There are a lot of wasabi imitators on the market, but you can order 100% true wasabi at Flo’s Japanese restaurant in Bellevue. This is rarer than you might think, as real wasabi is a bit of a luxury item. Most places will serve you a mix of conventional horseradish and mustard seed colored green to resemble wasabi. Such concoctions can serve as a passable simulacrum for the wasabi experience, but if you haven’t tried real wasabi, or hon-wasabi, you are missing out.
Wasabi performs two important roles in the sushi world. Firstly, of course, it lends a powerful and distinctive taste that many sushi fans find irreplaceable. Secondly, it contains powerful agents known as isothiocyanates. These chemicals are not only what give the spice its flavor, but they have also been shown to inhibit the growth of microbes. Before the days of the strict health standards that sushi restaurants are held to, wasabi was able to help keep the raw fish clean and prevent the spread of foodborne illness.