Pale-green wasabi paste, from the powdered root of the Wasabia japonica plant, has been used by Japanese cooks for generations to spice up mostly raw fish dishes like sushi and sashimi. With a similar taste and usage as horseradish, this herb can be added to various Asian-tinged ingredients like sesame oil, fish or oyster paste, rice vinegar, citrus juice and plain mayonnaise for a distinctively spicy wasabi dressing. Though recipes vary widely, common seasonings to finish off this dressing may include salt, pepper, sugar, mustard powder, chile powder, garlic, onion and ginger.
The part of the Wasabia japonica plant used for powder or grating is the knobby rhizome portion of the stem, as with ginger. When combined with water, the powder forms a paste that has been used since at least the eighth century to flavor raw meats like venison or seafood. It was not until the 10th century, however, that farmers began to cultivate the wild plant for widespread use. According to the Gourmet Sleuth Web site, Americans may have only tried a wasabi paste substitute using powdered horseradish instead, since western palates have not always taken to real wasabi's sinus-clearing flavor.
To make a basic wasabi dressing, cooks often use a combination of mayonnaise, grated wasabi or wasabi paste, rice vinegar and some sesame oil. A more complex creation by famed Paris chef and author David Lebovitz features a lighter-but-longer list of ingredients — like lime juice, sugar, soy sauce, wasabi powder, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, fish sauce, minced ginger and chile powder. Several other ingredients could find their way into wasabi dressing though, from sesame seeds or the sesame paste, known as tahini, to powdered seasonings derived from onion, garlic or mustard.
One of the more obvious uses for wasabi dressing is with salad. That does not mean it will not be found in any number of other dishes though. Some use these flavors to complement a hot entree like seared tuna or flank steak. Sushi chefs also use this recipe to kick up the flavor profile of various sushi rolls or sashimi selections.
Wasabi dressing is one of the more ambitious ways to include wasabi in a meal. Pairing wasabi paste with just soy sauce produces a traditional sushi dipping sauce used worldwide. Another common sushi staple is wasabi mayonnaise, which chefs regularly use to add a creamy kick. Beyond sushi, wasabi can be found in dishes like soup and even side dishes like mashed potatoes as a substitute for horseradish.