By Katsuo Kokaji / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterLike Chinese noodles becoming widely known as ramen in Japan, a washoku dish has evolved to become a singularly popular local food in Brazil.
Temakeria is a Brazilian version of temakizushi hand-wrapped sushi. Fillings for this Brazilian style of sushi include cheese, fruits and other ingredients beyond most people’s imagination in Japan.
“I like having house parties,” said Ana Paula Kobe, chief of the Brazilian Embassy’s division for promoting trade and investment, as she placed rice on a sheet of nori at the embassy in Minato Ward, Tokyo. “I’ve also invited over friends and prepared temakeria with them.”
Kobe prepared two kinds of temakeria: roast beef with salsa and salmon with cream cheese. Wrapped in rocket leaves, both pieces were packed with Western flavors.
“Japanese food is healthy and popular, but it’s expensive in Brazil,” Kobe said. “Temakizushi is affordable, so its popularity has surged, mainly among young people.”
Brazilian roots of temakeria
Brazil-born temakeria, or temaqueria, originally meant a temakizushi restaurant in Portuguese.
Restaurants started appearing in Brazil in the 1990s and have spread across the country, according to Kobe. For lunch, two pieces of temakeria with a drink cost the equivalent of about ¥700. Like Kobe, many Brazilians also prepare temakeria themselves.
Fillings vary from such combinations as fried shrimp with lettuce to raw ham with avocado. I thought these sounded not so unfamiliar, but raw mango and strawberries with vinegared rice took me by surprise.
“When the fruits are fresh, they taste really nice,” Kobe said.
There are currently about 600 temakeria restaurants in Brazil, according to Japanese condiments maker Mizkan, whose leading products include sushi vinegar. Similar restaurants opened in London’s Soho district in 2013 and in Manhattan, New York, in 2014, drawing attention.
“By reimporting the concept from Brazil, we’d like to expand temakeria to Japanese households as a new type of sushi,” a Mizkan official said.
The worldwide evolution of sushi began with sushi rolls.
“Sushi has spread all over the world because it easily fuses with local food cultures,” said Makoto Fukue, chief executive officer of Tokyo Sushi Academy Co. in Nishi-Shinjuku, which runs schools to teach culinary skills and information related to sushi.
The first example of sushi’s evolution on the global stage is the California roll, an avocado-stuffed roll wrapped inside out, with a sheet of nori on the inside and vinegared rice on the outside that emerged in the United States in the 1970s.
“In America, an increasing number of sushi restaurants opened in the 1980s, mainly targeting people working for Japanese companies. But following the burst of the bubble economy, many restaurant owners had to withdraw from the business,” Fukue said.
“South Koreans took over the businesses in many cases after that,” he added.
A wide variety of sushi rolls was subsequently created for locals by people unfamiliar with Japanese food and open to altering the original style.
Nowadays, sushi rolls are being invented all over the world. For example, Brazil’s monkey roll is a banana wrapped with vinegared rice with chocolate sauce drizzled on top, while a Mexican roll has green chili spicy sauce. In Poland, some people eat sushi rolls with caviar covered with raspberry sauce.
“Demand for sushi continues to increase overseas,” Fukue said. The Tokyo Sushi Academy’s Tsukiji branch provides lessons in English and so far has had more than 600 enrollments for lessons.
“We’ll see more fusions involving local ingredients in new sushi rolls,” he added.
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