Across my Table

Chef Joseph Ruiz - Across My Table

Tuesday, October 16, 2012Me! In words

Sudhakar and I love sushi and have tried it in almost all the places offering it here in Bangalore. The more exotic, the more we love to experiment. And so when I heard Chef Joseph Ruiz has come down from the Chennai branch of Teppan for a sushi festival here in the city, I thought it might be a good idea to ask him some of the questions I had in mind about sushi. Chef Joseph has been making sushi for 24 years now and has worked in several countries like Saudi Arabia, Japan, Lebanon, Jordan, Dubai, Philippines, Bahrain, Switzerland, Nigeria and Cyprus. 

Chef Joseph Ruiz

Sushi making is a niche culinary art and one that takes perhaps years to perfect. What is the story of your sushi journey?
Sushi to me isn’t just food, an art and one has to be passionate about it. Initially there wasn’t really a huge interest in sushi, but I got to see how my master chef prepared them. The delicate preparation and presentation methods fascinated me and I grew to see that this really was an art form. I went on to train further in the field and mastered the art. Picking the best ingredients, preparation methods and presentation styles have been my passion since.

Japanese cuisine is still nascent in India/Bangalore – most people still think it as “raw fish”. How would you introduce sushi to someone with this viewpoint?
There are many myths surrounding sushi today. Sushi made with raw fish is just one kind. There are many variations of sushi, and everybody has their own likes and dislikes. Interesting combinations can be used in sushi, drawing inspiration from traditional and contemporary styles. For first timers who want to explore sushi, I introduce them to the cuisine slowly, taking them to raw fish only in the end, when I feel like they would be ready to do so. It is important to understand that delectable sushi can be made to suit one’s tastes, whether you are vegetarian or otherwise.

Pic for representation.

The Internet is a one-stop resource for people wanting to learn more about sushi. And one common question is the right way to eat sushi. What is the right etiquette in eating sushi
The authentic way of eating Sushi is with the hands. The pieces should all be bite sized, so one piece can be had at a go. (Rice to be of 10 gms and thinly sliced fish also to be of 10 gms). Chopsticks originated in China and were introduced in Japan only in the 16th Century.  When it comes to wasabi people hardly know the reason behind it, and think of it only as an accompaniment along with Gari (pickled ginger) and soy sauce. The real purpose of it is to act as an anti microbial agent which kills the parasitic nematodes which might be present in the raw fish. In Nigiri (a type of Sushi), the wasabi is kept inside, and in all other kinds of sushi, the wasabi is suppose to be dissolved in soya sauce into which the sushi is to be dipped and had. It is always recommended to serve the wasabi and ginger by the side and let the people choose their way of eating it. 

Chef Joseph's Oishi Kyuuri 

Every cuisine is influenced by the region it is being made in – for example the California roll in USA, the vegetarian sushi in India – have you come across more such variations in your experience as a sushi chef… can you explain them?
Definitely, local cultures influence cuisines and have influenced sushi as well. Variations play a key role in taking sushi to the next level. It also makes it something that everybody will love. Oishi kyuuri is one sushi that I have created, influenced by regional culture and loved by vegetarians.

For every sushi chef his knives are his greatest possession – can you tell us about yours  (brands, how long you have had them for, how you maintain them)
I have an original Japanese Sushi Knife, for the past 16 years. I clean it every single day and sharpen it thrice a week based on the usage (More than this would be a secret to reveal). As a Sushi Chef you have to respect yourself and exercise and try to be teetotaller as you touch the food with bare hands and that is eaten by people.

Chef Joseph's Dragon Maki

Have you come up with your own unique sushi creations – can you explain them?
Some of the sushi I have come up with include the Oishi Kyuuri Maki, a vegetarian sushi made with avocado and cucumber rolled with vinegared rice, deep fried and dressed with Teriyaki sauce, Naruto Maki made with fried seabass, Mojacko Maki made with fresh salmon, tuna, cream cheese and tamago sheets and Dragon Maki which consists of golden fried prawns rolled with sushi vinegared rice and completed with a choice of fish.

Pic for representation.

Is there a form of sushi that you would like to make in India but have been unable to do so for any reason (lack of ingredients, local eating preferences etc). Can you explain what it is.
I have been able to create anything I have wanted to in India. Ingredients are imported if they are not locally available. While local eating preferences play a role in the sushi I create, authentic Japanese cuisine aficionados are everywhere.

There is so much more that I would like to chat about, but for now this left me satiated. The Sushi Festival is on at Teppan till the 21st of October. It has a special menu which has been created by our chefs. This also includes new Yaki dishes (those that are prepared on the grill in the highly artistic Teppanyaki style). Dishes are available for lunch and for dinner and range from Rs. 500-Rs 800.

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