My first encounter with Sushi

It was almost twenty years ago. The major brands like Sushi Tei or all those fancy fusion sushi places available nowadays were still up there in the clouds, waiting for some entrepreneurs to discovers them. Sushi was still something that's considered really foreign; not because it's Japanese, but the idea of eating raw fish itself was quite challenging. However while it seems a little bit crazy that a culinary culture could evolve based on the premise of eating raw fish, Sushi made me curious, and after all there's a nation already considering it a delicacy so it couldn't be that bad, right?

However being living in Bandung had kept my curiosity at bay as there's only one place rumoured serving Sushi back in those days, and it usually caters for high ranking business people hence there's a very little chance I could afford it with a student's lunch budget. Therefore, the thought of trying out Sushi was really far fetched back then.

One unplanned event happened in Bali though, that forced me into knowing this unique dish. It was during my visit to 1993's Temu Karya Mahasiswa Desain Interior Indonesia (TKMDII) -- quite a mouthful event name -- a biennale national event which gathers Interior Design students all across Indonesia. I was among the selected few from my class to attend the event with more senior students.

It was one afternoon after all of the events were over. My friend, the four years older senior with a fruity nickname "duren", got this idea of visiting Kuta by public transport. As we haven't got a chance to visit the legendary Kuta Beach on that trip, I think that's a good idea so I tagged along.

After some strolling on the beach and got hungry, we came into this rusty restaurant that looks local, hence we believed are cheap. It's called "Warung Made" which made us even more convinced they served Balinese, or at least Indonesian food.

Well later I know that naming it warung is a seriously misleading, as the food weren't warung-cheap, not even close. Among the least expensive choice, and sounds foreign enough was this "Sashimi", that we both have no idea what it was. However being an avid fans of popular Japanese food, I had a great confidence that Sashimi is just some kind of fancy variation of Teriyaki, Yakiniku, or Sukiyaki. It didn't mention anything raw, just that it's made of Tuna, and it's Japanese. We ended up ordered one for each of us.

When the Sashimi did arrive, we took a good look at it and immediately gives each other that confused glance. It was thinly sliced, raw red Tuna, with nothing but a saucer of dark sauce, and this green mound of something.

"So this is that (in)famous raw food from Japan?" I scratched my head.

However as we've ordered it, then there's no going back. Carefully I picked up one slice of that reddish semi translucent meat, which hanging limp on the tip of my chopstick. Not really convincing. I then dip it on the dark sauce that turned out to be a salty soy sauce, and proceed to put it into my mouth.

The texture was discouraging, but the sudden burst of flavour play between the Tuna's rich umami taste, and the dark savoury soy ketchup convinced me to kept me chewing on. And we both finished the meal in no time. We both agreed it was good, and made us thought of bringing home the wasabi, our new item of interest due to its strange pungent taste, and have our friends at the hotel taste it **cough** by accident. Had the waiter informed us what it was, perhaps that first encounter would never happened, so thank you a lot Warung Made in Bali!

After that first encounter, I didn't feel gross, and grows to even missed the food experience instead. We also have a bragging right; having eaten one of the strangest food on earth, and survive to tell about it, surely has its merit.

The next amazing encounter with Sushi & Sashimi bears no more fear, and it was enthusiastically anticipated instead: The Gala dinner of Shima Japanese Restaurant in Bandung, where my mother handled its public relations affairs. As my father's most adventurous meal is KFC, which was already outstretched beyond his strict Sundanese food diet, naturally I was the one to accompany my mother during the whole event.

That was, up until this day, the greatest gala dinner I have ever attend, where they served premium quality Sushi of so many varieties, full set of Salmon Teppanyaki, and all other sorts of classical Japanese dishes, all you can eat style! I came to know Chef Ramli and follow his culinary journey many years after, and even became a work colleague with his son Arasy.

Needless to say after that gala dinner I happily converted from Sushi shy into one Sushi mania, and keep my faith up until this very moment. Do you have a memorable first encounter yourself? (byms)