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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9009
JPY
USD
123.09
GBP
USD
0.6387
CAD
USD
1.2524
INR
USD
63.605

Rates may not be current.