I'm a huge fan of sushi, but when it comes to the correct Japanese etiquette of eating it, I'm completely clueless. Or, rather, I was - because Rachel has put together this great guide on how to follow sushi best practice..
1. The Chopsticks
Eating with chopsticks takes a bit of practice. I recommend working on this skill before you go out for a sushi date. Try eating your meal once a week with only chopsticks. Here is a great how-to video that will help you hone this skill.
Refrain from rubbing your chopsticks together after breaking them apart. This sends a strong signal to the chef that you think they’re cheap.
When picking up fish from a shared dish, use the larger, back end of the chopsticks.
Don’t poke or stab your food with your chopsticks.
Rest your chopsticks on your dish, not sticking up like roman candles in your rice bowl.
Did you know it’s acceptable to eat sushi with your hands? (Although, Sashimi does need to be eaten with chopsticks)
2. The Fish
Sushi = fish (raw or cooked) with rice
Sashimi = just raw fish
The whole sushi piece is meant to be eaten in one bite. Try your best, but if it’s simply too much discreetly bite it in half, while holding the second bite of sushi in your chopsticks (without setting it back down on your plate).
The fish side should be dipped lightly into the soy sauce. Dipping the rice side causes too much soy sauce to be soaked into the sushi and can mask the taste of the fish.
Flip the sushi so that the fish touches your tongue first, instead of the rice, again to get the full flavor of the fish.
3. The Condiments
Only put a small amount of soy sauce into the dish provided, you should be able to use it all during your meal without waste.
A small dab of wasabi should be added directly to the fish, never made into a soup with your soy sauce. (I’m so guilty here)
Don’t shake your piece of sushi to drop off excess soy sauce
Ginger is to be eaten between sushi pieces to cleanse your pallet, don’t put it directly on the fish.
You should pick up and sip your soup, using chopsticks as an assist for larger pieces of tofu or seaweed.
4. The Sushi Chef
You can ask the chef what is in season, what they recommend and order your fish directly from them.
You can offer the sushi chef a drink like a sake or beer if you’re particularly impressed with your meal.
Sitting at the bar shows that you have an interest in the food and preparation, and, traditionally, is preferred over sitting at a table.
Illustration by Stephen Zhang.