Eating Sushi the “Proper” Way
By Lisa Hong
How do YOU eat sushi? Do you smear extra Wasabi on top? Pick up the sushi with chopsticks and dip the rice into soy sauce (and let it linger to absorb the salty juices)? I like to bite into the sushi to split it in half; then, I can feel the tenderness of the fish (and feel like I have more pieces to eat). Some people I know like to use mayo, Sriracha, or eel sauce on their sushi. I like to mix the wasabi and soy sauce together to form a greenish-brownish paste. And others remove the fish from the rice and enjoy them separately, or even discard the rice.
Many people don’t know that there is actually a “proper” way to eat this beloved cuisine. Eating sushi comes with its own unique table manners that got lost with the rise in popularity and accessibility. However, knowing these rules can give you insight on what you are being served and how to show respect/gratitude to the chef.
How to eat sushi the “proper” way:
Pick up the sushi with your clean hands, not chopsticks. That way, you don’t ruin the perfect form of the sushi that was made by the chef’s crafty hands. Sashimi and ginger are picked up with chopsticks.
Tilt the sushi fish-down to apply only a hint of soy sauce. The rice and the soy sauce are not supposed to touch.
Place the sushi on your tongue face-down as well. This way, you get the full flavor and freshness of the fish.
If adding extra wasabi, take your chopsticks and only put the smallest amount needed on top of the fish. The sushi chef already applied just the right dab of wasabi between the fish and the rice for you. And do NOT mix wasabi into the soy sauce.
Eat the sushi piece all in one bite. Splitting it in half is apparently very rude to the chef, who spent time making the perfect piece for you. If the sushi is too big, tell the chef so he can adjust the proportion for you. He will find the best part of the fish that can accompany the size of sushi to suite you.
Eat ginger between sushi pieces, not while you still have fish in your mouth. The ginger is supposed to serve as a palette cleanser.
Praise the rice! The chef created the perfect texture, vinegar flavor, and temperature to compliment the sushi. Its quality is just as important as the fish itself.
Finally, do not tip the chef. Instead, you can buy him Sake to enjoy with you. Kanpai!
These rules are probably not applicable in casual places. However, if you are sitting in front of the sushi chef, it’s nice to know that you can show appreciation for the food through your actions rather than repeating “Arigato” over and over.
I have become pickier about the rice in my sushi, and I’ve come to despise places that squirt too much sauce on the fish. Basically, I stopped seeing sushi as something to hoard in my mouth (oh, you should have seen me in all-you-can eat sushi restaurants). Sushi is delicate and thoughtful, and I appreciate those chefs who serve something worth savoring.
However, I still make my wasabi-soy sauce paste.