Japanese cuisines were something that I had avoided on every eat-out expedition, more out of ignorance than fear. The idea of consuming raw fish didn’t hold much appeal to me till last weekend when I finally found some time to experiment.
I had Sushi once before at Zen in Bangalore, with a friend who hadn’t had much experience either. That time unfortunately we gave more attention to the Cognac than the Sushi. After tasting the food on the table I had concluded quite knowingly “Sushi isn’t something to like immediately. Its an acquired taste.” That was it. I never got much of an interest to venture out to ‘Acquire’ the taste after that.
I have to say, the adventurer in me was ready for another stint by this time. So we landed at a Japanese eatery and settled down. I let my friends order for me and hence my lesson started. Sushi was ordered and to drink along they ordered Sake.
Sake is an alcoholic beverage made from rice mainly in Japan. Its history dates back approximately to the 3rd Century B.C. when a method of rice planting was introduced to Japan. It is believed that Sake making in Japan started around the same time. Japanese literature records the manner and custom of making Sake. I tasted it warm and chilled and it tastes totally diferrent. Its a bit like white wine but much stronger and compliments the food.
Next came ‘Kimchi’ or ‘Gimchi’. Kimchi is a Korean dish. Its more like a spicy cabbage salad. The history of Kimchi traces back 2600-3000 years. The earliest form of Kimchi consisted of only salted vegetables. Only in the 12th century people began to include other spices to create different flavours and colours of kimchi, such as white and orange.
Then came the main Sushi platter. Now I understand Sushi isn’t raw food. The correct term for that is Sashimi. It is made with vinegared rice and combined with different fillings and toppings, such as; seafood, vegetables, meat & eggs. Some of the common Sushi types are Nori: dried seaweed, often used to wrap the rice and fillings and Maki: the most popular type of sushi in a cylinder shape. Maki is rolled Sushi, sometimes wrapped in Nori, and usually defined by either Futomaki, being larger sized rolls with numerous fillings while the Hosomaki are thin and have only one filling. There is Uramaki too which is actually inside-out as the rice is on the outside and the Nori is on the inside. There are various other kinds of Sushi which one would find on looking up different websites on Japanese food. It all tasted pretty good. Though I was apprehensive in the beginning I started enjoying the food laid out.
And finally, the surprise! Its hot and for a moment I felt I couldn’t breathe. Its called ‘Wasabi‘. Wasabi (Japanese horseradish) is an essential condiment in Japanese cuisine.Its a light green paste that is mixed with soy sauce and used as dip for Sashimi or other similar dishes. Wasabi is said to be effective as an antidote to prevent food poisoning. That is one reason that wasabi is served with sushi and raw fish slices. This was my favourite in the list.
I am already on the lookout for Wasabi and Sushi-recipes.It was an exciting and educating experience. One that I wouldn’t mind repeating again, some day very soon.