By Riddhi Doshi
International Sushi Day pays tribute to a humble dish that has a very interesting history. Its story began with paddy fields in Southeast Asia, where fish was fermented with rice vinegar, salt and rice, after which the rice was discarded. The dish that has become synonymous with Japanese cuisine today is known as narezushi, and was introduced to Japan around the Yayoi period (300 BC to 250 AD) and it has evolved quite a bit since then.
The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai’s Executive Chef Amit Chowdhury traces the story of sushi in India. The hotel’s popular Japanese restaurant Wasabi by Morimoto, opened in August, 2004.
When was Sushi introduced to India and what was people’s initial reaction to it?
Sushi first found its way in India approximately 25 years ago. Sushi is an acquired taste and back then, it took a while for guests to accept its flavours. Eventually, as more and more Indians started travelling extensively across the globe, they were exposed to different flavours and started warming up to sushi as well.
How did vegetarian sushi come into being?
Traditionally, sushi is a fish dish. As the trend for healthy eating caught up and escalated globally, the demand for vegetarian and vegan sushi options also rose. We offered more options for healthy eating to our guests with the introduction of exotic vegetables like myoga, daikon, shitake, erengi, kappa, bamboo shoot and renkon.
Wasabi by Morimoto holds a place of pride in the universe of vegetarian sushi known as noriless rolls. Here, the nori sheet is simply replaced with a vegetarian rice paper sheet, which is one the most loved dishes among patrons.
How many kinds of sushi does Wasabi make and which is the most popular? Why?
All the sushis could be classified into 5 basic forms namely nigiri, maki, temaki, uramaki and sashimi. All these sushis have been available at Wasabi by Morimoto ever since it began serving the freshest of ingredients, both, in veg and non-vegetarian variants. The restaurant has also had some special forms of sushis such as the chirazizushi, oshizushi, etc.
Among the most popular are the ones that were innovated right in our kitchens at the Taj and are exclusively available here. These are angel shrimp roll, zuwagani tempura roll, truffle perigord roll, and shiro kuro garlic roll.
How has sushi, as a dish, evolved over the years?
Sushi has come a long way from being a method of preserving fish to now being enjoyed globally as one of the luxury foods. At Wasabi by Morimoto, the emphasis is given to the authenticity of the dish. We are constantly creating new flavours for the guests without disturbing the age-old tradition of the dish.
How do Indians like their sushi?
Following the trends that are seen in India, guests are still inclined towards trying the cooked options over the uncooked ones. It all started with the introduction of the very famous California roll, which includes cooked crab meat, avocado and Japanese cucumber, which was created due to the demand for cooked rolls, which lead to tempura makis.
How different is Indian sushi from what is served in Japan?
The only difference is that the Japanese mainly prefer having their sushi as nigiri or sashimi, which basically means a slice of fish placed on rice or just a simple cut of fish dipped in house soy mixed with wasabi.
Whereas, in India, it is enjoyed in the maki form, as a roll. Also unlike the Japanese, Indians prefer uramaki, rice on the outside of their sushi rolls.