How To: Properly Eat Sushi
Last night, my husband and I sat at the sushi bar of our favorite Japanese restaurant in Hampton Roads, Kyushu. Know to have the most authentic Japanese food around, the place, which measures no larger than a shoe box, was packed with a 40-minute line-up out the door.
Being the observer that I am, I quickly scanned my fellow diners up and down the bar to see what they were eating, tuned into conversations I was overhearing, and also how they were tackling their plates and platters. I quickly realized that the etiquette of eating Japanese food is not widely practiced.
So, for my fellow sushi-goers, here are some tips to keep you from offending the chef, and to avoid the stink eye from the waitresses.
CHOPSTICKS. They are the fundamental part of Japanese table manners. Chopsticks should be held towards their ends, not in the middle, or the bottom third. When picking up food from a platter that is being shared use the opposite end of your chopsticks—it’s the same etiquette as using a serving utensil. Do not stab anything with your chopsticks, this is only done during cremation ceremonies. Do not point, or wave them around. When you are not using your chopsticks, lay them down in front of you and point them towards your left.
ALCOHOL. It is best to serve others at your table rather than serve yourself. Be sure to check that everyone has been “topped off” first. Do not start drinking until everyone at the table is served and the glasses or cups are raised to “kumpai”.
SOYA SAUCE. This condiment should be used in moderation as it can be an insult to the chef. Never pour soya sauce over white rice. When pouring it into your dish, do not over pour leaving an allowance for dipping.
SUSHI. Dip the fish side into the soya sauce preventing the rice from falling apart. Do not put too much wasabi over it as it too can be an insult to the chef and truthfully you are wasting your money as you are masking the flavor of the fish. Try to eat your sushi piece in one bite. Eating in two bites turns a hot mess.
SASHIMI. Put the wasabi on the piece and then dip it into the soya sauce. Remember, be sparing with the wasabi for taste and respect. Pay attention, some fish is better paired with ginger rather than soya sauce.
RICE AND NOODLES. Hold the bowl in one hand and the chopsticks in the other. Lift the bowl towards your mouth while eating. Slurping is accepted while eating noodles.
SOUP. Drink out of the bowl as if it were a cup and pick solid pieces with your chopsticks.