What Is Karashi and How Is It Used?

What Is Karashi?

Karashi is Japanese mustard that is used as a condiment or as a seasoning in various kind of dishes. It’s sometimes described as the term “oriental mustard” or “Chinese mustard” in other countries.

▲Brassica juncea

It’s made from the crushed seeds of Brassica juncea (Karashina in Japanese). The color of karashi is yellow or yellowish brown, and it has unique strong pungent taste.

Although there are many kinds of ingredients made from the crushed seeds of Brassica juncea in various parts of the world, these can be classified roughly into two types in Japan as follows: Wa-garashi (和がらし) and Yo-garashi (洋がらし).
Wa (和) means Japanese, and Yo (洋) means Western by the way.

Generally Japanese people call “Wa-garashi” “Karashi”, and they call “Yo-garashi” “Mustard”.
Here, “Mustard” is the same as yellow mustard which is often used in the U.S. or other countries.

How Karashi Is Made?

First of all, seeds of Brassica juncea is powdered then it’s mixed with water or hot water.

Actually the pungent smell of karashi can not last long only by mixing with water. So some company in Japan invented “neri-karashi” which is mixture of karashi, food flavor, a little bit of oil, fat, and thickener. Neri-karashi does last long and much more convenient for daily use at home. “Neri” means kind of like “knead” in Japanese by the way.
Karashi I have in my refrigerator is in the tube container like this.

What’s the Difference Between Karashi and Mustard?

Karashi and mustard are both made from the seeds of Brassicaceae, but karashi has pungent taste which stimulates noses strongly, on the other hand, mustard has more calm hot-taste.
So why is there such difference between two of them?

The answer relates to the following two factors.
1. Type of Seeds
2. How to Make

Type of Seeds

Karashi (和がらし Wa-Garashi)
Made from seeds of oriental mustard (Brassica juncea) which has extremely strong pungent taste.

Mustard (洋がらし Yo-Garashi)
Made form seeds of yellow mustard (white mustard) which has less stimulating taste compared to karashi and mild taste.

How to Make

Karashi (和がらし Wa-Garashi)
Since it’s made by mixing the powder of oriental mustard seeds and water, it has really strong pungent taste.

Mustard (洋がらし Yo-Garashi)
In addition to water, mustard contains some vinegar, sugar, white wine, etc. Those seasonings makes the taste much less pungent.


How Is Karashi Used?

Used as Condiment

Eating karashi by itself is too pungent and stimulating, but it becomes great condiment if we eat it with greasy meal and meat dishes. Those dishes could be rich, oily, or heavy in taste. And you can feel refreshing and light taste by eating them with a little bit of karashi.

▲Tonkatsu (Deep-Fried Pork) with Karashi

▲Pork Kakuni (Stewed Diced Pork) with Karashi

▲Spring Rolls with Karashi

▲Shumai (Chinese Dumpling) with Karashi

Also, karashi is often eaten with natto (fermented soybeans) which is Japanese standard breakfast menu. Oden (fishcake stew) is not oily food, but all of ingredients in great broth matches so well with karashi.

▲Oden (Fishcake Stew) with Karashi

▲Natto (Fermented Soybeans) with Karashi

Used as Seasoning

Although karashi is more likely to be used as a condiment, sometimes it’s nice to have one as a seasoning. A little bit of karashi will be great secret ingredient for stir-frying dishes or salad dressing.

▲Karashi-Su-Miso (karashi + vinegar + miso)

Karashi-su-miso, the sauce made from [karashi + vinegar + miso] is one of the popular dressing for Japanese too. It’s usually used for konjac sashimi, firefly squid sashimi, or boiled vegetables.
Even though only [vinegar + miso] sauce is also used, by adding karashi, it improves the flavor of the sauce so well and makes the dish even more delicious.

▲Colza Blossoms with Karashi-Su-Miso

Additionally, Karashi-renkon (Japanese mustard filled lotus root) is a famous food using karashi. It is well-known as a local cuisine of Kumamoto prefecture.
It’s made by stuffing lotus root with the mixture of karashi, miso, and honey, and deep-frying with skin made of colored flour. The skin made of flour is yellow in color, and it’s colored with turmeric.


Karashi Recipe

Green Onion Dressed with Vinegar & Miso

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