Wasabi: A Unique Flavor Beyond the Scoville Scale

wasabi scoville

It is well known that wasabi gives a different kind of burning sensation. Of course, when compared with the usual spicy nutritions we are familiar with. Therefore, right before their first wasabi experience, everybody most likely has wondered how hot it is. Furthermore, probably got nervous about how the burn will make them feel. It would be easier to try it if they would know the wasabi Scoville heat unit. However, there is no such thing as explained in the following paragraph. They usually ask whether it is spicy as much as the other peppery foods they know. But it is hard to answer as everyone’s pain threshold differs.

Wasabi Scoville Value

Although the pungency of food is relative, Wilbur Scoville, an American pharmacist created a proportionally impersonal system of measurement in 1912, which serves to rank the chili peppers according to their spiciness or heat. However, unlike chili peppers, wasabi which is a root, basically not a pepper. That is why it can not be measured by the Scoville scale. It indicates from the concentration of ‘’capsaicin’’, a molecule that is based on oil; the ingredient of chili peppers that cause the sense of burning on the tissue it directly contacts. 

How Spicy is Wasabi?

Wasabi plant being ground. They look like long-shaped radishes.

Wasabi causes a short-term burning as it is a different type of hot. When compared to chili peppers most of us familiar with, wasabi is different. The smaller chemicals found in the wasabi vaporize and reach to your nose where the burning sensation happens. Additionally, it causes lacrimation. In order to avoid excessive pain, it should be consumed in small proportions. The heat can be diminished simply by water or other liquids as isothiocyanate is water-soluble. Although it is not directly linked, wasabi kind of has a similar effect with the eucalyptus or menthols but stronger and more painful than those two. Alongside its spiciness, wasabi is a very sensitive taste as it tends to lose its flavor very fast. In restaurants, they serve it as freshly prepared and in 15 minutes, the savor fades away.

Why Does Wasabi Burn Differently?

Wasabi is a sauce with green color

Capsaicin is a compound that attaches to the TRPV1 pain receptors of the tongue. It causes a feeling like there is a fire in your mouth. Just like the pain of eating tremendously heated food. In the case of wasabi, the name of the substance that causes pain is allyl isothiocyanate (AITC). It affects nasal passages for a short amount of time comparing to the length of pain that capsaicin creates.

Some may ask: Why we feel the heat in our nasal passages and not in the tongue? Because the wasabi receptor, which is known as TRPA1 and is a member of the family of receptors called transient receptor potential (TRP), also a relative to TRPV1 (capsaicin receptor), is located in the nasal passages. When some chemical compounds our body is not familiar with bind to the receptor, it stimulates both our nose and eyes which can cause burning, cough, itch. It also responds to stuff like tear gas, cigarette smoke or onion, etc.

If you are wondering what exactly happens when you eat something spicy that contains capsaicin, check out our article on Taco Bell Diablo Sauce Scoville! In this article, we go into deep detail about what is “spicy”.

Is There Any Chance That Wasabi Would Kill You?

Allyl isothiocyanate which wasabi contains has LD50 toxicity of 151mg/kg. It appears that there is a 50% chance of dying from ingesting 9 grams of allyl isothiocyanate in the case that the person who consumes it is a 60 kg adult. As the pure wasabi contains 9585 mg/kg of allyl isothiocyanate, a person would need 9 kilograms of the wasabi to kill them. As the maximum capacity of the human stomach is 1.5-2 liters on average, the chances of wasabi killing you because of excessive eating are very low.

Where does it come from?

Water canals on a wasabi farm

Wasabi sauce is produced from a plant called Wasabi Japonica which is a member of the Brassicaceae family. This family includes cabbage, mustard, and horseradish, which are also pungent foods. Surprisingly, the paste that restaurants serve by sushi on our plate is usually not actual wasabi, rather a mixture of mustard, starch, horseradish, green food coloring, and other spices. Because wasabi is expensive and is somehow difficult to cultivate. The water quality and proper climate are highly important for this plant to grow. Therefore, we all have probably tasted the ‘’western wasabi’’ instead of the original one.

Benefits of Wasabi

If you are a wasabi eater, we have some good news for you! Wasabi is nutrient-rich in terms of vitamins and minerals. As the most famous ones, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, and potassium are just a few of them. Another and maybe more interesting feature of wasabi is that it contains isothiocyanate which is a strong antioxidant. Wasabi is also helpful to digest better by getting rid of harmful bacterias in the stomach. That’s why scientists to consume it with sushi which contains raw fish that can cause contamination.

Conclusion

To conclude, wasabi is a unique and expensive flavor that might sound exotic, however, it is a root plant that has similarities with well-known plants like cabbage, horseradish. The thing that evokes curiosity most about wasabi is probably its pungency which makes many people wonder about the wasabi Scoville heat unit. Unfortunately, there is no such measure as the chemical compound of the wasabi is entirely different than of the peppers and as a result, chemical compounds affect the area in the body, which are different in each.

Therefore, wasabi is one of the most expensive plants in the world that has many beneficial sides such as healthier digestion, antioxidant function, vitamins, and minerals it contains. But its heat is incomparable to other hot, spicy foods, those we are more familiar with and people use them more worldwide. Finally, a fun fact about wasabi: a Japanese company has invented a wasabi smoke alarm for deaf people! The smell of wasabi is the most effective one among other potential odors to wake people up as it takes less than two minutes.

Have you ever wondered what is in Moe’s Hard Rock and Roll Sauce? We have made thorough research on the internet and even given you 2 more recipes!

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