When did sushis come into our lives? Indian food tends to be so heavily cooked that it’s hard to believe this Japanese dish — wonderfully light and often even served raw — is so sought after these days across Indian cities.
I can’t recall my first encounter with a sushi roll, but I remember that it was love at first bite. When Delhi was still a hick town, there was a tiny place called Tamura in the Nehru Park area. Then, Sakura in what was then Nikko Metropolitan caught the imagination of the people. Suddenly, diners were talking about sushi and sashimi, and extolling the virtues of raw fish dipped in soy and wasabi.
Japanese food is one of the best cuisines in the world for it offers a three-in-one experience. It is healthy, tasty and beautifully presented. Not surprisingly, it forms a central part of the menu at a new restaurant in New Delhi. Called Triple 8, the restaurant at Ansal Plaza serves pan-Asian food and is headed by chef Vivek Rana, who tickled and sated many a palate during his stints at the Oriental Octopus in Delhi’s Habitat Centre and Indian Accent in New York.
There are various kinds of Chinese, Vietnamese and Southeast Asian dishes on the menu, but I focused on the Japanese, prepared by chef Hiroshi Isomura of Japan. There were some delicious dumplings — edamame morel, chicken wild mushroom and crystal vegetarian dim sums — but I was floored by the spicy salmon sushi roll — a sliver of raw salmon atop a rice ball flavoured with vinegar and spiced with jalapeno and chillies. It was good to look at — surprisingly square in shape and garnished with a gold leaf — and had a beautiful balance of sweet and tart flavours. And the spicy element gave a nice kick to the dish.
I also had salmon tataki — a lightly seared piece of salmon which had been poached in soya sauce and Chinese sweet wine. This was delightful as well. Sushi is believed to have started gaining ground in Japan in Edo in the early decades of the 19th century when a stall owner called Hanaya Yohei began serving sliced seafood on balls of rice flavoured with vinegar. The nigiri sushi — vinegared rice balls with wasabi paste topped with fresh fish — became immensely popular, leading to many kinds of sushi and eateries.
Japanese food experts have a few tips to give about eating sushi: Use your fingers to pick up a roll, dip only the fish part into your sauce (if the rice goes into the dip, it soaks in too much of the sauce and thereby ruins the taste); and finish it in one bite. That’s the best way of eating sushi.
It is a dish that brings to mind cherry blossoms. Go for it!
Recipe: Spicy salmon sushi
Ingredients: ½ a nori sheet, 100g sushi rice, 2g black sesame seed, 2g white sesame seed, 20g avocado, 55g salmon, 15g spicy mayonnaise, 5g jalapeno sauce, 5g white gari (pickled ginger), 5g wasabi, 2g Japanese chilli powder, 2g fresh jalapeno, 20g tobanjan paste, 60g Japanese mayo, 30ml rice vinegar, 30g sugar, 15g salt
Method: Cook the rice. Boil rice vinegar, salt and sugar for two minutes. Pour this over the cooked rice and allow it to cool. For the sushi roll, place the nori sheet on a sushi mat. Dip your fingers in a bowl of warm water and then spread the rice over the nori with your fingers. Leave ½ inch space at the top. Sprinkle the sesame seeds, and then line with avocado. Roll up the sheet and then pull back the mat towards you to tighten the filling. Repeat the roll up and pull back process a few more times, till it forms a cylindrical shape. Carefully slice the roll into eight pieces. Arrange the sushi on a plate with pickled ginger and wasabi paste. Prepare salmon tartrate by mixing chopped salmon, tobanjang paste and Japanese mayo. Put a small spoon of the salmon tartare on each sushi. Sprinkle Japanese chilli powder on top, add fresh jalapeno and Japanese mayo. Serve with spicy mayo and jalapeno sauce.
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