CHENNAI: It is well known that Butter Chicken is among the defining dishes of Indian cuisine. Famous around the world and offered on every Indian restaurant’s menu, this rich dish has found an unexpected companion in the cool club – Sushi. Sushi’s popularity has skyrocketed, and we have seen a steady increase in consumption over the last few years. So what’s made it so famous? Sushi is healthy, delicious, and can be enjoyed by vegetarians as well!
Ten years ago, Sushi was a delicacy offered only in speciality restaurants, or on special request. Little did we know that it would soon occupy a predominant place among the bestsellers at restaurants in Chennai. As with any new cuisine, Sushi took time to find its place in the Indian connoisseur’s heart. Guests would often say that if they were in the mood for rice and fish, they would rather indulge in Malabar Fish Curry with Kerala or White Rice! But over the last ten years, we have seen this reluctance give way to genuine appreciation. A good example I can give you is of a wedding we recently hosted at Hilton Chennai. It was a traditional North Indian wedding, where the host requested for a sushi counter along with other live counters. Although he thought it would just be a novelty, to our surprise, it ended up being the most popular counter. We found ourselves refilling the station a lot more than expected! Just over last year, we’ve seen a 30-35% increase in consumption of Sushi on our buffets.
The well travelled Indian is now exposed to global cuisines and flavours. A large number of expats working in India has also led to cultural interaction and willingness to try new things. The younger generation is certainly more adventurous and this has contributed to the popularity of sushi.
When it was first introduced into the market, it was perceived as the ‘fashion food’ or the cool thing to eat. But once people’s palates experience these flavours, they fall in love with them. Today, every all day dining restaurant offers Sushi, both as part of buffets as well as a la carte. It scores over Butter Chicken as it is healthier. At Hilton Chennai, we serve Sushi as part of the lunch and dinner buffet every day, and weekend brunches at Vasco’s, our global cuisine all day dining restaurant. The spread includes Nigiri, California Rolls, Hand Rolls, Sashimi, served with Wasabi, Soya Sauce and Pickled Ginger. Our fish comes from Japan and includes Tuna, Salmon and Kampachi among others. Curious Chennaites come in to try different combinations and we’re selling Sushi faster than Butter Chicken! Vegetarians get to enjoy our spread as well; the most loved one being our signature fusion Nigiri made with dried tomato and basil pesto. Today, I cannot imagine designing a menu without Sushi in it! It is indeed the new Butter Chicken.
(The contributing writer is a chef at the Hilton Chennai)