Wanna spice up your life? This new recipe will at least clear out your sinuses. Kizami wasabi isn’t your typical tube of artificially green-colored paste. It’s real Japanese wasabi, coarsely chopped. Relish your next stick of yakitori… with this, um, relish.
What is kizami wasabi?
I think of kizami wasabi as chunky wasabi. In Western countries, it's sometimes called wasabi relish.
Kizami wasabi contains actual small pieces of fresh wasabi that's been marinated in soy sauce.
The term kizami is also used with dried nori seaweed. It means thin, shredded strips of seaweed. The kanji for kizami (刻み) means to finely cut, chop, hash, or mince.
The two main ingredients in kizami wasabi are fresh wasabi and soy sauce. It can be used in the same way you would use regular wasabi paste.
At Japanese restaurants, you're more likely to see kizami wasabi come with grilled wagyu beef or chicken yakitori.
It can be used with a few varieties of sushi or sashimi, most commonly with tako (octopus).
How is kizami wasabi made?
Fresh wasabi is usually ground into a fine paste. Traditionally, it's finely grated using samegawa oroshi, which literally translates into shark skin grater.
To make kizami wasabi, the stem of wasabi is chopped into small pieces. The minced wasabi is then marinated in soy sauce.
In Japan, I've never heard of anyone making their own kizami wasabi at home. It's primarily a condiment that you buy at the store.
Homemade kizami wasabi
It is possible to make yourself. From my research, I believe these are the steps. Again, it's rare to make your own kizami wasabi in Japan.
- Chop off the wasabi top with a sharp knife, just like you would remove a carrot top.
- Peel the bumpy outer skin, again like a carrot.
- Halve the wasabi lengthwise.
- Chop each half of wasabi stem into smaller chunks.
- Put chunks of wasabi in a food processor and blend.
- Transfer minced wasabi into a bowl.
- Marinate with soy sauce.
Is kizami wasabi good for you?
Yes, consuming Japanese wasabi root has a lot of health benefits, in theory.
It's likely that wasabi's antimicrobial properties are part of the reason why it was originally added to sushi. Wasabi may have safeguarded sushi eaters in Japan over the years (Source: McGill Office of Science and Society).
Wasabi extract has been shown to have antibacterial effects against two of the most common bacteria that cause food poisoning (Source: Healthline).
According to Healthline, the compounds in wasabi may also have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties as well.
Wasabi is rich in vitamins like minerals. But keeping in mind how small the serving size is, you won't be getting a lot of nutrition from adding wasabi to your diet.
Also, store bought kizami wasabi contains only a percentage of real wasabi. Plus, other ingredients like hydrolyzed vegetable protein, sugar canola oil, and xanthan gum are usually added.
I always check the label and choose a wasabi with the fewest number of ingredients.
I assume because wasabi loses it's pungency quickly after shredding, other additives and flavor enhancers are added to the kizami wasabi you buy at the store.
How do you use kizami wasabi?
Kizami wasabi is used as a condiment to top Japanese dishes for an added spiciness and flavor.
You can use it just as you would wasabi paste, with some exceptions. For example, at a sushi restaurant in Japan, a small dab of wasabi paste goes under the piece of raw fish. Then, it's placed on top of the ball of sushi rice.
Because of kizami wasabi's crunchy texture, it's not used to go under the slab of raw fish. The fine-grain texture of wasabi paste, almost like wet sand, allows it to stick in place.
On the other hand, if some added chunky texture goes well on top of a dish, kizami wasabi could be used instead of paste. It provides a contrast in textures between a food that's smooth and chewy, like wagyu beef, yakitori, raw or seared maguro tuna sashimi, or raw oysters.
Put a small amount on the same serving plate or in a small bowl or dish. It goes well with soy sauce. I find a little soy sauce brings out more of the pungent, wasabi flavor.
Also, you can put it right on top of Japanese dishes to give them a spicy accent.
Kizami wasabi can also be mixed with mayonnaise or butter for some added texture and zing.
It also goes well with soba noodles in a hot broth or cold noodles with a tsuyu dipping sauce. Or simply add it on top of a warm bowl of white rice.
If you want to experiment, it might go well with some maki rolls.
