There are various ways a person can eat sushi. Nowadays, it’s all about preference. However, since food is richly embedded in culture, there is history and standards for how people should eat a particular dish.
For people who love Japanese food to know how to eat sushi properly.
All About Sushi
When you hear sushi, a series of images would probably begin flooding your mind. This is how familiar people are with sushi. As a result, this Japanese dish is loved and served worldwide.
Sushi’s origin is quite more mysterious than the majority may think. In fact, there is an assumption and not one exact explanation. While many people would assume that sushi originated in Japan, they were introduced by the Chinese.
Sushi is said to be derived from a dish called narezushi. This dish was made by combining salted fish and fermented rice. Narezushi was such a smart and practical option for a dish during these times.
Back then, people hadn’t seen the great invention of a fridge yet so putting together fermented rice and salted fish was a perfect way to maximize these ingredients. Interestingly though, the rice part of the whole narezushi is thrown out and was just kept to help preserve the fish.
As time passed by, Narezushi was spread to different parts of the world and was then reimagined by the person humans owe the modern sushi as we know it now, a Japanese chef named Hanaya Yohei.
He was responsible for the brilliant idea of keeping the rice as it is, with the salted fish, only partnered with a bit of flavoring like vinegar. With this, he came up with a practical, portable, and affordable dish for people worldwide.
Thus, it’s safe to say that nigiri was born first before the other types of sushi. Then, the spread of this fresh and delectable dish started and grew in Japan.
Sushi Eating Etiquette
There is no single right way to eat sushi. Each person has their personality and character when eating a dish they like.
The same goes for sushi—as for people who grew up in a Japanese community, eating sushi is just like eating your daily and regular meals, natural and just right. Here are some sushi-eating etiquette tips that you might not know yet.
Hands are okay!
The two main ways of eating sushi are by hand or chopsticks. While sushi has been stereotypically eaten with chopsticks, they are meant to be eaten by hand. In fact, this dish was meant to be eaten by hand!
This being said, it’s okay for you to use your hands when eating sushi. On a side note and a shared experience, you can now avoid dropping your sushi onto your soy sauce.
Using chopsticks has been the norm for plenty of places because it’s considered cleaner or more hygienic, but in many Japanese restaurants, people only need to wash or wipe their hands with a hot towel.
What usually requires chopsticks is sashimi. However, these are not considered sushi, so they can’t be called exceptions.
In one piece or none
When eating sushi, you need to eat it in one piece. This is the standard way of eating sushi. There are no clear and strict rules as to how you put them in your mouth as long as you consume a slice in one go.
On the other hand, there is sushi that tends to be bigger; American serving, for example, in this case, you can always request smaller portions of rice in your sushi. You can do this when you can’t handle more giant slices.
Some people love the pickled ginger on their sushi. This is not illegal, but the ginger was meant to be eaten between bites. The ginger is meant to cleanse your palate.
More on Sushi Etiquette
Wasabi in the sauce: is this okay?
Again, this is not illegal. People might have done this once or a couple of times in their life. The ratio between soy sauce and wasabi can differ by a person’s taste or culture. Americans, for example, tend to consume too much wasabi and so on.
People have their way of dipping their sushi into soy sauce. However, there is a proper way to do this. In dipping nigiri in soy sauce, the appropriate way is to dip fish first.
To do this, you would need to pick up the sushi so that it would flip upside down, dipping the right side of sushi onto the soy sauce.
Unlike rice, the fish part won’t absorb too much soy sauce so that it won’t be overwhelming, or it would not make the sushi saltier than it should.
With the fish diving first, you get ample soy sauce and little to none getting absorbed by the sticky rice.
The proper order
While there are no strict rules as to the order of eating sushi, the proper order goes like this. First, one to be eaten should be sushi with white fish (for example, shiromi).
Next in line is sushi with redfish (for example, tuna). And lastly, any sushi with any egg goes in last.
No vertical chopsticks, please
It’s a no-no to stab your chopstick onto a bowl of rice or any other dish put in a simple bowl. This can be considered offensive as it can be related to their funeral rites.
In Japan, whenever there’s a funeral, what’s left is a bowl of rice, and a pair of chopsticks stabbed and standing in the middle of it. This is why it’s bad manners to do this during a meal.
If you want to let go of your chopsticks, you can place them on a chopstick rest or your bowl but make sure both chopsticks do not cross.
Do not rub quality chopsticks together
Rubbing is only okay for wooden ones. However, it can be not very respectful to rub them together for quality chopsticks.
Traditional Way of Eating Sushi
- Prepare your dipping sauce by pouring some into a small and shallow bowl. You can also pour some on your plate if you find it more convenient.
- Dip your sushi into the sauce. If you happen to be eating nigiri, make sure to flip it, so the fish dives into the sauce first before anything else.
- If you want to spice up your sushi, you can scoop up little bits of wasabi and brush them on top of your sushi.
- Time to eat! The thing about sushi is they’re meant to be eaten in one go. However, there could be exceptions, especially if you eat American-style rolls, which tend to be bigger than usual. In this case, you can consume the slice in two or more bites, depending on your preference.
- Chew slowly and at your own pace, make sure that you let your mouth experience the combination of flavors, and let it coat your mouth beautifully.
- Sushi is mainly enjoyed with sake so if you happen to be drinking sake, take a drink after finishing a slice.
- Now take the pickled ginger and eat. This helps cleanse your palate, as explained earlier. The ginger helps neutralize or get rid of the remaining flavor of the sushi roll, if there is any. The interval when you should do this depends on you, you can do it after every slice, or you can also do it after every bite if you fancy it.
- Rinse with a drink and repeat as long as you want to. The limits can be either you are too stuffed or run out of sushi. Either way, this is a fun way to eat your sushi.
Eating Sushi: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are some of the most popular sushi?
While sushi, in general, is famous up to this day, some dishes are more well-known than others. Some of the more popular sushis are California rolls, Chicken avocado summer rolls, vegetable rice spring rolls, salmon sushi burgers, temaki, etc.
Is sushi from Japan?
It is believed that sushi has its roots in other parts of Asia. However, the discovery and invention were made by a Japanese chef, so yes, sushi has been technically a Japanese dish throughout history.
Why soy sauce?
Soy sauce is a complement to the fish. This type of sauce enhances the fish’s flavor.
Is pickled ginger meant to be eaten with sushi?
Nope. The purpose of ginger is for a palate cleanse. This is meant to be eaten after every bite or slice.
Do Japanese people always eat sushi?
While it is easily assumed that Japanese people eat sushi all the time, they don’t. In fact, high-quality sushi is pretty expensive, so that average citizens won’t opt for sushi all the time. Sushi is eaten occasionally.
Food is one of the things that make up different cultures and can also be one of the things that connect.
In Japanese culture, sushi is trendy, and people who want to know more about their culture should know how to eat sushi the proper way. This way, you learn more about their culture through food.
Hiroshi Nakamura, a Tokyo-born sushi chef turned US-based writer and critic, is the voice behind ichisushi.com, blending traditional sushi wisdom with modern insights.