4 Tricks to Eat Wasabi Without the Burning

Wasabi is an essential part of the sushi eating experience, but is there any way to enjoy it without putting your mouth, throat, and nose through the wringer first?

Can you enjoy wasabi with the burning sensation? You can minimize the effects of this popular Japanese condiment through proper portioning, knowing what to expect, breathing the right way, or even drinking soda. With wasabi impacting several senses at once, the trick is to try and address all of them at the same time.

On that note, you might need a few more details to truly understand how you should approach wasabi to enjoy it fully and avoid painful pitfalls.

Enjoying Wasabi, Benefits with Less Pain

Wasabi is as essential to sushi as soy sauce, pickled ginger, and rice. If you want the full experience that doesn’t give you the wrong idea as to how you should be enjoying the dish, you simply can’t forgo this green condiment. However, it is a fact that not everyone can handle the sensations that come with eating wasabi, mostly due to the following characteristics:

·         Strong, overpowering odor

·         Spicy, slightly alcoholic tastes

·         Causing burning sensation to the mouth, throat, nose, and eyes

It does take some getting used to. As such, those who want to try wasabi but would rather avoid getting overwhelmed by the stronger effects can look at the solutions presented in the table below:

Portion ControlReducing the amount of wasabi you eat until you get the acceptable portion.
Anticipating EffectsKnowing exactly what will happen so that you can prepare both mentally and physically.
Breathing TechniqueBreathing in with the nose and out with the mouth.
BeverageDrinking soda or tea before or during eating.
DilutingMixing the wasabi in soy sauce or spreading it extra thinly can minimize the effects.
Acquired TasteThe more you eat wasabi, the less intense it becomes.

For those who may have the wrong impression about it, wasabi is not actually spicy, like most might think. It doesn’t react the same way that chili or other types of pepper plants do. Rather than targeting the surface where it comes in contact, the problem comes in the form of the vapor that is created by to main chemicals:

·         Sinigrin

·         Myrosinase

When these two combine, they form allyl isothiocyanate, which affects the mucous membrane. This means that the main parts to suffer when eating wasabi is your nose. Then again, the tongue, mouth, and esophagus are still affected. Fortunately, we can mitigate these effects through the simple tricks shown in the table above.

Portioning – Make no mistake about it; even a small amount of wasabi can hit you like a slap in the face if you are not careful. Luckily, you can reduce just how hard you get hit by eating smaller and smaller portions. If you want, you can start by trying a portion as small as the head of a needle. You can then try bigger portions if you want a stronger effect.

Anticipating Effects – If you know what is going to happen to you going in when you eat wasabi, you can prepare yourself so that it won’t catch you off guard. For most people who try wasabi for the first time, it’s the fact that they don’t know what to expect that makes the experience unpleasant for them. Then again, there are also those who actually enjoy such a sensation.

Either way, once you know what will happen the moment you eat wasabi, you can brace yourself for the inevitable impact. You will also be able to take appropriate steps like breathing properly;

Breathing Properly – When eating wasabi, you should already know that your nasal cavity is going to receive the brunt of the impact. This is why you will want to breathe in through your nostrils while breathing out through your mouth. This will minimize the amount of burning that you may experience as the vapor moves around.

Just be careful when you are doing this, however, as you might accidentally choke on the sushi. You don’t want to breathe in grains of rice while trying to reduce the effects of the wasabi.

Drinking Beverage – You should know that there are certain beverages that can help minimize the effects of wasabi but their effects will differ depending on a few things. In the case of carbonated soda drinks like Coca Cola, for example, the bubbles can help mask the full effects of the wasabi. This is why you drink it as you are eating.

As for tea, however, it’s best to drink it before you eat sushi with wasabi. Tea has been known to coat the surfaces of the tongue and throat, which weakens the spicy characteristic of the condiment. Drinking hot tea while eating the wasabi, however, might actually exacerbate the vapors.

Dilution – Eating wasabi while mixing it in soy sauce or other forms of condiments is another way that you can weaken its effects. In the case of the salty, dark liquid, you can just take a pinprick of wasabi and then swirl it around a bowl or cup. You can then dip the sushi there so that you can enjoy both condiments at the same time.

