Sustainable Sushi

Sushi, an artful Japanese dish is a combination of raw, marinated or slightly smoked fish rolled or topped with vinegar fermented rice and a surprisingly spicy sauce called wasabi which tastes like a very strong cough drop. The term sushi, also seems to refer to a broad class of Japanese seafood preparations with rice and tofu.  Personally I feel that the taste of lightly cooked fish is an acquired one but there is no question about its nutritional value. It is an affordable source of protein, iron and omega 3 fatty acids and contains almost no saturated fat. Also, there is a large variety to choose from, I mean how much chicken can you eat before you are fed up with it? With fish you can try freshwater fish, sea fish, shellfish, crabs, squids, psychic octopus and the list goes on. With variety come the diverse recipes from our Indian states. Spicy fish fry from Kerala, tamarind fish curry from Mangalore, Goan fish curry with coconut and my favorite Bengali hilsa fish cooked in a coconut leaf.

The annual fish consumption of the world was at 140 million tonnes in 2007, out of which, 90 were captured from the oceans and rivers and the rest from aquaculture industry. The aquaculture industry is growing at a rate of 6.5% annually but there has been almost no growth in the captured fish industry since 2001. Does this suggest that we have reached equilibrium or does it suggest that we are overfishing and soon the numbers are going to dip? Numerous research studies support the later possibility citing an over capitalized industry with massive government subsidies, no cooperation among fishing nations and steep competition.

The Sustainable Sushi effort strives to educate consumers and retailers of the damaging impact of uncontrolled capture and cross breeding efforts which destroy the balance of the aquatic habitat and population of local fish species. A set of four valuable thumb rules have been identified for the sushi customer by the proponents of this effort. Briefly they are:  eat small fish, consume only seasonal fish, shellfish and fish with silver skin as these are healthier and easier to farm.

The first two rules are common knowledge among the fish eating population. Smaller fishes are tastier, healthier and breed quickly, hence, abundant. The second rule about seasonal consumption of fish is vital from the fishery sustenance point of view. Never eat a breed of fish during its breeding season. For example we do not eat carps, shrimp and prawns during monsoon season. There are monsoon fishery protection acts banning fishing in certain areas and certain kinds of fish during monsoon, but, as a bi-weekly fish customer I see a quite steady supply of fish all around the year.

As consumers we should make informed choices to discourage environmentally unsound practices. It is not too difficult to find out the season of the fish you like. If your family regularly consumes fish, you would already know it or ask someone who does. Otherwise watch the market, fish prices tend to rise during off seasons and supply will not be regular. Also, try to consume fish which are farmed extensively like carps, tilapias, shrimps, shellfishes, crabs or fish which are abundant like sardines, mackerels and shear.

I have myself seen some of my, once abundant, favorites like Pompret, Butter fish (pabda) and lady fish become costlier and rarer. If sustainable practices are not followed we will see more breeds done to death.



Shrimp based sushi

  1. Cook Sushi rice and mix vinegar into the same. Moisten your hands. Take a palm-full and roll it into Nextan oval shaped ball.
  2. Next lightly boil the shrimp.
  3. Flatten the shrimp slightly. Slit it and add a dash of Wasabi paste in the middle of the belly. You can also add a little Soy if you want to.
  4. Next press this against the mound of rice such that the wasabi is sandwiched between the rice and the shrimp.
  5. Press till the shrimp and rice form a cohesive lump. Now place shrimp side up.
  6. Lightly press the shrimp side and turn till the tail side is facing you.
  7. Serve with Wasabi on the side.

The California Roll

  1. Cook Sushi Rice and mix it with Vinegar
  2. Peel an Avocado and mash it in bowl. Add crab meat, salt and mayonnaise and stir.
  3. Cover a Bamboo mat with plastic and place a sheet of dried seaweed on it.
  4. Spread sushi rice on the seaweed and press firmly. Sprinkle sesame seeds on the rice. Turn it over so the seaweed is on top.
  5. Place the stuffing on the other side of the seaweed that faces you now. Roll the bamboo mat to form a roll.
  6. Slice the roll into bite size pieces.

Author : Abhishek Biswas
Abhishek is currently doing his Ph.D. in Computer Science at Old Dominion University. He spends his free
time reading classic literature and planning his next meal. He has a knack of picking out good recipes and
likes to try them out at home. He is a soccer fan.

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