Chef Harry has over 13 years of experience in Japanese sushi making.
Harry spent over 15 years in India with his ‘Sushi and More’ chain of Japanese cuisine delivery and takeaway restaurants - with eight outlets in Mumbai, Delhi and Gurugram. “The goal of ‘Sushi and More’ has always been to offer delight, much as sushi did for me as a kid,” says Harry, revealing his concept of sushi diplomacy.
“Sushi democratisation - that's improved availability, affordability and accessibility of the dish - is amazing, but the basic principles hasn’t altered for me, and that's to get joy. From an Indian customer’s point of view, we offered them food items that didn’t contain seafood and weren’t raw,” he explains, adding, “One of the most famous Japanese dishes is kappa maki - a fully-veg roll including rice and cucumber covered in seaweed. And so, we offer vegetarian choices, including Jain food.”
According to the chef, there must be at least eight ‘wins’ for a project to be successful. “It isn’t good for just the client and the sushi chef to win,” he says. Given how global cuisines and international preconceptions go together like forks and chopsticks, it would’ve been most unexpected for Harry and his unit not to run into some when attempting to move sushi into the Indian consciousness. Excerpts from a conversation with Chef Harry.
It is a fair query but isn't effortless to respond to. It may be the effective use of spices in Indian food, whereas the Japanese use much less. Another attribute of Japanese cuisine is a simple presentation and preparation/cooking processes. I often believe that Indian cooking favours additions, whereas Japanese cuisine favours subtraction. Sushi is a simple yet delicious art form. Indian food, on the other hand, is equally delicious but takes much longer to prepare and cook.
Yes, we have modified a few recipes according to Indian taste. For example, many people in India may find sushi too ‘bland’. We thus add, for example, Seven Spice Shichi-mi Togarashi or A Spicy Twist, like with Sriracha or Tobanjan spicy sauce to some of our sushi dishes. We have also ensured an extensive selection of vegetarian sushis to our menu since India has a bigger vegetarian population. However, we will never add Indian spices, flavours or masalas to our recipes.
The one secret invisible ingredient is love - the chef's love for their customers to say, "wow, I love it!" or that of a mom cooking for her children. Maybe not now, but we will perhaps see Kikkoman soy sauce as a common ingredient in a decade or two. As an all-purpose ingredient, it adds great flavour to all dishes, both Japanese and Indian. Some Indians are using it for samosas and khichdi. I think both people love using essential ingredients like ginger and garlic onions.
I am not a practising chef, though I get my hands busy in the kitchen to think of new dishes for India and love cooking myself. I believe that all dishes are challenging to prepare - especially consistently!