There is no reason for you to have to place the wasabi directly on the sushi. In many cases, though, the chef will place some wasabi in the sushi itself. So if you would rather they don’t do that, let them know beforehand.

Acquiring the Taste – Finally, the very best way to eat wasabi so that you no longer have to endure the burning sensation is to just get used to eat. This green condiment can actually be paired with a whole host of other foods from sandwiches to rice bowls. As such, you can acquire the taste of wasabi through regular consumption.

You can use commercial wasabi pastes or powders for that. Using a little at a time will then allow you to slowly build a tolerance to it so that you can eventually eat them in big amount without worry.

Why Sushi Needs Wasabi

If we are going to talk about the value of wasabi in sushi, there are several reasons why you simply must include this popular Japanese green paste in your dining experience. To start with, it simply lends to the authenticity of the dish. Sushi without wasabi is like eating American hotdog without ketchup and mustard.

Then again, not everyone who enjoys sushi is a purist who wants authenticity over everything. As for the other reasons why sushi absolutely needs wasabi, you can refer to the following:

·         Bringing out the true flavor of the sushi.

·         Has antimicrobial properties.

·         Helps promote healthy digestion.

Sushi is already quite a flavorful dish, but the taste can be decidedly mild compared to many other forms of food. This is where its condiments and side dishes come into play. The soy sauce adds saltiness to the experience while the pickled ginger provides much-needed zest and added sourness. As for wasabi, it basically opens up all of your other senses.

Think of wasabi as a battering ram that will open the doors to your sense of taste, smell, and even touch that is normally closed all at the same time. The overpowering sensation that you get from wasabi basically forced you to have a deeper appreciation for what you are eating. As such, it can enhance your enjoyment, overall.

Then again, you need to remember that wasabi can be too powerful too easily. So be sure to control your portions as necessary. This brings us to the health reasons for why this green Japanese condiment is so popular, not just as a partner to sushi.

Basically, wasabi has been known to have huge antibacterial properties. This then allows it to counteract so many infections that other foods would actually encourage. What’s more, this also helps make sure that your consumption of sushi is as safe as possible.

You have to remember that sushi does involve raw fish and other ingredients that might be prone to contamination. While sushi chefs do often take very good care to make their preparations as sanitary as possible, it never hurts to be more careful with what you eat. When you add wasabi to your sushi dining experience, you are adding an extra layer of protection.

This is why wasabi has also been thought to help with such things as tooth decay, common illnesses, and even cancer. Though, it’s worth pointing out that none of those have been confirmed yet, so it’s best not to take them too literally.

Finally, wasabi has been observed to help promote healthier digestion. By getting rid of bad bacteria in the stomach, the digestive tract is able to function better. This not only helps in actually processing the food that you eat, but it also ensures that you are able to absorb the nutrients from them.

Yes, you might have already guessed it, but wasabi has also been known to help with the actual excretion of waste. There have even been reports of wasabi actually being beneficial for weight loss. Again, this has yet to be confirmed, so don’t start munching down on wasabi paste as part of your regular diet.

These are just some of the reasons why adding wasabi to your sushi dining experience is so important. More than anything else, it is to your advantage to actually try and enjoy this green paste. While it may be unpleasant in the beginning, you can get used to it faster than you think.

Why Wasabi Burns

The reasons why eating wasabi can be an unpleasant experience have been briefly covered above. However, if you are to truly appreciate the wonders of this particular condiment, it would be best to get to know it a bit more. We can start by explaining how the vast majority of wasabi powders and paste that are in the market are not actually made of real wasabi.

Most of the commercial wasabi that can be found in stores are completely made of substitute products that are meant to mimic the actual taste and effects of wasabi. There are a few that are made of 50 percent of the actual think while only a handful is made entirely of real wasabi.

As such, if you are going to expect these different types of wasabi to have the same sensations or intensity of flavor, they simply will not. In the case of real wasabi, though, the main culprits behind its spicy qualities are the two chemicals mentioned before. When mixed together, they produce a compound called allyl isothiocyanate.

