Eating Weeds w/Bun Lai of Miya's Sushi
Note: the audio link below takes about 15 seconds to start, don't distress!
Have you ever eaten weeds? We’ll today’s guest, Chef Bun Lai of Miya’s sushi restaurant in New Haven CT, not only eats them, he grows them and serves them up at his family’s 35+ year old restaurant. In between the laughter and entertaining sarcasm, this renowned chef shares some deep thoughts on the importance of eating weeds, climate change, and plant based sushi.
Our interview starts off on his farm just outside of the city and moves into the restaurant later that evening, where my family joined me to sample some of the delicious food at this wonderfully creative and groundbreaking restaurant. In the midst of evening service I caught a few words of wisdom from Mie , Bun’s sister, although his mother who first opened the restaurant in 1982 insisted that her daughter be her public voice. Luis, a chef in the restaurant for 14 years shyly shared a few words in English and Spanish, and we also hear a bit from new cook Alan. This creative and dedicated team serve up sushi like you’ve never seen and try to impact our minds and belly’s in the process.
Check out their 2016 White House Champions of Change Award and Menu!
And this great article in Scientific American on eating invasive species.
Farm to table for real. Salad greens and wild weeds harvested in the afternoon, served up that night.
When I arrived at buns small farm just outside of the city of New Haven, he handed me a chilled glass he'd just poured from his blender. He winked at me over the green liquid and told me to drink up. The heat of summer was still high, the glass was cold, and despite his constant trickery and humor, I do ultimately trust this chef/friend not to poison me, so I took a big sip. The drink turned out to be a blend of wild lettuce and lemon balm, seriously refreshing and so good. We headed out the door for a walk around the farm nibbling on cultivated greens and wild weeds alike.
Bun stepped into his family restaurant nearly 20 years ago and has taken it from the first traditional sushi bar in the city to a world renowned sustainable sushi restaurant serving up invasive species of plants, seafood and bugs to expand our tastes and shift our eating to more environmentally sustainable and nutritious ingredients. Since moving on to some farm land outside the city a few years ago, his menu has increasingly featured wild foraged plants or weeds in the salads, sushi and cocktails. I'd been dying to get out to visit and see for myself the land that was inspiring all these new creations. Listen in to the show above, or by podcast to hear more about this fun and informative adventure.
Check out Miya's menu to see the full expanse of dishes and get more insight into the ingredients and outlook of this visionary restaurant. Here's a few fun examples:
BAD-TEMPURED GEISHA BOY: Giant green-lipped mussels, for men who like big mussels
SUSHI SALAM: Roasted eggplant, avocado, smoked jalapeno vegan cashew cheese, and zaatar herb medley that dates back to biblical times. The Old Testament's hyssop that King David mentioned as part of a spiritual cleansing ritual is thought by many scholars to have been zaatar. As-salamu alaykuma translates to peace be upon you in Arabic. This recipe was created in the hope that one day we will live in a world without violence and retribution.
OO LA LA MITZVAH: Wild Alaskan coho salmon, Arethusa Farm Camembert cheese, avocado, and chi energy tempura-fried whole in crispy organic rice batter.
JAPAFRICAN QUEEN: Eggplant, okra, Beltane Farm goat cheese, apricots, avocado, pickled radish, chives, and Ethiopian berbere spice mix. Rice is from West Africa, as well as the region that is present-day China. If sushi were to have been invented in Africa instead of Asia, this recipe is what African sushi might have been like.
In this episode you'll often hear bun saying things like "organic when they should be" meaning choosing organic produce to avoid the most heavily sprayed conventionally grown fruits and veggies such as peaches and spinach. You can find out more info on this Dirty Dozen list.
Do you eat weeds or other wild edibles?
Let us know what you think by commenting below!