As a hot sauce lover, you’re not afraid of much. If it tastes terrible, you just add some Mad Dog 357 and concentrate on the burn and the delicious combination of flavors found in every bottle of the sauce… ignoring all the food you’re using as the vehicle for the hot sauce.
And, when someone dares you to try a new, hotter sauce, you know exactly how to handle yourself. Right?
That’s just who you are. So why can’t you enjoy the tiny amount of wasabi on a maki roll? Is something wrong with you?
Why Not Wasabi?
There’s nothing wrong with you, the wasabi, or your capsaicin tolerance. But, we’d venture to guess that you’re not enjoying wasabi with every other meal as you do your hot sauce. To really enjoy a spoonful of wasabi, you would need to it a lot more frequently to build up your tolerance to it…
… because the compound that makes wasabi spicy hot is allyl isothiocyanate, not capsaicin. Both compounds may make you feel as though you’ve taken a bite of fire, but that’s where the similarities end. These babies don’t have the same chemicals – and they activate different sensors in your body. Even if you experience similar symptoms from capsaicin as you do for wasabi, your body interprets each compound very differently from the other.
Up Through Your Nose
Most people tend to experience the wasabi sensation in their nose. It feels almost like a strong combination of menthol and mustard crawling up your nasal passages. This, of course, makes your eyes water and probably causes a bit of perspiration.
This is slightly different than capsaicin which travels through your body in different ways – through mucous membranes rather than air passages. That’s why you probably won’t feel capsaicin in your nose unless you’re snorting it. (BIG DISCLAIMER!!! You should NEVER snort hot sauce or chili pepper powder. Not only is it one of the stupidest ways to achieve a capsaicin high, it could kill you. In fact, we don’t suggest even a dab of hot sauce anywhere other than your food. Seriously!)
But, just so you know, it’s easier for wasabi to move up through your air passages if it moves to the back third of your palate (the softer part at the back of the top of your mouth). If you keep it in the front of your mouth, you’ll feel a lot less of the effects because it will be far away from your nasal passages as soon as you swallow.
You simply aren’t going to get a cheat like that with capsaicin – it will burn wherever there is a pain receptor that understands the chemical compound. And that’s a lot of places, including the soft mucous membranes under your taste buds.
If you’ve become accustomed to hot sauce, but not wasabi, it might be because you’ve never had another choice. And, even if you’ve never had a choice, we think hot sauce would be the right one anyhow.