The rise of sushi as a cuisine with global reach has accelerated in recent years. In many metropolitan areas, you may even find pre-made sushi takeout in supermarkets. This growth in sushi's popularity has resulted in an enormous and unsustainable strain on marine wildlife populations, food safety concerns, and even sushi fraud at restaurants. No wonder many conscientious sushi-lovers are either cutting back or foregoing sushi altogether.
But one restaurant in New Haven, Connecticut is offering an alternative: sushi that's made with invasive plant and animal species that are relatively abundant. Miya's Sushi offers a selection of tantalizing, Asian-inspired creative gastronomy that uses ingredients like Japanese knotweed, foraged mugwort, Asian carp and blue catfish, species known more as nuisances rather than something gourmet to eat. That's all in addition to other sushi dishes that emphasize plant-based ingredients, as well as more adventurous options, like roasted black soldier fly larvae toppings.
Chef Bun Lai is the current owner of the restaurant, which his mother Yoshiko Lai founded back in 1983 as one of the world's first sustainable sushi restaurants. So it's fitting that Miya's Sushi was recently recognized as one of the 2016 White House Champion for Change for Sustainable Seafood -- in response, they named one menu item of roasted Asian carp "Blessed Barack of Ribs" for a special "New Haven Restaurant Week" event. In the restaurant's write-up of the new autumn menu, they explain:
The creation of demand for invasive species as a food, has the potential to curb the dominance of invasive species in ecosystems. Furthermore, it provides the seafood industry with a greater supply of seafood and reduces the stresses on populations already being fished. At Miya’s, invasive fish have replaced the most popular but environmentally problem-riddled seafoods. The following sushi recipes were created at Miya's to address an array sustainable seafood issues through the utilization of invasive species.
The idea of making sushi out of abundant species that are considered 'invasive' is a reasonably good one that should be adopted in more places around the world, especially with the sushi industry making such a huge environmental impact. While not every person is going to warm up to eating unfamiliar food ingredients just because someone else has said "this is more sustainable", creatively made food can sometimes be that gentle catalyst toward change and a measured rethinking of our perceptions and food choices. Visit Miya's Sushi for more information.