I am still surprised, but should not be, that most sushi goers still think that artificially colored green paste on your plate is wasabi. In fact what is served in even most of the best sushi restaurants in the U.S. is a crappy mixture of horseradish and food coloring.
The American palate has become accustomed to this, and here we mistakenly call this Wasabi.
Real wasabi is a root, that is almost impossible to grow. It naturally grows in cool, shallow stream beds with gravel bottoms. Until about 10 years ago, no-one had been able to get it to grow in the U.S.
Today I find about half of better Japanese restaurants now in Urban areas have it in the kitchen, but inevitably you have to ask for it. It tastes very, very different than the mashed powder you are used to. It has a bit of a more sweet taste to it, and a texture similar to cactus paddles if you have ever had that, but less slimy.
To be 100% honest, even though I feel better eating “real” Wasabi, and somehow think of it as more authentic, and “cooler”, I still sometimes prefer the crappy horseradish powder as that is what I grew up eating. It is a bit like sushi comfort food for me.
While we are at it, that bright pink color of the ginger? Artificial food coloring. Real pickled ginger with food coloring looks very pale and not really pink. Red food coloring has consistently won the ranks as being the most carcinogenic class of food colorings. Not sure why this is.
As a passing fact, the red coloring in bar cherries definitely has been shown to cause cancer. The rationale is that no one eats too many of these. I guarantee there is a lifetime bartender laying on his back somewhere in an ICU who has no idea that his fondness for these sugar pickled cherries cost him his life.