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Whether its chopsticks you are wielding or your own enthusiastic paws (but no forks, please?), sushi is a blessed Japanese culinary tradition enjoyed thoroughly in all its myriad avatars. Conelets of temakis, rice-caked uramakis, chubby futomakis, fresh and bright nigirizushi, or more – the list is endless, and they all taste best with the holy troika of nose-burning wasabi, zesty pickled ginger (gari), and an umami dipping sauce.
It is this very love that has prompted Shizusan – a Pan-Asian specialty restaurant with inventive modern fusion items on its regular menu – to create a special menu for the weeks after International Sushi Day on June 18, in its ‘Around The World with 9 Sushi!’’ festival. The menu, crafted by an inspired Chef Paul Kinny, neatly lists out four vegetarian sushi and four non-vegetarian varieties, as well as a single divinely interesting dessert sushi; interestingly, a majority of them are uramakis.
For lucky herbivores, the nuance of flavour in the vegetarian rolls here makes this menu even more unmissable. Try for size, the saigon, a clear hat tip to Vietnam, mimicking the fresh crunchiness of signature preparations of the country – in this makizushi, sticky rice combines with a sumptuous red curry cooked with raw papaya, long beans and carrots, accompanied by crisp onion bits, burnt garlic, crushed peanuts and peppery mint. In the Korean, the crunch comes from the kimchi, carrots, asparagus tempura and toasted sesame, coupled with soft shiitake mushrooms and distinctly sweet-spicy-fermented gochujang, a unique offering from the nation. If you are the sort that likes cheese in everything, the monsieur maki packs in soft bits of brie! The creamy cow’s milk cheese is a more than sufficient ode to the Frenchness of this sushi, coupled with a splash of truffle oil, some ponzu mayonnaise and crispy enoki (white mushroom) tempura. Last but not the least, amongst the green offerings is a substitute for nori, for those who have not quite caught on to the flavour of the ubiquitous seaweed in Japanese fare. This ‘No’ri maki uses lightly cooked spinach as a replacement, along with asparagus, cucumber and carrots, enveloping a wasabi mayo-cream cheese-sticky rice dollop.
At the other end of the spectrum, carnivores have more than one reason to rejoice – incredibly fresh seafood and the wonderful ways in which it is cast, for instance. The inspirations cover a spectrum of continents, such as The Norwegian from Europe – this one obviously uses the distinctive smoked salmon-dill combination from the country, coupled with moisture-laden Japanese cucumber (kappa), a mustard-kewpie mayonnaise and some nutty toasted sesame. The Alaskan, on the other hand, imitates the characteristic snowy landscape of the icy North American state, with a white crabmeat salad in some creamy avocado, ponzu mayonnaie, unagi sauce and (my favourite part) tobiko. From just a few tens of thousands of miles south, The Peruvian cashes in on the rejuvenating freshness of food in the South American country, bringing together tuna ceviche with a lemon-chilli mayonnaise and fragrant cilantro. And, from Asia, the Chinaman stuffs in shreds of traditionally cooked peking duck in its typical wonderfully orange glaze, spring onions and hoisin mayonnaise, coupled with Philadelphia cream cheese to cut the acidity of the three, and some rich Japanese pancake crisps on top.
Special mention must be made of the dessert chiang mai – do keep a little of your appetite burning for this incredible concoction of fresh mango, green apple, coconut milk swirled rice and toasted sesame, in a supreme ode to Thailand’s classic mango and sticky rice sweetmeat.
Finally, it is the smaller details that make this festival a must-visit before it is too late – the impeccably rolled and presented sushi, the generousness of the accompanying drizzles and garnishes, and the possibility of enhancing your meal with a refreshing selection of Asian flavour-laced cocktails or good old, quality sake.
Follow Shweta @ShwetaKapur
Shweta has been writing about food for a few years now and has dabbled in TV, print and online journalism for over almost a decade. She has written on and edited for topics ranging from the environment, culture and lifestyle to politics, business and, of course, food. She has written for publications under the Times Group, Fox Life India and NDTV. When she's not devouring a good book or spending vast swathes of time on the Interweb, she loves to set off on all manner of culinary explorations.