Kizami wasabi recipe
- meat or fish
- kizami wasabi
- soy sauce (optional)
- yuzu peel (optional)
- Grill meat or fish.
- Using a spoon, top grilled meat or fish with a small amount of kizami wasabi.
- Drizzle a small amount of soy sauce on top of kizami wasabi. (optional)
- Using a microplane, sprinkle a light dusting of yuzu peel zest on top.
Where to buy kizami wasabi in Japan
Even in Tokyo, I don't see kizami wasabi at every supermarket.
So far, I found one small tube of S & B brand kizami wasabi at Queen's Isetan.
I also found some Banjo brand in the basement at Tokyu Food Show at Shibuya Station. It was in the seafood section next to the sashimi.
Where to buy it online
In North America, you can find Kinjirushi kizami wasabi, an exported product of Japan.
It's available online (frozen). These are a few options for buying it outside of Japan. Kinjirushi is the only brand that I've found that is exported from Japan.
Pros: This brand actually contains a large percentage of real wasabi, it's authentic, and made in Japan. The company began in 1927.
Cons: It contains some additives including MSG and other artificial ingredients. Soy sauce, a main ingredient, contains wheat gluten.
Here are some online shops that carry it.
Kai Gourmet (ships from Southern California)
Asian Veggies (delivers in New York area)
DeBragga (New York)
Wabi Sabi (Palm Springs, CA)
Sushi Sushi (UK)
Yutaka (London and UK delivery)
Anzu Meat Factory (Singapore)
The Bow Tie Duck (Manila)
A chef at one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo says Kinjurishi is the best brand of kizami wasabi.
Ingredients in Kinjirushi Kizami Wasabi
Wasabi, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein(Water, Salt, Corn), Horseradish, Soy Sauce (Water, Salt, Soybeans, Wheat,Rice), Fermented Seasoning, Modified Food Starch, Water, Sugar, Canola Oil, Monosodium Glutamate, Natural Flavor and Artificial Flavor, Kelp Extract, Xanthan Gum, Spirulina, Turmeric, Sucrose Fatty Acid Esters, Disodium 5′-Ribonucleotides
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Hon wasabi vs. nama wasabi vs. kizami wasabi
What is the difference?
In Japan, hon wasabi is the paste that you'll usually see at the supermarket.
Hon (本), means original or "the real thing". The label indicates that the product is made of real Japanese wasabi.
It’s the term used to differentiate real wasabi that’s grown Japan from the much cheaper horseradish from North America or Europe.
Hon wasabi does not mean that it's nama (生), or freshly grated wasabi.
Nama means fresh. You’re eating nama wasabi if you see the sushi chef grating the actual stem of wasabi in front of you.
Technically, nama wasabi is turned into a paste. It’s not actually grated. If you look closely at the tool used, there are no holes.
Kizami wasabi is made with hon wasabi. In Japanese, you can refer to it as hon-kizami wasabi.
This difference is the wasabi is roughly cut. It’s the ”chopped type”. And it’s marinated in soy sauce.
All three varieties are made with real Japanese wasabi.
There’s also one more that confused me: nama oroshi (生おろし). As oroshi means ‘grated’, I thought this literally translated to mean ‘freshly grated’. It doesn’t. It’s actually a blend of real wasabi and horseradish.
2. Fake wasabi vs. real wasabi paste (What is the difference?)
Japanese wasabi is expensive. That means the green paste you're eating with sushi in your country may be fake.
Wasabi usually takes over a year to grow. That's why one real wasabi stem can cost over 20 - 30 dollars.
"Fake wasabi" is a cheaper imitation made from horseradish, mustard, and green food coloring.
Even if you are a regular at sushi restaurants, there's a good chance that you've never tasted real wasabi.
Almost all of the wasabi in North America is fake. Even a lot of the wasabi in Japan is fake or only contains a small percentage of real wasabi.
Now you'll have to check the labels to see if your wasabi is real or not!
3. Is kizami wasabi real?
Yes, all the brands I mentioned above are made with real wasabi that's grown in Japan. Kizami wasabi isn't 100% wasabi. For example, Kinjirushi brand is 39% real wasabi according to The Bow Tie Duck.