Sushi Etiquette 101

Sushi Etiquette 101

  • admin
  • 7th March 2013
  • Blog

1. Eat your sushi in one bite. Two bites is acceptable, however, don’t put the sushi back on the plate if you bit it in half already. Once you pick it up, eat all of it and keep uneaten parts in the chopsticks ready to be consumed.

2.  Go easy on the soy sauce. Soaking your sushi in soy sauce is disrespectful because it implies that the original flavors are not good without soy sauce. Use light amounts only, to enhance the flavor.  Always place your “nigiri-sushi” upside-down in the soy sauce and eat it “rice-side up.” Don’t pinch it too hard, and place it so the fish touches your tongue. (The soy sauce will cause the rice to fall apart.)

3.  Use the washcloth. This is the oshibori, placed in front of you when you sit down. It’s a small, damp hand towel to clean your fingers with both before and during the meal. After wiping your hands with it, fold it and place it back in its container (usually a little basket or tray). It can be reused during the meal and it is even polite to wipe your face with it.

4.  Feel free to use your fingers as utensils, instead of chopsticks. Even though most people use chopsticks, sushi is traditionally a finger food and it is completely acceptable to eat it that way.  Try not to ask for forks or knives. Sushi is not steak. Some restaurants are more forgiving of this request than others though, and may have a few forks and knives available. Other people may think you’re a little rude for not trying though, so it’s considerate to apologize for your incapacity.

  • Nigiri-sushi (hand-shaped sushi), is usually eaten with the hands. It is not over-compressed, meaning that it could fall apart before reaching your mouth if you use chopsticks.
  • Cone sushi or hand rolls are eaten with the fingers.
  • Rolled sushi and inside-out rolled sushi are eaten with the fingers or chopsticks.
  • Chirashi-zushi (scattered sushi) is eaten with chopsticks. You might also use a fork if the establishment permits.

5.  Rubbing disposable wooden chopsticks (waribashi) together is also bad manners. If you do this, you’re implying that the chopsticks are cheap and have splinters, thereby insulting your host. Avoid rubbing; if your chopsticks do really splinter, discreetly ask for a new pair.

6.  Know the difference between different types of sushi. Sushi etiquette includes having an understanding of what it is you’re consuming. The types of sushi are:

  • Nigiri: pieces of fish, shellfish, or fish roe over rice balls
  • Maki-zushi: rolled in seaweed, sometimes just called “maki”. These are large sushi rolls, made by hand. The filling is enclosed in nori-wrapped rice and can be known as nori maki. (Nori means seaweed.)
  • Futomaki-zushi: thick sushi rolls, using a full sized sheet of nori spread with vinegared rice, fillings and possibly a dab of wasabi. It’s a very versatile form of sushi.
  • Hosomaki-zushi: thin sushi rolls using half a sheet of nori, less rice and only a single filling.
  • Inside-out California roll: the rice is on the outside and can be decorated with fish roe, sesame seeds or tempura flakes.
  • Molded sushi: this is made using a Japanese mold.
  • Temaki: hand rolls or cone sushi. This is shaped like a cone or a log. It is usually made by the person who is going to eat it.
  • Sashimi: sliced/chilled raw fish without rice; and
  • Chirashi-zushi: “scattered sushi”, sliced/chilled raw fish served like sashimi but over a bed of rice. A mixture of vegetables is also common. This is the easiest form of sushi to put together.
  • Wrapper sushi: sushi wrapped in something other than nori, such as tofu pouches (inari-zushi).

7.  Ask the chef what’s good, and let him pick for you, especially if it’s your first time eating sushi. This shows your respect for what he does, and maybe you’ll get a good snack.

8.  If there is sake for drinking, it is boorish to pour sake for yourself. Pour some into cups for others, and let your companions pour sake for you.

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