Sushi is one of the most quintessential element. It looks like a simple dish: a piece of raw seafood placed on top of a small handful of Japanese rice–but there’s so much more to it than that. Sushi is an art, where only the most seasoned chefs in Japanese kitchens are given the honor to make. To respect–and fully and properly enjoy–this artful dish, Psst.ph gives you a rundown on the Do’s and Don’ts (proper etiquette) of eating sushi because it pays to know what to do before ordering your first plate. Get those chopsticks ready… but don’t you dare rub them together.
Don’t use a ton of wasabi
Typically, chefs grate fresh wasabi to-order on the sushi piece. The other stuff is closer to horseradish — it’s super pungent and overpowers the delicacy of the fish.
Put wasabi on the sushi, not on the soy sauce
This isn’t the way most Filipinos enjoy their sushi. This isn’t exactly strictly practiced even in Japan, but it’s always better to err in the side of caution. Sushi chefs actually also put a small amount of sushi in between the fish and the rice, but if you want to have some more, put wasabi on top of the first.
Use chopsticks or your hands
Yes, both are acceptable. If you do use chopsticks though, be sure you don’t use it to skewer the sushi or to break it apart.
Don’t drown your sushi in soy sauce
To fully appreciate the freshness of the fish, only put in a small amount of soy sauce on your sushi. Also don’t dip your sushi-rice first into your sauce as this will cause the rice to fall apart.
Don’t get scared when the sushi chefs yell in Japanese
Japanese sushi chefs get everyone at the bar and in the kitchen to say ‘irasshaimase’ really loud when a customer arrives. It’s to welcome you and show that they’re enthusiastic about you coming into the restaurant.
Don’t discount the rice
It’s crazy how much time is spent on the rice. Learning how to make it, plus the daily volume, is a real credit and testament to the skill of the sushi chef and how committed they are to excellence.
Don’t rub chopsticks together
We’ve never gotten a splinter and we’ve eaten with plenty of wooden chopsticks. Don’t rub your chopsticks together, it’s rude. It means that you think that they get poor-quality chopsticks.
Don’t top your sushi with ginger
The pickled ginger is there for a palate cleanser, not to be eaten with the sushi.
Eat the sushi in a mouthful
Do not bite in half and put it back on the plate.It’s considered rude, and also impractical–the sushi will definitely fall apart if you eat it in portion.
Don’t order heavy food early in the meal
Start out lighter, with some sashimi or nigiri pieces. Move on to heavier stuff towards the end of the meal. Eat as many things and experience as many flavors as possible, so if you come in and get a roll and steak special, you’re going to be full relatively quickly.
Know the difference between Traditional Sushi Rolls to American Sushi Rolls
In Japan, traditional sushi rolls (Maki) consists of sushi rice and fish or vegetables wrapped in nori (seaweed). Americans put rice on the outside and jam-pack it with different types of fish, veggies and whatever else can fit inside the roll. So when you’re ordering, go for the traditional version. It’s more impressive.
Do eat the pink ginger in between mouthfuls of sushi
The ginger is meant to cleanse your palate and aid with digestion. Don’t add it as a topping — and whatever you do — don’t dip it in the soy sauce. It’s a delicate addition to the meal that will help you enjoy the flavors of the fish.
Don’t take sushi to go
Japanese sushi chefs strongly advise against taking sushi to go. It’s a misrepresentation of the quality of the food. Some foods are great the next day — sushi isn’t one of them.
Don’t fill your cup with too much soy sauce
You don’t want to fill your cup too much — that’s insulting to the sushi chef. Just a touch in there. Whenever you get your sushi, it’s been prepared the way that he thinks it should be prepared. His vision. It’s meant to be eaten that way. If you feel like you need a little more flavor, just dip a little bit of the piece (fish-side) into the soy sauce. If you dip the rice it’ll soak up too much.
There’s an order to eating sushi
White fish goes first, then silver-skinned, then red. The move to heavier flavored fish like salmon and salmon roe. End with something sweet, like tamago sushi.
Do go outside your comfort zone
Try uni! For some people it’s an acquired taste, but it’s incredible and there are different levels [of flavor], from funkier to sweet. Another more advanced fish is ankimo, or cooked monkfish liver. If you like liver or foie gras, it’s really good stuff. Jellyfish is also absolutely delicious — when I had it for the first time I was expecting it to be very soft, but it’s actually crunchy and reminiscent of cucumbers.
Do trust your eyes
Use your eyes. If the fish doesn’t look like a bunch of glistening jewels or the color looks off, like it’s oxidizing or turning brown (or even if it just looks super wet and waterlogged), then it’s not fresh.
Do wipe off your hands with that towel
It’s meant to be refreshing, and also to cleanse your hands, because sushi involves a lot of eating with hands.