasabi and ginger. These flavors are surprisingly powerful and spicy, but are somehow perfectly suited for sushi and sashimi. Here is a brief look at how wasabi and ginger serve to enhance the sushi experience:
What is Wasabi?
Wasabi is a Japanese plant similar to horseradish, the root of which is made into a paste for use in sushi and other dishes. This paste is famously spicy, but has a different quality from spicy peppers that makes it stimulate the nose more than the tongue. This opens up one’s receptiveness to the finer and more complex flavors in sushi, which are actually smelled rather than tasted on the tongue.
What is Ginger?
Another root that enhances the dining experience, ginger is often served alongside the wasabi. When used with sushi dishes, ginger root is sliced very thin and pickled. This provides a sharp, sweet, and refreshing flavor. The ginger served with sushi has a strong flavor, and is not actually eaten as a condiment in the way that wasabi is usually enjoyed.
How Do They Enhance Sushi?
Both of these flavors can enhance the sushi experience, but in very different ways. Wasabi is used as a condiment, eaten directly with sushi to help bring out subtle flavors, and add a pleasant spicy quality. A sushi chef will generally add wasabi to nigiri sushi, but more can be added to any dish as you eat. Ginger is often used as something of a palate cleanser between different dishes. It is also said to be an antiseptic, helping to make the meal of raw fish safer.
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