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Oct 28, 2012 12:41 PM

Least Traditional Sushi

Hi Chownians,

The NYTimes Travel section for this weekend had an article about New Haven, Connecticut. I'd gladly go for the pizza on Wooster St., but this snippet caught me off-guard:


You can pass the rest of the morning wandering the Yale campus at its most peaceful, when the architecture (, from the 1752 Connecticut Hall to the turtle-shaped shell of the 1958 Eero Saarinen ice skating rink, takes center stage. Then, window-shop your way up boutique- and bookstore-lined Chapel Street to Miya’s Sushi (68 Howe Street; 203-777-9760;, where the menu is part manifesto on sustainability, part multicultural poetry. Rolls include Charlie Chan’s Ching Chong Roll (whole wheat tempura broccoli, garlic and black beans; $6) and the Japafrican Queen (eggplant, goat cheese, apricots, avocado, pickled radish, chives and berbere spice mix, rolled in Ethiopian injera bread; $8). "

って何? I've always thought the lowest depths were occupied by the salmon-cream cheese "Philadelphia" roll and other randomness drowned by unagi "tare" and some spicy mayo. But injera as the starch? Apricots? Never mind the names of the items...

This isn't a thread to bash "untraditional" sushi- I'll try just about anything at least once, and it's not necessarily that the meals sound ghastly either - but I'm just curious what you've seen at the restaurants/supermarkets/train stations you hit up.

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    1. re: paulj

      You concur that it's "out there" or have you already made a reservation? Either way, I'd try the stuff, regardless of where it comes from.

      1. re: paulj

        I like the Invasive Species menu. I've always thought that clever marketing of such creatures would be easiest way to get rid of them. It is working with snakehead fish in the Potomac river.

      2. My understanding is that sushi involves one key ingredient -- vinegared (modern) or fermented (historically) rice. If those rolls don't have rice, they actually aren't sushi. I love injera, but there's no way I'd consider this roll sushi.

        9 Replies
        1. re: SoCalVal

          would you be happier if it was called a 'wrap'?

          To focus on whether Bun Lai's creations qualify as 'sushi' is to miss the whole point of his cooking style and focus.

          1. re: paulj

            And I do believe you're missing that the only point *I* am addressing is the title of this thread, the title of which is "Least Traditional Sushi." You're pressing a point for an argument that doesn't even exist in my post, dude. Move on and present your argument with the OP, not me.

            1. re: SoCalVal

              The restaurant itself calls its rolls "sushi", and it's intentionally subversive. Their motto is "because man cannot live on rice alone". They know that you, and many others, say that sushi has to contain rice, but they've gotten over that. In this particular case, the kooky back story of this roll (which is a vegetarian version of their "Tyger, Tyger" roll) specifically motivates the use of teff instead of rice. It's explained at great length in their menu. Alongside other tidbits like "broccoli, beloved by Jews everywhere" and "You must be mostly African American to order this roll".

              1. re: DeppityDawg

                <Alongside other tidbits like "broccoli, beloved by Jews everywhere" and "You must be mostly African American to order this roll".>

                Oh my god. I don't know if this is meant to be funny or meant to be offensive.

                1. re: DeppityDawg

                  "Intentionally subversive". Wow, that's deep, man. When I go to a restaurant, I go there to eat, not to make a statement. And their stuff sounds pretty disgusting, actually.

                  1. re: Uncle Yabai

                    This is a sentiment I can totally agree with, Uncle Yabai. Seems like there is just too much posing in the restaurant biz these days. Yeah, and this type of sushi seems even more disgusting than the typical Monster Truck Rolls found all over North America.

                2. re: SoCalVal

                  Precisely why I posted this thread. The New Haven restaurant claims those rolls would be sushi, but it's bastardized the food so much that, well, even injera has gotten in on the game.

                  One side of the purist argument maintains that the meaning of sushi has just been corrupted over time, possibly starting as "sour-tasting" ( Injera would certainly fit the sour-tasting bill.
                  Another viewpoint leans more towards the vinegared rice aspect, but no matter which opinion you follow, I'll still eat it.

                  1. re: BuildingMyBento

                    The menu is pretty amusing if a bit too narrative for my taste, but reading it I was definitely interested in trying a number of the rolls. Be they sushi or not.

