Sushi With the Masters

On  March 11, a one-day International Sushi Training Workshop was jointly organised by JETRO (Japan External Trade Organisation) and IFCA (Indian Federation of Culinary Associations), in association with All Japan Sushi Association – Sushi Skills Institute at Sheraton New Delhi. This is a World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) accredited Train the Trainer
Program and we had the opportunity to witness Masterchefs at work the day before and what a revelation it was! Sushi is an art, that is already established, but what makes sushi this all encompassing and this reverent? In the golden words of Sushi Masterchef Masayoshi Kazato, it is the beauty, the simplicity and the supreme freshness of tastes that draws the world.

As the event clearly stated:

“Sushi  has  become  one  of  the  world’s  most loved cuisines and Japanese cuisines  are  increasingly preferred in India. There has been an explosion of  restaurants  offering Japanese cuisines with Sushi being the main stay. The  workshop  comes at the right time as this presents an opportunity for Chefs in India to learn the Art of Sushi Making directly from the top three Sushi  masters  drawn  from  All  Japan  Sushi  Association  – Sushi Skills Institute,  Japan.  This first-of-its-kind workshop is conducted at Chennai and New Delhi to facilitate chefs from across the country to participate and get trained. On completion of this training, the participating Chefs will also receive a certificate of completion from IFCA and all Japan Sushi Association-Sushi Skills Institute.”

Master at work
Master at work

Thanks to an adept translator, we got to hear from the Masters themselves about their art, the art of Sushi. Chef Kazato emphasized that the principles of Sushi revolved around ‘shun’ or ‘season’, so traditionally sushi in any given season is made with what nature provides at the time. It brings a certain level of holistic goodness to the production and consumption of a food like this. He also went into deep detail of hygiene and freshness. Though he was happy to see how far the love for Sushi had reached, it worried him greatly at how careful the establishment serving it actually were. Seeing his hands churning out a dozen pieces of Nigiri – mounds of sushi rice, a dab of wasabi and a topping, from Salmon to Tuna, it was wondrous. He reached out, practically feeding us straight from the chopping board, almost like a parent to a child. He kept moistening his palms and a lot of us wondered whether it was water. The notion was blasphemous to him; water is a contaminant and so are our hands. It was vinegar, both a disinfectant and an ingredient in making sushi rice, he was simply maintaining hygiene whilst adding flavour! In Chef Kazato’s opinion, a true Sushi Masterchef needs 10 year of training, apprenticeship and experience to be able to serve you a complete sushi experience.

After over 20 pieces of beautiful Nigiri and visually stunning and hugely appetizing Maki rolls, we were certain we were in the presence of greatness. Pan Asian at Welcomhotel, Saket has always been a great place for Sushi and Sashimi but a workshop like this only goes to show how committed they are to learning and educating. Chef Nakamura at Pan Asian is a Sushi Masterchef himself and to be able to enjoy fresh, glistening, perfectly made Sushi in his kitchen was about studying the food we enjoy rather than about just lunching on Sushi.

Sushi Etiquette as I understand it:

– Eat Nigiri with your hand (I do!)

– Dip into the soy sauce rice side up so it doesn’t fall apart and you still season the Nigiri

– Ginger is usually eaten alongside Sushi, not as a bite with it. It is a good palate cleanser if you’re switching to another variety.

– Eat Sashimi with chopsticks

– Respect your Chef – Sushi is an art

*Always check the antecedents of the establishment you choose to order Sushi at. It is ultimately all about hygiene; hygiene decides which way your experience goes, figuratively to heaven or literally to heaven! Arigato!

Parul Pratap Shirazi

Parul is a trained Chef, professional food stylist, cook, food blogger and social media strategist. She loves grapes in her salad.