Sushi is about as traditional Japanese as you can get and is made with such eminently non-vegetarian fillings as octopus, crab, prawn and eel. Here in Mumbai, apart from those, you now get veg-only versions with mushrooms, bell peppers and cucumber.
It happens to any foreign food introduced to India – it quickly spawns a veg version, and sushi, it turns out, was similarly fated.
We’ve seen this Indianisation before with pizza when it first arrived in Mumbai in the ’80s – it was made with that plump bread base topped with cheese that wouldn’t melt, (they didn’t notice that quirk for the next 10 years) and layered with a tomato base made either with pumpkin sauce or spiked with garam masala.
|Chef Francisco Balanquit of Tiffin, with his veg sushi platter|
Before that, Chinese food was similarly altered for Indian tastes and the indeginsation bubbles on at the hundreds of street-side Chinese stalls that dot the city.
And so vegetarian sushi, with stuffing like green asparagus, cucumber, Japanese black mushroom, Philadelphia cream cheese, avocado, bell peppers and tofu, all finished with seaweed and sticky vinegar rice.
“Our menu spans sushi with its traditional seafood fillings as well as its Indian version with vegetarian fillings,” says Aditya Kilachand, partner, Tetsuma, which has a lavish vegetarian spread.
The fare here is freshly rolled and uncomplicated. Kilachand tells us about new arrivals like Inari, a Nobu-style sushi comprising tofu pockets stuffed with rice and bamboo shoots. And for purist sushi souls, these to can be spiked with wasabi, which the Japanese say feels like the kick of a mule.
Everyone from J W Marriott’s Spices to trendy standalones like Busaba, Zenzi, Japengo Café and Origami now offer this delicate hand crafted preparation in vegetarian guise.
“A vast and ever growing majority of our diners are either turning vegetarian or already are for religious reasons,” says executive chef Matthew Cropp of The Oberoi. “Hence there is a need to offer this fare in a slightly altered form to appease clients,” he finishes.
A large number of chefs never liked it when diners would ask them to make, say, their pomodoro spicy enough for Indian palates. “I dislike it when people ask for add-ons, sides and toppings to continental meals that are typically light on flavour,” says executive chef Hemant Oberoi of Taj Mahal Palace and Towers.
Chefs like him found a solution in a standard set of flavour boosters: spicy paprika, a tub of oregano and that dependable little bottle of McIlhenny’s Tabasco sauce – which they placed on each table. If diners wanted their Continental slaughtered, they have to do it themselves.
E-mail author: jharna.thakkar @hindustantimes.com