I have touched on this topic before, but I was looking at my spider roll (soft shell crab) the other night and thought about just how incredible it was relative to my non-sushi meals. It got me thinking, as always, that it may not be a traditional sushi offering, but not only did it fit in well with the traditional sushi on my plate, but it just worked and was incredibly good. To clarify, while crab (kani) is very common in Japanese cuisine, and even sushi (or maki-zushi), deep frying a soft shell crab and adding mayonnaise, cucumber, avocado, et. al. is not a traditional Japanese sushi-ya offering.
In Japan, there are traditional sushi-ya and non-traditional sushi-ya. In North America, there a very few traditional sushi-ya (although some great ones, see my Sushi Yasuda entry to hear about one), and those that exist are not necessarily easy to identify. In fact, some of the most popular ones (e.g. Nobu in New York City) are not even remotely traditional. Not that that’s a bad thing. We North Americans don’t always know what is and is not traditional sushi-ya fare, and I’m not going to go through the list here. While there may be traditionalists out there who bemoan the development of “fusion” sushi cuisine and the changing landscape, there are many benefits to having it both ways. As I mentioned, that spider roll was a really incredible roll. And who can ignore the popularity of the “California roll?”
While I tend to shy away from the salmon and cream cheese rolls, I can readily appreciate the blend of flavors offered by the many new styles of sushi that appear in sushi-ya here in North America. I also respect the subtle classic offerings that are found in contemporary as well as traditionalist sushi-ya. It is not an unusual occurrence for a culture to adopt and adapt a cuisine (or technology, or anything else) over time, so I think we all should acknowledge the non-traditional sushi as we have accepted all new ideas over time. After all, without the adoption of fire one day long ago, we would all still be eating our food raw. Oh, Wait.
The Sushi Guy