News / Economy

Johannesburg Restaurateur Creates Sushi for African Palate

Darren Taylor

Silver blades of high-tensile carbon steel flash inside the kitchen of the inner city restaurant known as The Blackanese.

Sushi chef Themba Khumalo sharpens the blades, saying he feels naked without his treasured Japanese knives.

"If you don't have a knife, you don't have sushi," Khumalo said. "You have to sharpen your knives each and every morning when you come to work."

Khumalo is perfecting the art of fusion cooking, the delicate art of combining cultural and culinary traditions. The Johannesburg chef's unique mission is to 'Africanize' the Asian delicacy sushi, to get more black people to eat it.

In front of a pitch black wall decorated with golden chopsticks, Khumalo sculpts maki: teardrop-shaped mouthfuls of raw salmon, cucumber and avocado, surrounded by sticky, white rice, in a wrap of paper-thin dark green seaweed.

Khumalo is paid to create "sushi art," as he calls it, at The Blackanese - an eatery that's the brainchild of 30-year-old restaurateur Vusi Kunene.

Kunene was raised poor, in a village in Mpumalanga Province. On special days, he says, his family would eat chicken. But mostly, they could afford only porridge and spinach on his mother's meager income as a vegetable seller.

"I don't think there was sushi at that time in Africa," he said. "I never knew anything about sushi."

After his mother died, Kunene left school at 14 and moved to Johannesburg, surviving on odd jobs, eventually becoming a waiter in a sushi restaurant.  
 
He became mesmerized by the process of crafting sushi and set out to learn as much about it as he could.  
 
 "At the time the chefs were Japanese, were Chinese, who could not speak English," he said. "And who were not willing to share the information. Then I started doing my own research, on the Internet and stuff like that, and moving to different types of sushi restaurants."
 
Kunene opened his restaurant two years ago with a mission to create sushi for the African palate.    
 
"People tend to think sushi is raw fish, which it's not," he said. "Sushi's a combination of rice and vinegar. That's why you can actually have sushi without raw fish. Raw fish is just one of the fillings."

To "Africanize" sushi, Kunene's recipes include traditional South African ingredients such as springbok and kudu antelope and biltong, dried spiced meat.
 
"Now, immediately when you talk to an African person and then you're telling them about biltong sushi, I think they are willing to listen," Kunene said. "They are willing to try it out. And then immediately when they get into it, this is when you sort of push them into the extremes."
 
When The Blackanese opened, most of Kunene's customers were white. Now he says his clientele is 50 percent black.  
 
At a table in the eatery, a young man dressed stylishly in a blue cashmere sweater, tucks into sushi rolls while working on his iPad.
 
He's Seth Mbhele, a digital strategist and one of Kunene's best customers.  He recalls the first time he tasted sushi a few years ago.
 
"Tuna sashimi," Mbhele said. "Once you get over the idea of what it is that you're eating, it becomes enjoyable. I'm here pretty much four times a week, I think."
 
Kunene is thrilled to be changing South African eating habits by demystifying sushi and giving it an African spin.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9211
JPY
USD
119.18
GBP
USD
0.6722
CAD
USD
1.2509
INR
USD
62.518

Rates may not be current.