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JOSS Mumbai – When Sushi Comes Calling

Every year, June 18 is celebrated as International Sushi Day. The Japanese delicacy, with its origins in 14th century, is now a global phenomenon. But like with every sensation, there are some common misconceptions with sushi as well. The biggest one? That sushi is prepared with raw fish only

Sushi nigiri serving

To become an excellent Itamae (a skilled sushi chef), it can take up to 20 years of an apprentice’s life. The reason? The precision and perfection required while making the world-renowned dish. What seems like a scoop of rice rolled in a sheet with some veggies or seafood is a generations old technique and tradition. 

Sushi provides three very important facets to your diet: Taste – the vinegared rice, the sauces and topping add a new note of taste to your taste buds; Health – raw fish and vegetables are the most eligible ingredients for a health-conscious diet; and Variety – the possibilities are endless as you can make your own combination of vegetables, seafood, sauces, and toppings. 

The age-old technique of making sushi has been lovingly preserved. Every chef has his own secret recipe of the proportion of rice, salt and vinegar. The art of sushi making is also a spectacle of its own. The slicing of the fish, the shaping of the rice and the cutting of the final dish. Restaurateurs hold special sittings wherein the chef makes the sushi in front of an audience, fitting their taste preferences and choices. By nature, it is a made-to-order cuisine.

Edamame and wasabi rolls sushi

International Sushi Day 

It’s common practice to identify a day to commemorate or solemnize a tradition, belief, or movement. June 18 is celebrated as International Sushi Day since 2009 – for a simple reason – to encourage people to eat and love sushi. Every restaurant serving sushi have their own way of celebrating the day, with either inventing, or reinventing, some of the best sashimi, nigiri and sushi we know.

I celebrated it at JOSS in Mumbai, a classic fine dining restaurant specialising in Japanese and Asian cuisines. With a blissful ambience and a wide range of cocktails, JOSS is one of the finest places to have sushi in Mumbai. For this International Sushi Day, JOSS had a fun evening planned for us. 

Learn how to make sushi

What better way to applaud these tiny rolls than learning and making your own sushi? At JOSS, celebrity chef Farrokh Khambata began the evening with a brief introduction on the history, evolution, tradition and technique of making sushi. This was followed by a fun Q&A round with a ton of fun facts. Chef Khambata also told us about the hygiene protocols followed by the chef to ensure that we get nothing but the best.

Haiku Rolls - Sushi of Carrot Onion Tempura with Spicy mayo sauce

The Chef later demonstrated four different types of sushi. He began with the JOSS signature Napa Valley Roll which has Avocado, Cucumber and Cream Cheese with White Sesame. He explained the way the rice and the topping are aligned. Using a bamboo sheet, the chef rolled the sushi over. He also explained the modus operandi of rolling the sushi to achieve the desired shape.  Tip: adding the moist ingredients first and the dry ones later makes it easier to roll the sushi. “Sushi is the explosion of texture as well as taste,” Chef Khambata said. The amount of pressure put on the roll also affects its texture, either making or breaking the entire experience of it. The manner or method of eating a sushi also contributes to the entire adventure. 

The second one was the Spicy Samurai Roll, which is slightly conical in shape. The roll consists of asparagus, carrots, cucumber, pickled daikon (Japanese radish). The chefs at JOSS add their own twist to the Spicy Samurai by adding Shimichi, a Japanese spice, to the roll. This particular one was a riot of flavours in my mouth. The acidic taste of the rice, the pungent chili and the crispness of the asparagus, carrots, and cucumbers melded together to offer a well-balanced sushi. The non-vegetarian version of this roll is the Volcano roll.

The third was not a type of sushi, but a nigiri. A nigiri is a thin slice of raw fish served atop rice. The chef combined a thin slice of salmon with a dash of wasabi atop the elliptical ball of rice. The vegetarian options for Nigiri could be with avocado, carrots, bell peppers and so on. This dish is served on a cold barbeque dish, specially curated from Spain, to maintain the temperature. Not everyone is able to have a slice of raw fish, even if it comes over a ball of rice, and I am one of those. So I chose the vegetarian version of the nigiri which was a pure delight! The crunchy element in the nigiri makes it an exciting endeavour. And according to the Japanese tradition, you should always dip the fish side in the soy sauce, so that you do not get the rice mixed in the sauce. Discipline has always been a strong part in Japanese culture after all!

Expensive sushi

The final roll for the evening was a spectacle, the Tiger Roll. This roll is one of JOSS’ inventions in the world of sushi. It consists of tempura prawns (battered and deep-fried prawns) and cucumber. After the roll is done, alternate slices of carrots and daikon are placed on the roll to create the tiger skin effect!

Well, the fun did not end there. We all got a chance to roll sushi! All of us amateur sushi chefs enjoyed the little experience of making something really special and encouraging generations-old practice. It was indeed an evening well spent!

Coordinates: Ground Floor, Savoy Chambers, Linking Road, Santacruz West, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India