While Chinese food has long been a favourite in Delhi, other cuisines from East Asia have taken somewhat longer to make their presence felt in the city’s food scene. Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai food were among the first to arrive (possibly because those curries and spices were more likely to appeal to the typical Indian palate?), but Japanese—especially foods like sushi and sashimi, so very far removed from anything most Indians are used to—took longer. Sushi still is served only by a handful of restaurants, and of those, only a few do it well.
Sushiya, which we first encountered as a takeaway stall in Select CityWalk Mall, didn’t impress us particularly the first time we tried their sushi. Everything tasted pretty much the same, we thought. The second time we had it (simply because I was craving sushi and we were in Select CityWalk—which back then had no other sushi joints), it was much better.
The other day, therefore, when we heard that Sushiya now do home deliveries across the NCR, I suggested we order a weekend dinner from them. The person who’d mentioned this bit of news had also said they’d ordered Sushiya’s bibimbap, and that it was fabulous. That clinched it. Both my husband and I are very fond of bibimbap. A Korean meal, we decided, and even though Sushiya’s menu has only a handful of Korean dishes on it (gimbap, mandu, bulgogi and bibimbap comprise half the Korean section), it was enough for the two of us.
Ordering was a bit of a problem, because the ‘Order Online’ link on the Sushiya website didn’t work. And the single phone number provided was constantly busy: it took half an hour of trying to finally get through – only to be told that delivery would take an hour and a half! That, by any standard, seemed a bit excessive, but the order taker insisted that it couldn’t be done in any less time. Since we were hellbent on a Korean meal (and not in a desperate hurry to eat), we finally gave in. For our meal, we ordered a starter—chicken mandu dumplings—and two mains: bibimbap, and bulgogi. I wasn’t surprised (this, after all, being Delhi) that the bulgogi and the bibimbap—both traditionally made with beef—are here offered in either chicken or pork variations, not beef. We chose pork for both.
The food arrived about an hour and forty-five minutes after we’d placed the order. Three sealed plastic boxes, stacked one on top of the other and tied with a jaunty red ribbon, chopsticks on the side. Along with the food also came very messy little plastic containers with sauces: a sweet chilli dipping sauce to accompany the mandu, and what tasted like a combination of soya sauce and sesame oil for the rest of the food.
But, as to the food itself. I began having serious doubts about the quality of the food as soon as I saw it: it looked half-dead, limp and utterly unappetising. On unpacking, doling out onto plates, and digging in, this was what we found:
1. Mandu. A chicken dumpling rather like a potsticker, with a thin skin that encased a filling of minced, lightly flavoured chicken. It wouldn’t have been bad fresh out of the steamer or the frying pan or whatever it’s finished in, but this had been sitting in a sealed box—with condensation dripping on to it—for close to two hours, so the result was a very chewy skin and a cold, solid filling. Not nice.
2. Bibimbap. Bibimbap—’mixed rice’—is one of those Korean staples that. I simply adore. Sushiya’s bibimbap, sadly, has to rank as one of the most uninspiring I’ve ever had. The ingredients were somewhat skewed I their proportions: too little shredded spinach and julienned carrots and beansprouts, proportionately too much rice and meat (both my husband and I like our bibimbap to have lots of good, crunchy vegetable).
The meat, instead of being the thin stir fried or grilled strips of pork we’d expected, seemed more like pork which had been cooked till it was fork-tender, at which point it had been pulled apart. The egg on top, while I hadn’t really expected it to be raw (I doubt if that would find too many takers in Delhi), had been fried to a rubbery, chewy mass which we had trouble mixing into the rice, meat and veg. Worst of all, there was no trace—in flavour or colour—of the distinctive hot-sweet Korean red pepper paste known as gochujang, which is such an integral part of bibimbap.
“You make far better bibimbap,” said my husband.
3. Bulgogi. The classic Korean grilled beef (though of course we got pork, since beef isn’t an option offered by Sushiya). This came on a bed of steamed rice, with a small helping of finely shredded cabbage (which, because of being shut on with the rice and meat, had gone completely limp by the time it reached us) on the side. The pork looked and tasted exactly like what had gone into the bibimbap, though here it had been covered in an overly sweet sauce which became almost cloying after a while.
Verdict? Not something we’re going to be trying again, even though the amount we paid (Rs 1000, inclusive of taxes) isn’t much by Delhi standards. While I do take into account the fact that food suffers in transportation (and some dishes more than others), the basic flavour cannot go so completely haywire as to be nowhere close to what it’s purporting to be. And if the establishment does feel that a dish is likely to lose quality in the time it takes to be delivered, they should either not have it on the menu, or should let you know when you place your order. (While on that, an hour and a half—or closer to two hours—isn’t really acceptable, especially when your site itself commits in writing to a delivery time of between forty-five minutes to an hour).
We may have been unlucky in that every dish we’d ordered was a hot one – and dishes like bibimbap aren’t exactly conducive to sitting around for a long time in a sealed container; all that trapped heat just serves to make all those crunchy vegetables limp and the egg leathery. Cold dishes—sushi, for example—may survive better. On the other hand, I wonder how safe something containing raw fish might be if it was in transit for close to two hours…
Sushiya – The Sushi Shop
56 Main Road
New Delhi – 110068
I have no experience of Korean food as for Japanese I have eaten only Teriyaki chicken, and am vary of Sushi, do not relish the idea of having raw fish, I would like to try out various cuisines but I am not so adventurous, I ate some Malaysian food some time back, I do not know whether it was authentic but it was yum– Shilpi
Till a few years back, I’d been under the impression that Korean food was probably rather like the ‘usual’ Japanese food: delicate and ‘gentle’. Then, because Delhi’s Korean expat population is now fairly sizeable, Korean restaurants have started coming up. One which was highly recommended by a friend was Gung – The Palace, which is owned and operated by a Korean family. We tried it out, and loved it so much that we’ve become fans of Korean food.
And Malaysian food – or what I’ve had of it – is delicious. :-)
I have seen Korean food in those Pan Asian menus, maybe I will give it a try. BTW, this is isn’t the place to mention this perhaps but I have to say this, I was happy to see you being mentioned in an article in The Times of India. Real happy to see you as a very successful and of one of the top detective story writers of the country.
The Indrajit Hazra artiicle, on the history of Indian detective fiction? That came to me as a pleasant surprise! Especially coming from Hazra, who’s known to be discerning.