What we’re talking about? India is still two steps behind the Western nations when it comes to adopting Japanese food. We discuss why that is? How Chinese food took over the Indian market for Oriental food? Where to find affordable Japanese food in a 2nd Tier city like Pune?
Unlike food from our Chinese neighbours that has been twisted and bent to fit our taste, Japanese food is still a new and rather alien cuisine in India. Most of us that have caught the Sushi-Umami fever going around the world are seeking out more restaurants that offer Japanese delicacies.
It is interesting to see that many Oriental restaurants in the metros are now serving a few Japanese delicacies along with Chinese, Vietnamese and South East Asian food. Very often the variety is restricted to rice and noodle options as opposed to something as unique and specialized as Sushi and sashimi.
Although both Chinese and Japanese cuisines offer rice and noodle preparations both have earned a rather different status in an urban Indian’s mind. Chinese food crossed borders and travelled to the Indian subcontinent several decades ago in the form of street food as a means for immigrants to make a living. While Japanese cuisine is trickling down from a niche market slowly into casual dining in metros and Gourmet stores.Will it make a mark in our hearts as Chinese food has over decades, only time will tell.
Chinese food and specifically the mind numbingly spicy, Sichuan style of cooking, is what have mostly been loved and adopted by Indians as their own. Chinese food has earned a position as quick, cheap and spicy food. It has been a very user-friendly and relatable cuisine for Indians. In fact, many of us still interpret Chinese food as garlicky Manchurians and spicy Schezwan. We might call it Chinese, but Veg Manchurian is our claim to fame, no one eats that in China!
Japanese food on the other hand, is much more subtle and has very unique flavours. It is love that grows on you. Sometimes it may take a little getting used before you start appreciating its simplicity. I think wasabi, made of horseradish may be the only loud and pungent ingredient in Japanese food. The flavour of seaweed, mirin, soy and miso paste may not be what we are used to, but it compliments the characteristic flavour of vegetables and meat without masking them.
Japanese food is a very niche product, it uses expensive, imported ingredients and is not easy to prepare. It is slowly becoming popular in the metros but unlike Thai it is not likely to compete with Chinese food in India. Having said that it is hard to come by good Sushi or Ramen anywhere in India.
Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, following the foreign market, are slowly opening some casual dining places that serve Sushi, yet the dream of Yo! Sushi is still far fetched. In two tier cities like Pune, Japanese food is a fine dining product and it is fairly hard to come by a restaurant that serves Sushi, sashimi.
In fact when I find Japanese food in Pune I feel that I have struck gold, and that is exactly how I felt this weekend when I went to Phoenix Market city, Pune. Not only did I find delicious and authentic Ramen but also a box of tasty Sushi at a very affordable price. I can’t stress enough on the affordable price part because those who offer this rare delicacy in Pune charge you a fortune for it. Even with the offers during lunch hour, a few pieces of Sushi in Harajuko pinch the pocket.
Where To Find Japanese Food at Affordable Prices in Pune?
I got the most drool-worthy bowl of steaming, authentic Ramen at Crazy Noodles in less than 250 Rupees as on date. I am a big eater and I don’t leave food in my plate, so I ate it all. But it is a huge portion so two people can easily share this bowl of Ramen. Better still, the veggies were crunchily fresh, chicken was juicy and supple, and the broth was B-E-A-utiful!
A Box of Sushi at Foodhall, the Gourmet store in Phoenix, for less than Rupees 200 (as on date) if you’re vegetarian. I bought 8 pieces of crab Sushi for just Rupees 210 and the Spicy Salmon Sushi was a little over Rupees 400 for six pieces. This Sushi deal was a real steal! Foodhall, anyway is my Disneyland, I don’t think I will come out that shop until I empty my bank account. This Sushi deal though was a blessing. I mean this Suhsi box put 70% Sale signs to shame.
Other Places where you can find Japanese Food in Pune
- Peter Donuts in Aundh – This very Korean Place with good-looking Donuts offers Ramen. Earlier they also used to offer onigiri, but sadly they don’t anymore.
- Harajuko in the O Hotel – is a Japanese fine-dining restaurant. They Sushi, sashimi, Teppanyaki in the evening, Bento Box and the works. Everything Japanese at very up-market rates.
Fun interiors of Crazy Noodles