Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

The history of Japanese mustard

A condiment for all occasions

Before we look back at how Japanese mustard has come to be, letfs recap what it is. Known as gKarashih in Japanese. Japanese mustard is slightly different to gregularh mustards like American mustard which is made from a mixture of spices, vinegar and most importantly mustard seeds. Japanese mustard has a simpler ingredients, it is just a mixture of mustard powder and water making it, like many Japanese foods, simple but refined and elegant and by far the best mustard to combine with Japanese dishes and ingredients.


In a nutshell, karashi is the Japanese equivalent of American mustard, it looks a very similar yellowish colour but tastes slightly different. It is extremely versatile and can be used as a spread on sandwiches through to a dipping sauce for deep fried tonkatsu. It is made from dried brown mustard seeds and has quite a distinctive vinegary taste that is quite pungent. It is generally sold in a paste form but can also be bought in a powder form. There are actually two separate types of karashi, wagarashi and yoogarashi. Firstly, wagarashi is white or brown and has a really strong and vinegary taste, this might be used in sandwiches or in many savory Japanese dishes also as it brings a great depth of taste to a meal. Secondly, yoogarashi is the milder of the two types and is used when a strong tasting mustard would be too overpowering. It is made by mixing water with the powder form to make a paste.


Japanese mustard has oh so many ways to be utilized in modern cooking and oh how it is. Karashi is not only used as a spread in sandwiches to add some zest, but in many other ways too. We learned how useful it is as a dipping sauce for Japanese foods like tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlets) and boiled vegetables. Well, these uses have only come about through the progression of changes and enhancement made naturally and commercially through itfs centuries of existence. Just like any product, it was conceived, consumed and the ingredients and cooking method have evolved over time and will continue to evolve with the the ever changing palates of generations to come.

I never would have guessed

Japanese mustard has a rich and beautiful yellow colour and the taste is fascinating. Japanese mustard as we learned before, is simple and refined, it is a mixture of water and ground mustard powder only. These ingredients and this simple method make it sharp tasting but consistent and delightful. Has it always been this way? When it was first dreamt up, was it the kind of thing youfd like to dip a deep fried pork cutlet into? Well, probably not because it wasnft made from mustard seedsc Yes, thatfs right, the original form of karashi was actually first made from mustard greens and not ground mustard grains as one would quite reasonable imagine. In itfs early use, it wasnft about garnishing about one your favourite foods or going online to get the best recipes from those in the know. No way, in fact it was something quite to the contrary, something done not in honour of onefs stomach and appetite but in honour of a belief and a way of thinking as we will now touch upon.


When you imagine Japanese mustard, of course you imagine tubs of it, perhaps surrounded by a loaf of sliced bread, perhaps a few other delicious spreads to go with it, if youfre lucky some yummy ingredients like ham, deep fried pork cutlet and lettuce. Yes, thatfs right, we would also imagine that we could take a trip down to our local asian or Japanese supermarket or perhaps even our local supermarket to grab somec ah the conveniences of the modern day world. Well, when Japanese mustard first made itfs way onto the table, this was far from the situation and it was also more than a thousand years ago. Thatfs right, the history of Japanese mustard and its ingredients goes all the way back to the Nara period which spanned from 710 to 794, during this period Buddhism was hugely embraced throughout the country thanks to the involvement of Emperor Shomu who was a devout Buddhist himself. Now, during this time, Buddhist monks actually used Japanese mustard when holding a mass and the mustard wasnft made from a mixture of water and mustard powder that you would find in shops today, but rather mustard leaves. Interestingly enough, although it is not as widely received as conventional Japanese mustard, these mustard greens are still used today in modern Japan by Japanese housewives to make pickles. Truly amazing how 12 or 13 centuries can develop a food, right?


So who is to say how Karashi will evolve in the next 1200 years? Will it continue to have the relevance it has today? Itfs hard to say, but I can tell you that right now, it is about as relevant as it gets. Itfs getting pretty, popular throughout the world, itfs very easily found in any asian grocery store and nowadays itfs often found in gstandardh grocery stores and supermarkets in urban centres. This kind of thing can only really happen when a product has robust quality control. Usually, this means that they meet international standards in quality such as the ability to produce the same product with minimal variation in the finished product and the raw ingredients used, a product deemed as safe and perhaps most critically, a product that people want to to buy again and again and again. Well, karashi is certainly one of those products, Ifm sure that if you try it, youfll gain an appreciation of the history of its use and the ingredients. Remember that the ingredients would have been chopped and changed for centuries to reach the pinnacle of flavour and quality that we are so amazingly and luckily able to lavishly include in our meals today. Itfs quite an achievement and I certainly give thanks to those who have come before us and pathed the way for this product to stand tall and shine both on the food stalls across the world but on our plates.