The Sushi dreams
Let me declare at the very beginning that the title "I dream of Sushi" for this piece is borrowed from my absolutely favourite Instagram page of the same name (find the link here). It is very fitting and describes my life most aptly! That is what I do, I am a sushi dreamer. I imagine myself in havens where sushi is crafted, only to find their way into my mouth! How incredibly tempting, that thought!
My first sushi dreams
Most of my fixations have a backstory; One that attaches to a series of memories- of people, time and places. As do all our experiences, I'm sure. I was introduced to sushi for the first time ten years ago, by a dear friend who left this earth. I'm sure she is teaching the people how to get it right. Proportions of wasabi to balance the saltiness of the soy on their fish! I was on my way out of college (undergrad, days that marked my poverty), and headed to a meeting with volunteers I had joined on a social awareness project. Enthralled by the idea of halting on the way for a snack, it is unthinkable to expect a Bengali to refuse food, I found myself in the by-lanes of Delhi’s posh Khan Market.
Next thing I knew, we were walking towards a tiny little take-out eatery called Sushiya, one that I had never seen nor heard of before. My friend doling some instructions while I lost in thought about real food that I would grab. We exited this strange and cold (literally) place.
Everyday I dream of Sushi -
My friend collected what looked like a gift box, neatly packed and cross tied with a ribbon. Told, this is our snack. I walked curiously to the car and couldn't help notice the glint of excitement in her eyes and a part grin slowly take shape on her face. Inside the giant Innova, that felt like a lab room and I the Guinea pig at the time, I watched excitedly as the gift wrap came undone. What seemed like tiny balls of rice surrounded by leaves, soon disclosed themselves to be a crafty amalgamation of colours and textures. This new concept of snack had definitely piqued my interest. Soon introduced to the accompaniments of the tiny balls- pink ginger strips, little soy bottles, and a potent ball of green substance.
Now all that is left is - dig in. But how? For someone who is not familiar with sushi would have no clue about where to place all these fancy parts. But that was not me, at least not that day. Happy to be a project, I wait for further instructions. My friend very empathetically warned me saying, go small and see how it settles in your stomach. I was going to gobble raw fish!
Here's what I had never done as a Bengali! For all the fish stereotypes associated with us, chugging raw fish was definitely not one of them. I wished then it was, so I say ‘been there, doing it!’ I wanted to play cool, so I calmly placed a dot of wasabi over my first piece of sushi. Pouring soy generously over it. Popped it into my mouth. What I experienced thereafter has since then been impossible for me to describe. There was a tsunami of textures and flavours in my mouth!
The unfamiliarity of the taste was the most exciting part. I won't lie, it took me a couple of minutes to regain my senses. This after the assault that wasabi had inflicted upon me. Then after that, there was no stopping. I wiped out that box like a car vacuum cleaner! My friend’s unsure smile transitioned into a satisfactory grin. She knew she had taught well. This was valuable knowledge!
The art of preparing your own sushi before it went into your mouth. The reason I say this is because since then I have eaten sushi at multiple restaurants, with many different people. Each place and person tries to convince me of a certain way of unfolding that little surprise. But what is essential to realise is, each one of us has a unique way of eating sushi.
Everyone’s acumen of the right proportions of the combination of ginger, soy and wasabi are innate and to their own liking. This, I call sushi-ownership. Notice that the next time you watch someone eat sushi vis a vis the other person on the table, they would have significantly different styles of approaching the activity.
My dreams of various sushi's
Sushi is not just food, it is an experience. One must engage with it to truly cherish it's wholeness and create a memory. Similar to the eating style, every chef has a different way of crafting his sushi. Sometimes before I plunge into my box of enigmatic flavours, I sit and observe my sushi as an art piece. It's not difficult to identify sushi made in a hurry, or from old ingredients. That I feel is a great disservice to the food.
I dream of sushi the korea way too!
I acknowledge well that the Japanese with their invention of this masterpiece had also devised a normative way of eating it. But scores and scores of YouTube videos and research conducted through books and observations later, I can happily declare that even the Japanese have accepted people’s unique ways of appreciating sushi. It's close cousin, the Korean Kimbap too is a delightful venture. This is also, how i dream of sushi
The other side of sushi
The nori, or seaweed that's a wrap around the rice, is saltier. Usually fewer variations and more added flavour in the Kimbap. The Japanese sushi (in its original form) is a delicate assimilation of raw ingredients that are honest and bare, devoid of any pretentious flavourings. The American versions - while they have successfully created a larger market for sushi, with chicken and egg variants - I vehemently shun. Sushi to me is fish and rice!
My dream of different Sushi's
My favourite kind of sushi is absolutely raw and untouched. I love cuttlefish, tuna and sometimes eel in my sushi. Smoked salmon has a soft and inviting charm of its own. While I do not like too many veggie varieties to interfere with the taste, sometimes a soft avocado helps make the boldness of the raw fish more subtle. Maki and uramaki are great starters, thereafter nigiri and sashimi, for those who feel enterprising. The options available to the average Indian are very limited, however, five stars and high end dine-ins offer a great variety at steep rates. But for someone like me, and several others I know, sushi is an obsessive fixation and comfort food.
I dream of sushi with hopes for and envisage a day when it will be as accessible as a fast food burger or Chinese dumplings at the cart. This of course, ensuring that quality is not compromised. But what I essentially mean is, I am happy if sushi is not extravagant. All I want is for it to be abundantly available and affordable.
Finally a bit more on my Sushi dreams
Why I haven't dabbled with making sushi myself if I love it so much. I'll tell you why. Sushi for me is a sacred space which I do not want to risk losing, and therefore prefer that it be served to me on a platter. This makes me feel like royalty! I cannot risk not having it while losing interest in the process of making it, as most often happens to chefs. For now, I am happy gawking at pictures of beautiful arrangements and innovative creations of sushi on my Instagram and elsewhere, while keeping its authenticity intact. This reminds me, I must leave now. Guess now it's clear that, I dream of sushi!
Sushi lover? like how I dream of sushi. or want to understand the Sushi philosophy. You should watch Jiro dreams of sushi, this movie is about Jiro his life as the the owner & chef of 'Sushi nakazawa' the most well rated Michelin restaurant to-date.
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