Do you love sushi and sashimi but don't know where to get it? Now you won't have to travel far as a 16-day food festival from the land of the rising sun has started at the Courtyard Marriott hotel in the capital.
"Nearly 15 percent of our guests are from Asian countries. They have been requesting Japanese cuisine," Suresh Thampy, the executive chef at the Courtyard Marriott, told IANS.
Those who thought Japanese food was only for non-vegetarians may want to think again. Vegans can try the Miso Siru, a soup made with Japanese yellow bean paste (miso paste), wakame (seaweed), tofu and garnished with spring onion. The presence of seaweed gives a gentle seafood aroma to the soup.
"While Rhapsody, our other restaurant, specialises in Italian cuisine catering to European guests, we decided to have the Japanese items in the coffee shop Paprika," Thampy explained. But it was not an easy journey for the Courtyard Marriott team as the challenges were many - starting from hiring a chef who specialises in Japanese cuisine, training other kitchen staff and importing Japanese rice and Nori (seaweed) sheets.
"We had to be doubly careful in printing the menu card with proper Japanese spellings so that it does not become the butt of jokes at the dining table amongst Japanese guests," Thampy remarked.
The chef problem was solved by pinching soft spoken 27-year-old Pinaki, a specialist in Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, from a nearby competitor. The hot Naveyaki Udon, a Japanese noodle soup made with juliennes of vegetables, diced prawn and raw egg yolk, is wholesome and will impress food connoisseurs.
"The food festival is the first step to include Japanese items in Paprika's menu card," Thampy said while offering Agedasi Tofu - a batter fried tofu served with tempura sauce.
Pinaki was busy behind his counter making various sushi and sashimi (sliced raw pieces of red snapper, pomfret, tuna) that came with green wasabi and soy sauce. Sushi is a small dumpling of vinegar-marinated short rice with other ingredients like raw fish, crab, boiled mushroom, cucumber or nori. It is served with wasabi which has a pungent aroma, sweet pickled ginger (to aid digestion) and soy sauce.
Vegans can have the Ami Shiitake Maki - sweet soya-marinated mushroom rolled inside the nori sheet with the vinegar-marinated sushi rice; or Kapa Maki cucumber rolled with nori sheets and sushi rice.
Others can try the Californian Maki in which raw crab meat, cucumber, lettuce and nori sheets are rolled inside rice with tiny bead-like bright red and orange crunchy eggs of flying fish outside.
For the main course one can choose from Yaki Soba (noodles with vegetables and tonkatsu sauce) and Chahan (Japanese sticky fried rice). One can add chicken or prawn. The other option is Beef Teriyaki (marinated beef tenderloin cooked with teriyaki sauce and topped up with grilled onions) that has a sweetish taste.
According to Thampy, though the Japanese menu is a la carte, a guest can have unlimited sushi and shashimi by paying Rs.300 extra for the dinner buffet that costs Rs.845 plus taxes.
For the a la carte, on average a person will spend between Rs.800 and Rs.1,200.