Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

How to use Japanese Mustard?

A land of possibility

Japan is a historic country, a country that stretches far from north to south, a country with many separate cultures and styles that all come under the umbrella of Japan. Because of this large variation and difference in living from place to place, there is huge diversification in the use of food ingredients. What may be common place in Osaka, one Japanfs largest cities located on the western side of the main island of Japan, may not exist in the main centre of Tokyo. For this reason wonderful foods like Japanese mustard have uses far and wide, from north to south and east to west.


To briefly summarize, the Japanese mustard family can be broken into three parts: Karashi, wasabi and komatsuna. These three varieties are used in very different ways but each of them have very robust properties and can really bring a dish to life with their addition. Karashi mustard is a household item in Japan, and can be easily found in supermarkets, online shopping sites and just about anywhere that sells food. Given its versatility in use and delightful flavor, it is viewed in Japan as a gmust haveh item and for this reason youfd be hard pressed to find a home without it! Wasabi is a Japanese plant or root vegetable (it is known in English as Japanese Horseradish) with a thick green root which tastes like strong horseradish and is used in cookery, especially in powder or paste forms as an accompaniment to raw fish. Komatsuna is actually a leaf and not a seed. It comes from the same family as turnips and cabbages and is grown throughout Japan. They are dark green in colour and look a little like spinach leaves although the taste is far from it.


Whether traditional or modern, there is a place for Japanese mustard in all Japanese cuisine. The first type of mustard, karashi, is certainly no exception to this. Karashi is usually used as a way of adding a small addition of spice and zest to a meal without overcomplicating and overwhelming it.

Letfs go classic

A good example of this is tonkatsu. Tonkatsu is deep fried crumbed pork steaks, sliced up and served on rice. They are often covered with a mixture of boiled onions and eggs that have been slowly boiled in seasonings. Nothing goes better with this than a dollop of karashi mustard. The meal itself is savoury and sumptuous and is complimented by the slightly sweet and zesty Japanese mustard that usually makes its way on the menu in most izakayas (Japanese style pubs) and traditional Japanese eateries.


Another classic use of Japanese mustard is with the mainstay dish, oden. Oden is a traditional stew that is very commonly served in the wintertime. It is very healthy and nutritious and consists of sub ingredients to pick and choose from like eggs, whole vegetables, processed fish tubes and meatballs. They come in a delightful broth that is salty and delicious. Well, what better to dip these ingredients into than karashi mustard. It is the perfect accompaniment as it adds just enough spiciness to liven up the boiled ingredients without overpowering them. Depending on your taste, you can add use a lot of mustard to really spice the meal up or just a little to give a more subtle effect.


Karashi sometimes also makes its way into sauces, dressing and seasonings too. One example is a famous traditional dressing that mixes soy sauce, fish stock, salt, sweet cooking wine and karashi. This little wonder is just dynamite when splashed on your favourite lettuce salad and the mustard just really sets it on fire!


My all time favourite use of karashi mustard is with natto. Natto is one of the most important signature foods in Japan as it has numerous health benefits and is about as adaptable as foods get. Natto is made by adding a special bacteria to soy beans and keeping them at a constant slightly warmish temperature allow the beans to ferment. The result is a sticky, tacky and slightly smelly extremely nutritious food. Most people but this in supermarkets and each pack of natto comes with its own packet of karashi and tsuyu stock. People simply mix these in with the natto so make it. See, on its own, natto is good for you and slightly smelly which means many people would probably be turned off by it. With karashi, the smell is slightly diminished and the taste is made more palatable and this is the magic of karashi.


So, as you can see, karashi is unique and useful. It can add a big or small kick to almost any food and goes with almost anything. Whether throwing on sizzling meat or mixing in with boiled oden, it is refined and so good.

Add a bit of spice to your life

Wasabi is unique and useful too.


Wasabi has been part of Japanese life and culture for many centuries. Wasabi is known to have been around in Japan as far back as the 10th century according to ancient records. During this early time it was believed that as well as being used as ingredients in cooking and as food, wasabi was also used as a medicine. There are written records of vegetarian wasabi dishes that were primarily served at Buddhist temples between 1000-1500, dating right back to the middle ages. Between 1185-1333 wasabi was commonly used as ingredients in chilled soups. Gradually over time these dishes spread around to the general population, and as it continued to spread more and more uses were found for this hot little plant. Prior to the 16th century wasabi plants grew naturally in mountain regions, by the end of the Azuchi Momoyama period (1573-1603) they began to cultivate the plant. The first to do this were local villagers in central Japan where wasabi was already growing naturally.


It is said that one of the first uses of wasabi after becoming famous with the general population was as ingredients in sushi, not for flavour but to add to raw fish to prevent it from spoiling. You see, if not eaten or used quickly, wasabi tends to lose its flavour and hotness after around 15 minutes (that is if it is made fresh using good ingredients) so when the wasabi is placed between the fish and the vegetables in sushi is preserves the flavour and hotness until it is eaten, clever isnft it? Well, nowadays, sushi is probably the most famous of Japanese foods and most people have learnt about the latent power of wasabi by accidently taking too much.


The root of the Wasabi plant is used as a condiment and has an extremely strong flavour; it is also used as ingredients in cooking. Its hotness is more like hot mustard - the vapours tend to stimulate the nasal passages more than they do the tongue, so whilst you might not feel a burning sensation or experience a numb tongue it will certainly help you to clear any sinuses.


Nowadays everyone knows what wasabi is, although most people relate wasabi to a painful, burning experience. However, if used properly wasabi can actually really add valuable flavour boosting capabilities to any dish, how about these ones for instance:


  • Try a combination of soy sauce and wasabi to eat on your sashimi
  • Mix wasabi in with some cold soba noodles
  • Paste it between the fish and veggies in your sushi rolls
  • Try a wasabi zuke ? (a Japanese wasabi pickle)
  • Eat some wasabi peanuts or peas (famous in japan)
  • Wasabi salad dressing for that extra kick ? mixed with sesame and ginger for a flavour packed punch
  • Wasabi mayonnaise ? if you dare, mix a bit in at home to make your own
  • Wasabi BBQ hot sauce ? great for grilling seafood and chicken


When adding wasabi, always keep in mind that it is potent and packs a punch, make sure to tailor it your and your guests tastes and it will be a hit.


Komatsuna, the leafy, spinach looking vegetable that has a deep green colour and spiciness the older it gets is used in a variety of ways too.


Komatsuna is grown throughout Japan and easy for people to get a hold of. One way it is commonly used nowadays is to add some spice to salads. For a spicy salad, people often make the karashi dressing described earlier and combine it with chopped tomatoes, komatsuna, grated carrots and lettuce leaves. This makes for a zesty and delicious salad the can add a wonderful contrast to other Japanese dishes.


It is often mixed in with stir fries too, itfs so easy to prepare by simply cleaning it, chopping it up and throwing it in a fry pan with whatever suits and you know its going to add lots of vitamins and minerals to the dish, what a winner.


Komatsuna is also boiled on its own, added to nimono and even added in soups, itfs just so effective.