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Whenever foods specific to a certain culture make appearances in foreign restaurants, something almost always gets altered along the way. For example, I’ve been living in Japan for years, and yet I still shake my head whenever I see an “American-style” pizza topped with eggplant, potato and mayonnaise. It’d be one thing if everyday consumers realized that the “Western” food they eat is actually unique to Japan, but as far as they are concerned, all of us Americans put taters and mayo on our pizzas!

But of course, Japan is in no way the only country to confuse traditional ingredients for those suited to their local tastes. Recently, one of our RocketNews24 correspondents, Natasha from Ukraine, wrote up a fine report on the sad state of sushi in her country. Here’s the gist of what she had to say.

“Ukrainian people,” Natasha says, “are really unfortunate.” In spite of what they believe, they’ve never actually eaten sushi before. Over the past five years or so, there has been a major sushi craze sweeping across the country. The number of Japanese restaurants has dramatically increased and even places serving traditional Ukrainian dishes will also have sushi on the menu. However, what the people there call sushi is quite far removed from the dish Japanese diners have come to expect.

In Japan, regular rolled sushi, known as maki zushi, contains little more than fish and rice wrapped up in a layer of seaweed, occasionally with a hint of wasabi. Some varieties might contain egg, cucumber, chives, sour plum, or fermented soy beans, but most remain simple. Sushi in Ukraine is not only inside-out in many cases, with rice and sometimes a layer of fish on the outside of the roll, they all contain strange cheeses and a heavy slathering of mayonnaise! For a Japanese person hoping to have a taste of home in a foreign land, this could come as quite a shock!

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The Ukrainian people are so accustomed to this type of sushi that if served a plate of the traditional Japanese fare, they might not recognize it as sushi at all! One could expect comments along the lines of “This is sushi? Where’s the mayonnaise? If it doesn’t contain my favorite cheese, it’s no good!”

Unfortunately, the misinterpretation of Japanese cuisine within Ukraine is not limited to sushi alone. The sushi restaurant which Natasha visited also had pizza and steak on their menu. Upon ordering a bowl of traditional Japanese udon, thick wheat-flour noodles in hot broth, what came to the table were regular pasta noodles swimming in soup.

▼At least the miso soup looks safe.

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Ukrainian food restaurants actually take the adoption of Japanese cuisine a step further by serving Ukrainian-style sushi, though to be honest, the shape is the only thing vaguely resembling traditional sushi at all. This style of sushi uses rye bread instead of rice and contains things like pork fat, pickles, and onions. The flavor goes great with vodka, making it a real hit with the locals.

Now, none of this is to say that the adoption of foreign cuisine to fit the flavor palate of the locals is at all bad. It’s just very, very different and should perhaps be acknowledged as such.

I know that every time I take a trip to America, I’m certain to stop at a Japanese-style restaurant. In the same way that it’s hard to find a good cheeseburger, I can’t seem to find fake Asian cuisine anywhere in Japan. Only in America can I eat a good California roll.

Photos: RocketNews24

▼ I’m reminded of an American sushi menu more than a Japanese one.

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▼ At least the rolls in this corner have the seaweed on the proper side.

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▼ These rolls look colorful and delicious, but they’re certainly a bit mixed up.

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▼ I’m not sure about the mayonnaise, but usually the fish eggs, salmon, and rice go on the inside of the roll…

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▼ OK, it might not be proper sushi, but this still looks pretty good!

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