The varying preparations of sushi are a source of constant delight for Rahul Verma

I have said this earlier, and I am going to say it again – I love sushis. In fact, even before sushis and sashimis became a rage in Delhi, I had loved the taste of a thin sliver of raw fish dipped in assorted sauces, or wrapped in seaweed. But of course the problem with liking sushi is that you only, well mostly, get it in the top restaurants. For the fish to be fresh, restaurateurs and hoteliers have to spend a neat amount to import it on a regular basis, and that of course jacks up the price. So sushi is restricted to mostly the top end restaurants.

My first taste of sushi was at Sakura in what was then called Nikko Metropolitan several years ago. Since then, I’ve had them at very many restaurants, including even some mid-sized restaurants. Then, last week, I got a call from my friend at Le Meridien, urging me to join an ongoing sushi festival. The hotel had invited a chef from Tokyo – Chef Masahito Saiko, who works at Westin – for this. Well known in Japan for his culinary expertise, he was invited to showcase some of Japan’s much loved dishes.

And it was, as you’d expect, most delicious. I had three types of sushi. I started with maki, in which the nori, or the seaweed, is the outer wrapping. In this, I had a tuna roll, salmon roll and a shrimp roll. Then I had some nigiris, which are sushis shaped with the hands and capped with thin strips of the main ingredient – say shitake mushrooms, tuna or salmon. Then I tried out some uramaki sushi. This is opposite of maki, in the sense that the rice here is the outer wrapping. Often, the sushi roll is dredged in sesame seeds or fish roe. I had a crabstick – crab, covered with rice, and flavoured with wasabi mayo. The sharp tang went right up my nose, much to my delight.

The chef advised us not to eat it with a fork – sushi is too delicate and breaks easily. Instead, he said, use either chopsticks or your fingers. Pick it up, dip it lightly in soya sauce and pop it into your mouth. I did just that and enjoyed it immensely. I topped each mouthful with thin slivers of pickled ginger that had been placed alongside.

Sushi, which literally means sour taste, traditionally has rice and fermented fish in it. Now, of course, the fish is fresh. For vegetarians, the ingredients vary from mushrooms and cucumber to avocado and asparagus. Some people even serve sushi without the seaweed coating, instead wrapping it in a piece of omelette or a thin strip of cucumber.

An assorted platter of 10 vegetable sushis is for Rs.1000 and Rs.1200 for non-vegetarian sushi. You can also order various kinds of sushis – from tuna and salmon to shrimp, or vegetables – for anything between Rs.650 and 800, excluding taxes.

Once again, my sushi meal did not disappoint me. I went back home, happily whistling ‘Love in Tokyo’.

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