Chef Tracy Griffith

Wasabi, or Japanese horseradish, has become increasingly popular among educated American foodies, not to mention sushi devotees. A member of the Brassica vegetable family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts), it aids in digestion and even helps slow cancer cell growth.

Chefs generally prefer to use fresh wasabi instead of prepared wasabi powder or paste. Be sure to peel it before grating it, says Chef Tracy Griffith of Rika Restaurant on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip and author of Sushi American Style. (She’s also actress Melanie Griffith’s sister and the first female graduate of the prestigious California Sushi Academy.)

“Peel it with the back of a teaspoon to get the gnarly bits off,” she tells Organic Authority. “Then use a ginger grater or wasabi grater to grate.”

Feel a bit intimidated? Not to worry.

“If you can peel and grate ginger, you can peel and grate wasabi,” Chef Griffith says. “Fresh wasabi is wonderful—much sweeter and complex-tasting than the paste you usually get in sushi bars. This is because wasabi is so very expensive—about $30 an ounce—but you don’t need much. It’s worth the expense!”