                    One of my favorite somewhat bastardized sushi rolls was an "Italian" roll that was raw salmon, basil, tomato and tempura bits. No where near to the extent of the Seven Spieces roll - but no matter how inauthentic, I really did just like that roll a whole lot.

                    1. re: cresyd

                      I too would love to try their food, and their sake drinks. They're having fun, and some of those creations sound delicious.

            2. I don't think I can top your list, but I think sushi pizza is pretty down in the "Least Traditional Sushi"



              1. Good lord...I'm trying my best not to get too offended by "Charlie Chan's Ching Chong Roll", but it's safe to say I'll never cross their threshold.

                10 Replies
                1. re: ricepad

                  I wonder why its creator, Bun Lai, is not offended.
                  "He was born in Hong Kong, the son of Yoshiko Lai, a Japanese nutritionist and restaurateur, and Dr. Yin Lok Lai, a Chinese surgeon and Cambridge University educated professor. "

                  1. re: paulj

                    Maybe, having grown up in a different time and place, he didn't have to walk to school with taunts of "Ching, chong, Chinaman!" ringing in his ears.

                    1. re: ricepad

                      I actually had to listen to similar crap like that. Charlie Chan probably thinks that since he is a Chinese-American, he is free to say this. I understand that, and in truth there are some buffers for an Asian American to make an Asian joke. On the other hand, I think ethnic jokes at the very least should serve some purposes. In this case, there is none I can see.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          How is Charlie Chan as a fictional character free to say anything? The irony is that the actor who played the movie character wasn't chinese.

                          1. re: Bkeats

                            Thanks for the correction. I meant the creator/owner, who should be Bun Lai, not Charlie Chan.

                    2. re: ricepad

                      All part of their shtick, I think. "We dare you to be offended, and then try to go beyond your initial reactions, rethink your assumptions and you might just 'get' our post-meta agit-food, etc. etc." The Yale undergrads eat it up, I'm sure.

                      But at least have a look at the photos on Foodspotting (although I gather that amateur photography in restaurants is also offensive to many here):

                      1. re: DeppityDawg

                        While I tend to be a traditionalist when it comes to sushi, I'll admit that Bun Lai's creations look as tasty as they are creative. They are certainly more interesting results of 'fusion' (whatever THAT means) than the zillions of different iterations of Monster Truck Rolls. And I get that he's young, edgy, and hip (or whatever Gen Xers/Gen Nexters say these days). And I'll further declare that I'm all in on his environmental/sustainable approach. Having said that, tho, I just can't get past the "Ching Chong Roll". And it may be my loss, too.

                        1. re: ricepad

                          What about other statements like "*You must be mostly African American to order this roll" or "This roll utilizes the Seven Species of the Hebrew Bible and broccoli, beloved by Jews everywhere"

                          I guess my West Coast sense of humor is just not getting these East Coast jokes -- assuming these are supposed to be jokes. It isn't so much I am offended that I don't see what is so funny here.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            or '...Rabbi Jim Ponet and his incomparable wife, Elana, who are so wise they must really be Chinese.'

                    3. Has anyone mentioned the Hawaiian delicacy of Spam Sushi?

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: PotatoHouse

                        Actually, I do like California roll. Not the poorly made ones from supermarkets, but a decent freshly made California roll taste good to me. Not my favor sushi, but I definitely like it. Maybe I like avocado. I am not too big of a fan for the Philly roll, but I can eat one.

                        Now, back to your favor Spam sushi....

                        I don't hate Spam. I ate Spam when I was a kid and still like one from time to time (once or twice a year?). However, the combination of Spam and sushi really disgust me. Spam is so processed and so overly salted and so .... and you put that as the main ingredient of sushi. Holy crap. The pictures themselves are repulsive


                        Hawaii can really keep this delicacy in its islands and never export these inventions.

                        1. re: PotatoHouse

                          Spam musubi? Have you tried it? Its great for breakfast. Don't dismiss it. The salty spam with the rice creates a great contrast.

                          1. re: Bkeats

                            If you have umeboshi (pickled plums) alone you would also describe them as overly salty, but in a rice ball ...

                          2. re: PotatoHouse

                            Musubi is usually made with plain rice, not sushi rice (shari). And I love musubi...gonna have some for lunch today, in fact.

                            1. re: ricepad

                              In same spirit as onigiri - plain rice with salty/sour accent.