This compound then targets certain receptors that basically give out instructions to freak out. As a result, eating wasabi for the first time can result in the following sensations or reactions:

·         Burning

·         Coughing

·         Choking

·         Tear duct irritation

·         Itching

In some cases, all of these sensations can come into play, which probably means that you just tried to eat a huge amount of the paste. This is why sushi chefs only put a dab in every piece, to begin with, and only place a mound of the condiment on the plate in case you want some more.

Anyone who has ever come in contact with tear gas will be well-aware of how these kinds of effects can mess you up. As such, it is never advised to eat wasabi in amounts that you may not be accustomed to.

On that note, these effects actually play a huge role in developing better pain medication. Some researchers are even using wasabi as a means of detecting just how the body’s receptor reacts to certain stimuli.

In this case, wasabi shared a remarkable resemblance with chili in the kind of effect it has on your dining experience. Just like with the green paste, you are not actually experiencing a sense of taste when you are eating hot foods. Rather, it is the compounds that are reacting to the receptors in the mouth, tongue, and throat that are causing pain.

This main is what enhances your enjoyment of the food because it increases the production of saliva, wakes up your neuroreceptors, and basically brings your entire body to life. Wasabi does pretty much the same thing, but with the addition of the sense of smell. Most food enthusiasts will already know that the complete food experience involves the eyes, mouth, and nose.

On a side note, it has also been found that wasabi is extremely helpful in waking up people who have lost consciousness. Basically, instead of shoving ammonia capsules up the victim’s nose, you just place a dab of wasabi in their mouths. The results effect is someone who might have been given a jolt of electricity.

Related Questions

How to Neutralize Wasabi?

While it isn’t exactly advised that you do this since the whole point to wasabi is to burn, if you want to completely neutralize it, you just have to mix it with dairy products. This includes milk, cream, and ice cream. Doing this will completely ruin the taste of both food products, though.

Does Wasabi Burn When You Poop?

Wasabi will only cause a burning sensation in the mouth, throat, nose, and eyes due to the fact that the compounds that are found in the substance turn into vapors. Since there is no sense of smell in the anus, there is no reason to expect wasabi to burn upon the exit of your waste.

Why Eating Wasabi is Good

The benefits of eating wasabi have already been discussed above, but if you are still wondering why you would want to eat wasabi, it really comes down to your enjoyment of the food. To start with, if you are not going to include wasabi in sushi, you are missing out on a crucial aspect of the whole experience.

It was already mentioned that wasabi basically allows you to fully appreciate the flavors that come with sushi even more. Just imagine you are paying hundreds of dollars for a sushi dining experience at a super expensive restaurant, wouldn’t you want to make the most of the money that you spent?

More than that, if you truly want to experience sushi via authentic Japanese sushi restaurants, the chefs are going to include sushi by default. If you ask them not to do that, you are basically telling them that you do not appreciate the food they are making as it was intended. This can be considered an insult even if it wasn’t what you wanted to convey.

Wasabi Substitutes to Try

On the other hand, if you are eating sushi at home and would really rather not have sushi, there are certain substitutes that you can try. The most obvious of these would be a mix of finely grated horseradish, mustard, and pepper. When you mix these together, the resulting paste will be similar to that of wasabi without being completely overpowering.

You could also try mushing some green peas and then adding just a tiny amount of wasabi powder in the mix. You then strain the mixture in a fine-mesh strainer to get rid of the excess moisture and then use the resulting paste as an alternative to sushi.

Finally, if you prefer to get a burning experience but through your sense of taste rather than your sense of smell, you can go ahead and try good old fashioned tabasco sauce. There isn’t really a rule saying that you can’t do this, but you really should not try it at a sushi restaurant.

While you may not mind being thought of as rude, it could potentially damage the reputation of that establishment and ruin the experience of other diners. With sushi being a largely Japanese dish despite its international appeal, eating it still requires you to follow certain protocols in select restaurants.

You are basically part of a community when eating sushi in a sushi restaurant. This means that you are not only eating for yourself but also for everyone else who is there. You cannot simply use your aversion to wasabi to start throwing in all kinds of curveballs like asking for tabasco sauce for your spicy tuna roll. 

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