Photographs by Atreya Paul
A few days ago a piece of news became a rage on social media. A Japanese railway company sincerely apologised after a train left 20 seconds early. Once again the world was aware of how disciplined and meticulous the Japanese are. And it is something that spans all walks of life, even food.
A slice of Japan: Japanese Forest, in Eco Park Kolkata is a newer addition to Japanese restaurants in Kolkata . This restaurant stands out because it is actually located in a landscaped Japanese garden inside the park with a pagoda thrown in. There are tables inside, but you would prefer to sit outside , especially on winter afternoons. They offer varied Japanese fare, but I fell in love with their Sushi.
A bit about Sushi: But wait, eating Sushi is unlike eating a pizza, or a steak or even a burger. The chef would have prepared your Sushi with a lot of care, balancing the ingredients in a proper manner, learning from years of practice. It is important that you eat it in a proper way. Just as there is a correct way to appreciate a work of art, there is a correct way to have Sushi. When you eat your Sushi the way it is meant to be eaten, you get the best of its flavours. Plus you pay a silent tribute to the chef.
We spoke to Executive Chef Ravinder Singh Rawat and also did a bit of research on the Internet and are here to tell you how to eat or not eat your Sushi.
A few more things you need to know here. There are various types of Sushi . Maki is the type of Sushi that is rolled up in seaweed (Nori) . There are various different types of Maki too- Hosomaki, Uramaki, Teramaki and Futomaki and further classifications which we won’t go into here.
But here is broadly what they are:
Hosomaki: A small thin cylindrical roll with Nori on the outside. Mostly contains one filling, can be of tuna, cucumber , carrots and so on.
Futomaki: These are larger sized rolls cut into bite-sized pieces with Nori usually on the outside.
Teramaki: This one is a handmade Sushi roll ( not rolled with a rolling mat), shaped like a cone, wrapped with Nori on the outside and the fillings kind of spilling over at the wider base.
Uramaki: These are inside-out Maki rolls, with the rice on the outside and the Nori on the inside.
Eating it right: At Japanese Forest I tried out the Veg Tempura Maki and the Prawn Tempura Maki. These would be categorised as Uramaki. These are good to start off with if you are trying Sushi for the first time.
If you notice closely, a plate of Sushi is served with Wasabi, pickled ginger and soya sauce. Dictionary defines Wasabi as a Japanese plant with a thick green root which tastes like strong horseradish and is used in cooking, especially in powder or paste form as an accompaniment to raw fish. It appears as a green paste. Picked ginger comes in thin pink slices and is placed next to the Wasabi. The soya sauce is placed in a small bowl.
Now we come to ‘how to eat it’ right part. Here is a quick step-by-step guide:
- Ideally you should wash your hands and clean them before you start. Some restaurants could provide a damp hand towel for the purpose.
- Use your fingers to pick up the Sushi. You can use chopsticks too but using your fingers lets you preserve the shape of the roll. But never asks for a fork or a knife.
- Dip the Sushi lightly into soya sauce. Aim the fish portion to touch the soya sauce as rice absorbs soya sauce and it could mess with the flavour of the Sushi.
- Whether you have Wasabi depends on your taste. In case you are having it, put a bit of it on your Sushi. Never mix the Wasabi with the soya sauce.
- Have the Sushi in one bite if possible or a maximum of two bites. If you are using two bites do not put it back on your plate but hold it in your hands or with your chopsticks.
- The pickled ginger is a palette cleanser and is used to cleanse your palette before eating a meal or between having different types of Sushi.
Now that you know the tricks, go ahead and get Sushied. Trust me, it is a developed taste and you would love to go back as often as you can!