When I first moved to New York City in 2007, my roommate at the time, Matt, told me this as he gave me a tour of the city:
“Jenny, if you’re going to live in New York, you have to do 2 things: eat sushi and do yoga.”
Ha. No problem. Let’s do this. I wanted to be legit, so I started eating sushi on the regular. (He also forced me to try “street meat” – a habit that fortunately didn’t stick).
Ever since then, I’ve found that people are totally obsessed with sushi. And not just in New York.
I started thinking about this the other day. What is it about sushi that has this effect on people? Honestly, I don’t think it’s just the fish or the rice. Personally, I think it all boils down to 2 spicy little friends: ginger and wasabi.
By the way, this blog is not about whether or not I think sushi is “healthy.” I know a lot of you are vegans, would never think about touching white rice, and there’s a lot of crazy shit going on with fish these days. I’m not going there right now. I’m here to talk about ginger and wasabi. Cool?
Anyway, I don’t think I’d care about sushi all that much if ginger and wasabi weren’t involved. I’m always the person at the table who eats the entire pile of ginger.
So, that being said, I figured I’d check out what’s so great about these 2 little “condiments” and I learned some surprising stuff!! Here’s the lowdown:
Ok, here’s the deal. Wasabi is a member of the same family as cabbage, mustard and horseradish, and it’s the wasabi root that’s used as a condiment.
True authentic wasabi is known to have anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory effects on the body, which is fab news.
THE KICKER: Outside of Japan, specialty grocery stores and super high end Japanese restaurants, most wasabi we get served at restaurants in the US isn’t actually wasabi at all. It’s a mixture of horseradish, mustard and green food coloring. NO!! That makes me sad.
As far as how to know if you’re getting real wasabi or not at a restaurant, I’m not sure, but the best bet would be to ask.
Ginger, of course, is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It’s awesome for digestion and boosting the immune system. The ginger you get at sushi restaurants is thinly sliced, pickled ginger.
THE KICKER: Sometimes the pile of ginger is “normal ginger” colored (white/yellowish) and other times you’ll see pink ginger, like in the picture above. If the ginger is very pale pink, it is probably the result of the natural pickling process – but if it’s bright pink, it’s artificial coloring.
Well, when I started writing this blog it was just going to be a happy positive article about the health benefits of wasabi and ginger, but it turned into a bit of an exposé on food coloring. I hope I didn’t scare you away if you’re one of the sushi-obsessed….but it’s just something to keep in mind and I think it’s interesting to know and to be able to make more informed decisions.
What do you think about this? I’d love to hear your thoughts!