Sushi And So Much More: Time To Change Your Mind About Japanese Cuisine
On International Sushi Day, we spoke to Chef Karan Bane of Seefah in Bandra, Mumbai, the newest Japanese (and Thai) restaurant on the block, about the Japanese staple’s growing popularity.
Until a decade ago, getting freshly made sushi delivered at home was close to impossible in India. In terms of accessibility we might have moved the needle a bit, but have we really seen it all in a country that turns their noses up at the thought of eating raw fish? Or have we just scratched the surface?
On International Sushi Day, to get a better insight into the world of sushi and the budding Japanese food scene in the country, we spoke to Chef Karan Bane of Seefah, an upcoming Izakaya in Bandra West.
Can you share a beginner’s guide for enjoying sushi?
When it comes to sushi, there are a variety of options. Hamachi Sushi is one that I would recommend. Maki, Temaki, Uramaki, Sashimi and Nigiri are essentially the different types of sushi that you will find on any menu.
Sushi is vinegared rice that is topped with various ingredients like raw fish, soy, seaweed, cucumber, etc. Nigiri is usually served raw and is best for people who wish to appreciate the taste of the fish, dipped in a sauce. But if you want to eat a roll, the California Maki Roll is the first thing to get your hands on. Uramaki also tends to be a roll, however the rice is on the outside.
Don't forget to give this vegetarian California Rolls recipe video a watch:
Could you tell us more about how sushi is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Japanese cuisine in India?
Sushi is usually only found at specialised sushi restaurants in Japan while street food includes dishes such as tempura prawns or okonomiyaki, which are essentially Japanese style pancakes. You will also come across chawanmushi, a savoury egg custard and the extremely loved Seafood Kushikatsu, crumb fried skewered seafood. The Crab Tamagoyaki, a Japanese omlette with crab meat is relished on the streets. Sushi is considered classier and comes with an ambience, a setting and the whole vibe of fine dining.
While most of the restaurants in India serve sushi, we are yet to start serving dishes that are true to the Izakayas back in Tokyo. At Seefah, we’re glad that typical Japanese dishes such as Chicken Katsu Curry, Chicken Gyoza, along with Yellowtail Carpaccio, Green House California Roll, the Miso Tofu and the Avocado Salad have done very well.
How different is Japanese food in India versus the traditional food in Japan?
While pork, crab, meat and seafood are a huge part of every dish, that changes extensively when you cater to the Indian customer. India is such a diverse country that every region has its own story, every person comes with his or her specifications of what should be included and expectations about how the flavours should come together. While that is a challenge in itself, it is also a whole new experience for me to put together a Jain Sushi menu or Vegan Sushi as most ingredients need to be excluded and you are left with a lot less to play with.
Also Read: Eating Through Japan-One Meal at a Time
Is access to quality and authentic Japanese ingredients a challenge in India?
Sourcing the meat and fish is no hassle as we have our dealers in Japan who we import from. The fish that you get in India cannot be consumed raw since the textures are completely different.
What are the trends that have worked and what do you see coming up in the next year?
A few trends that have worked when it comes to Japanese cuisine is sushi, teppanyaki and yakitori. Teppanyaki and yakitori have gained more popularity in the last few years. I see Izakaya-style of dining picking up momentum.
Japanese is still considered an exotic affair and for someone who wants to start a restaurant in the city, selected areas like Bandra or Colaba, in Mumbai, are the best places to get a feedback from customers.
Images courtesy: Seefah Mumbai
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