Sushi Phenomenon

evolution of the sushi culture in Metro Vancouver


Words by Sophia Kim   Photos by Myungsook Lee





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¡°When I first started working, sushi was a specialty. It used to be a special event kind of food for many people. Now it¡¯s become more like fast food,¡± says Kim. ¡°People drop in for a light snack as they would for McDonalds.¡±

This has meant two different things for a Chef/Owner like Kim: accessible authenticity at an affordable price.

According to Kim, there are now many beginners who are just becoming acquainted with the concept of sushi. This means sushi has had to find a way to accommodate different levels of acceptability of authenticity—in other words, less raw fish and more cooked meat.

¡°There are many more rolls now that need support from the kitchen,¡± explains Kim. ¡°It¡¯s because rolls like chicken roll, beef roll and dynamite roll accommodate beginners and kids better.¡±

Kim¡¯s attempt to be accommodating however hasn¡¯t hindered his originality. Like many sushi restaurants owned by non-Japanese, Kim¡¯s ethnic background has influenced his sushi – like a unique Korean cuisine inspired spicy sauce for his spicy tuna roll and the invention of a squid tempura rolls. Yakko too has contributed much to the rising trend in Vancouver¡¯s sushi culture.

Was it the availability of these easily accessible and affordable sushi restaurants or the rising demand that has lead to this landscape of a multitude of sushi restaurants all over the Lower Mainland? It is like the age old question, chicken or egg first? Whatever the order was, the fact of the matter is that more and more people are passing through these gateways into the realm of sushi. 

Imported from Japan

Is there any room for the ¡°traditional¡± sushi imported directly from Japan?

According to Fuji Sushi¡¯s Sous-Chef Ken Namatame, about 20 to 30% of the Japanese restaurants in B.C. pursue the traditional style of sushi. With specialty Japanese fish imported directly from Japan twice a week, Fuji Sushi in Coquitlam offers on average 30 different types of sashimi. In fact, traditional restaurants like Fuji Sushi enjoy a niche market in nigiri sushi. This is why even with two Japanese restaurants within five minutes of Fuji Sushi, Namatame has not seen a problem with competition. However, Namatame has definitely noticed a change in the customers. Fuji Sushi used to only get demands for fresh Japanese fish from its Japanese customers. However, that demand has spread to the locals as well.

¡°In the past decade, more locals [have become] used to raw fish,¡± says Namatame explaining that more and more people ask about the different types of fish written in Japanese behind the sushi bar.

Namatame adds smiling that the Japanese writing has not only created an ambiance in the restaurant but that it has raised curiosity and interest in his customers.

However, Namatame admits that California roll (one of the few fusion twists Fuji Sushi has integrated into its menu) and tuna and salmon rolls are still the most popular among the locals.

Ready to Dare?

For those who are ready, a style of sushi that challenges a North American concept of sushi is also available. Miku Sushi on West Hastings street offers a different style called aburi sushi, which means flame seared. A blow torch is used to sear the fish partly with a piece of charcoal placed between the fish and the flame. By doing this, the fish is given a smoky flavour, which is then paired with a unique Miku sauce. The mind blowing part of this experience is that there is no soy sauce anywhere. The contribution of places like Miku to Vancouver¡¯s sushi culture is that as more and more people are ushered into the world of sushi and mature into real sushi lovers. Even for an addict like me, a different style of sushi is there to constantly challenge expectations.

Expert or a beginner, the Vancouver sushi scene is readily available to accommodate any of the sushi lovers¡¯ needs. From an expensive fine dining experience to a quick and cheap meal-to-go at the convenience store, Vancouver sushi culture boasts a rich variety of styles that have become more easily accessible and widely acceptable. Sushi in Vancouver in that sense is no longer just Japanese food, but it has become a ¡°Vancouverite¡± food that is both a delicacy and a comfort to many. And of course, for addicts like me, the never ending evolution of the sushi culture in Vancouver is a welcome and a rewarding change. (The end)

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DIVERSE 5th Issue

We are pleased to announce that DIVERSE 5th issue, Summer 2011 has been released.  

12 Diversity in Canadian Workplaces What are the obstacles to a better form of ¡°diversity¡± in the workplace?

- Open Door Group

- BC Workplace Diversity Inclusion Awards

6 BC¡¯s Diversity through 30 portraits



2 ThePower of Exchange A Historic Collaboration between Germany¡¯s

Premiere Art Collections and Canada¡¯s First Nations

28 Ezra Kwizera  Born in Uganda to Rwandese refugee parents, Canadian Musician and genocide  survivor speaks on the art of  forgiveness and of adapting to Canadian culture

42 Dana Claxton  

The Mustang Suite: Questioning mobility, freedom and autonomy 


24 Gung Haggis Fat Choy in Vancouver, BC: The Diversity of Canada      

38 Denise Brillon Breaking barriers in the fashion world



32 Pysanky¡¯s Resurgence

Joan Brander¡¯s contribution to the renaissance in traditional

Ukrainian egg art


10 Publisher¡¯s Note

27 Benefits of being a bilingual writer

31 Canadians come in all differences



35 News Briefs on Multiculturalism

36 Publisher¡¯s Picks


You Can Order Here.


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    DIVERSE......"Each person is born into a unique culture. All deserve respect.¡±