Food Fusion with Jogasaki Sushi Burrito
It’s sushi! It’s a burrito! No, it’s a sushi burrito (occasionally called a Sushirrito, although that term is actually trademarked by a company using the name). Purists will tell you that the sushi burrito is neither sushi nor a burrito, but as with most food fusions, it does borrow elements from both of the foods that inspired it.
If you’re not familiar with the idea, a sushi burrito is essentially an unsliced sushi roll that’s meant to be eaten like a burrito: on the go and with your hands. It could also be described as a buffed-up version of a slightly less famous member of the sushi family, the cone-shaped “hand roll” called temaki.
Like traditional sushi, the sushi burrito is often made by adding rice, toppings, and sauces to a sheet of seaweed, also known as nori. However, some restaurants serving sushi burritos use soy paper or, depending on how strong the Latin influence is on the roll’s ingredients, a tortilla. Also like traditional sushi, it’s rolled up with a bamboo mat and, to make eating it easier, it’s cut in half.
Fad or Fusion?
Food fads are a fairly well-known phenomenon these days. In recent years, we’ve witnessed the fluctuating popularity of desserts like cake pops and cupcakes, healthy ingredients like quinoa and kale, and flavors like pumpkin spice and sriracha. Food mashups like burgers with non-traditional buns and the copyrighted, line-summoning Cronut continue to make headlines, leaving some with a sense of weird-food fatigue.
Although it may be lumped in with other edible experiments, the sushi burrito is more of an exercise in Asian-Latin fusion. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the sushi burrito came onto the food scene, especially since multiple establishments offering them claim to provide the “original,” but the fusion has become increasingly popular over the last several years. Today, concepts selling it have popped up everywhere from New York to Utah to California.
Chef Yo Pratioto is the owner of the Los Angeles-based Jogasaki Sushi Burrito food truck, which has been operating for a handful of years, though Pratioto’s relationship with sushi in standard and burrito forms began earlier. He says he first thought of the fusion cuisine when he was working as a sushi chef.
“I have been serving sushi burritos long before the food truck actually came to the street,” Chef Pratioto tells us. “As a sushi chef, we always have some specials that we would prepare for our regular customers whenever they requested [it] and one of those requests was the sushi burrito. The idea of sushi burrito in the beginning was pretty simple: A customer just asked me to make a special roll out of the regular menu, so instead of using a regular half seaweed sheet, I used a full-size soy paper sheet to create the roll and the outcome was an oversized, customized sushi roll. When the customer saw it they said, ‘It looks like a burrito.’ That’s when we decided to call it sushi burrito.”
When it comes to opening a food truck, Chef Pratioto was inspired by Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ food truck, which is often credited with revitalizing mobile food culture across the United States.
“I saw the food truck phenomenon in LA started by the Kogi truck, which specializes in Korean BBQ tacos,” Chef Pratioto explains. “So I thought to myself, ‘If they succeeded in using that combination, why don’t I try my sushi burrito as well?'”
Sushi served in the United States has usually been Americanized in some way, but it is still considered a traditional element of Japanese cuisine. The secrets of making it authentically are closely guarded, so much so that Japan began a certification program for chefs operating abroad who create authentic cuisine, although participation in the program is voluntary.
Sushi burritos are not considered traditional or authentic sushi or Japanese cuisine, but Chef Pratioto has not experienced negative feedback from other sushi chefs.
“If you asked me this question 20 years ago, then the answer is most likely yes,” Chef Pratioto says. “But those are the old days. I believe that successful people [are] always driven by their endless creativity to come up with new ideas in order to better serve their customers.”
Today, innovation in the culinary world is to be expected as chefs experiment more freely with ingredients, techniques, and new styles of cuisine. Chef Pratioto has embraced the Asian-Latin fusion by expanding his menu beyond the sushi burrito, which also gives options to customers who may not be willing to try it just yet.
In addition to the many sushi burrito combinations on the menu, customers can order salmon ceviche tacos, spicy tuna nachos, deep-fried tuna or California sushi rolls, and the fire cracker, which is a rice cracker topped with spicy tuna and eel sauce.
For customers who want to try a sushi burrito but may not want the full-sized version, Jogasaki offers a smaller “mini” size. Having multiple options on the menu helps Chef Pratioto serve customers something they’ll enjoy.
“Again, it is your job as a chef to find out what your customers want,” Chef Pratioto says. “It’s all about what customers want to eat, not what we want to make. Basically, the best reward for us as chefs is to be able to put a smile on our customers’ faces while they enjoy the food we’re serving.”