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Leaving Nemo Out of Sushi

The belief that Japanese delicacy of rolled vinegared rice can never be complete without fish is a myth. Chefs in Delhi are bringing out an array of vegetarian sushi

Published: 22nd August 2015 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st August 2015 12:30 AM   |  A+A-

Can there be sushi with no fish in it? An apt answer to this question will be a tour across restaurants in Delhi that are serving this Japanese delicacy of vinegared rice, vegetables, and sometimes even fruits. And they have, to the delight of many vegetarians, omitted fish altogether in the preparation of sushi.

Lea.jpg“Twenty per cent of the diners that we serve at our restaurant Pan Asian opt for vegetarian sushi. Kiosks and takeaways serving sushi are booming in Delhi,” says Vaibhav Bhargava, Executive Sous Chef at WelcomHotel Sheraton in Saket. Chefs in India are exploring newer options to cater to the vegetarian customers by replacing the fish in sushi. “For the vegetarians, we have the cucumber roll, the asparagus tempura roll and the Takuwan roll which is made using pickled radish,” says Bhargava, adding, “We use spicy mayonnaise so that it doesn’t taste bland to first-time sushi eaters. We do our best to make this Japanese delicacy palatable to them. The idea is to familiarise people with sushi.”

There seem to be persistent efforts from the restaurateurs and chefs to go beyond the basic sushi rolls. “We, at Pan Asian, do authentic and contemporary sushi. We do a Sarada roll with Japanese pickled vegetables. The vegetarian California roll is a hit with diners and a Plum Maki is relished by many. We also have gluten-free rolls in which we wrap the ingredients in rice paper and we don’t use soy in that,” says Bhargava.

Town Hall, a popular restaurant in Khan Market, serves vegetarian sushi too. “We do four vegetarian Maki rolls. The Shiso rolls are made of pickled radish, water chestnut, cucumber and wasabi cracker with Sriracha. The Asparaguso roll is made using deep-fried boiled asparagus and a spicy sauce. The others are Shojin and Town Hall vegetarian Maki rolls,” says Augusto Cabrera, Managing Partner and Executive Chef at Town Hall. They have included the vegetarian sushi on the menu after a lot of inputs from chefs regarding the likes and dislikes of guests. The Town Hall vegetarian Maki is immensely popular and is made using deep-fried avocado and asparagus with a spicy sauce and rice cracker. “We offer a lot of contemporary rolls as our aim is to be very different from other sushi-serving restaurants,” says Cabrera, adding, “Delhi has a lot of vegetarians. Thirty per cent of my clientele are vegetarian sushi eaters and they do not want to eat seafood.”

There may be more than one reason for guests to opt for vegetarian sushi at restaurants. “Most people are vegetarian by choice or religion. However, there are some non-vegetarians who turn vegetarian during religious festivals. Then, there are some who don’t eat non-vegetarian on particular days like Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays. For them, we need to keep the excitement buzzing and hence we introduced vegetarian sushi in our menu. Also, if a non-vegetarian guest is hosting a vegetarian person at the restaurant, they don’t mind eating vegetarian sushi to honour the other person’s choice. This is also how the non-vegetarians end up trying the vegetarian sushi and very often they appreciate the food and compliment us with remarks like ‘fantastic’,” says Chef Vikram Khatri of Guppy by ai at Lodhi Colony.

According to Saurabh, Sous Chef at Guppy by ai, many also prefer vegetarian sushi because of seafood allergy. “There are a lot of vegan expats and also people who are allergic to seafood. For such guests we have a wide selection of sushi which is prepared without using its core ingredient fish. In India, restaurateurs consider the vegetarian population while designing the menu of a new restaurant, and we have also done that as chefs,” says Saurabh.

If you are planning a trip to Japan, the chefs in India share some helpful tips to guide you to choose your favourite Japanese delicacy. “In Japan, people ask for a quick vegetarian roll, by which they can judge the standard of sushi being served after which they choose to opt for the main menu. This tasting menu of vegetarian sushi has Kappamaki or a cucumber roll, Ume Q Maki or a plum and cucumber roll, Oshinko maki or a Takuwan roll,” says Chef Khatri.

“Kampyo (gourd), asparagus, shiitake and lotus root as well as some other seasonal vegetables are core ingredients of Maki served in Japanese sushi restaurants,” adds Chef Augusto. In Japan, the Inari sushi is made of fried and pickled tofu and is relished by a lot of people, says Chef Bhargava.

Armed with these information, a trip to Japan can be planned without much ado.



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