Hot sauce and wasabi have a completely diffident effect on the way they deliver their spiciness during consumption. Wasabi is a quick and sudden rush of spicy vapor throughout the nasal cavity and to the front of the head. Hot sauce affects the lips, tongue, mouth, and throat area and can linger for 30 minutes or longer.
The spicy burning sensation caused by the vapors from wasabi is felt through the nasal cavity and is caused by the compound allyl isothiocyanate. The burn from hot peppers is caused by capsaicin and affects the lips tongue, mouth, and throat. Both chemicals trigger and bind to receptors in the brain to warn the body of the “burning” sensation and this causes sweating and watery eyes when consuming either one.
No parts of the body are getting burned or damaged when wasabi or hot sauce are getting consumed. The receptors in the taste buds, tongue, and other areas are triggered into fighting the pain that these two compounds cause. The heat sources from wasabi and hot sauce are from different elements that the condiments are made from. Each one is a natural component and has no harm to the body.
What is a hot sauce made of?
The main source of heat in a hot sauce is from the hot peppers, specifically the amount of capsaicin in the hot peppers. The peppers are combined with other ingredients such as vinegar, juice, oils, water, and spices to create the sauce. The level of heat in hot sauce depends on the type of pepper and the amount used in the sauce. Nowadays some of them reach a ridiculously high level of heat and only a few drops can be tolerated.
What causes hot sauce to “burn”?
The burning sensation from hot sauce is caused by capsaicin in hot peppers. The level of spiciness depends on the species of hot pepper and a hotter pepper will therefore have more capsaicin. The capsaicin occurs naturally in hot peppers but is a different compound called allyl isothiocyanate that is found in wasabi if it is made with natural ingredients.
What is wasabi made of?
Wasabi is made from the stem or rhizome of the Wasabia japonica plant that grows just above the ground. The paste consumed is made by grating the root into a fine mash and mixing it with water into paste form. A commercial wasabi will include other ingredients such as horseradish root, soybean, and oils or vinegar. These contribute to heat and flavor but are not intended to mask what causes the heat.
What causes wasabi burn?
Wasabi is a root vegetable that contains allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), a compound found naturally in other root vegetables such as horseradish, mustard, and onions but will not be as prominent as it is in the rhizome of the wasabi plant. The vapors from the compound are what irritates the nose, throat, and head in a sudden and sharp rush through the nasal cavity and into the frontal portion of the head. This is an entirely different sensation than the burn from a hot sauce that is felt through physical contact.
Capsaicin is a compound that is felt directly as it is placed on the skin. It can irritate the skin and is felt much stronger on sensitive areas such as the lips, tongue, and mouth. Although hot sauce can also give off vapors like wasabi they are not as strong as the direct contact with areas of the mouth during consumption.
Why are different areas of the body affected differently?
The heat or spiciness felt from wasabi is a vapor that quickly dissipates after it has suddenly stimulated receptors. The capsaicin oils from peppers causing the heat of a hot sauce soaks areas of the lips and mouth until it is absorbed into the skin or soaked up by another substance. The skin and especially the hands can be irritated by the capsaicin in hot peppers, but wasabi doesn’t have the same effect.
Is wasabi a hot sauce?
Although wasabi is often consumed as a paste or sauce and eaten as a condiment it is not considered a hot sauce in the traditional sense. There are however a few hot sauce brands that also use wasabi horseradish in their sauce recipes along with other hot peppers, but you typically find the opposite.
Authentic wasabi is made by crushing the root stem of the rhizome and adding a little water to give it some consistency, but it remains in paste form. Some contemporary forms use some vinegar and oil for added flavors, but they still maintain the paste-like consistency. Because the “burning” sensation is different and comes from a different compound wasabi is not considered a hot sauce.
Commercial versions of wasabi are becoming more like a sauce but are also usually eaten with completely different foods. Similarities between the two are that they are both used as a condiment to add flavors to food. Wasabi is commonly eaten with sushi and because hot sauces have such a huge array of flavors and styles are used on a variety of foods.
Is wasabi hotter than hot sauce?
The heat level of wasabi is difficult to measure against the heat of a hot sauce. Wasabi is not on the Scoville scale like hot peppers and hot sauce are. Although there are as many as 20 varieties of wasabi there is not a scale measuring the level of heat.
Each variety of wasabi will have a different level of spiciness to it depending on the plant that it is from although there are only two varieties of the japonica plant, daruma, and mazuma, that are commonly used.
Compared to hot sauces there are hundreds of varieties of pepper ranging from no spiciness to mild, hot, and very hot. There are about 25 varieties of hot peppers that are commonly used in hot sauces with a huge variance in color and flavors.
Hot peppers and hot sauces are measured with Scoville Heat Units (SHU) to determine how hot they are. This scale ranges from 0 to over 2,000,000. Because there is such a variance to the level of heat in a hot sauce and some of them can reach extreme levels, hot sauce is much spicier than wasabi.
Other spicy foods
There are not too many foods that naturally have a spice to them. Aside from hot peppers and wasabi only horseradish and radishes will have a natural spiciness to them. Other foods like cinnamon can be spicy when processed but not nearly the level of wasabi and hot peppers.