There’s something terribly exciting about experiencing true sushi. It’s exciting because the food will forever change you – and it’s terrible because you don’t want to look like an idiot. At top establishments of the world’s sushi masters, there are often only 12 seats, so there’s no place to hide. Here’s a guide to eating sushi like a true pro, as told to us, by a multiple Michelin starred Kyoto sushi chef…
Don’t Rub Your Chopsticks
Japanese people believe in a culture of honor and integrity. By rubbing your chopsticks together, to start the meal – you’re instantly insulting the sushi house. You’re insinuating that their chopsticks are of cheap quality. Who gets paper cuts at dinner, anyway?
Ginger is a palate cleanser. It’s there to refresh your tastebuds in between courses, and for that purpose only. Putting ginger on top of your sushi is often the first nod to a great sushi chef, that you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.
Eat Right Away
Like a great piece of music, a masterful sushi meal is all about timing. It’s also about temperature. Much care goes into the temperature of the rice, and how it interacts with the fish. Be sure to eat any pieces of sushi immediately when they’re brought to you, to fully respect the occasion.
Soy Sauce: Dip Or Don’t Dip?
The best sushi and nigiri is about pure, direct and powerful flavors. A light brush stroke of soy sauce may already be added in by the chef. If in doubt, ask the chef if the specific piece should be dipped. Some will absolutely be dippers, while others may already have soy.
Don’t Go Rice To Soy…
Assuming you’ve navigated the dip or don’t dip conundrum, the next stop to avoid novice land is to turn the piece of nigiri over, so that only the fish touches the soy sauce. Never put the rice into the soy sauce. Never- just don’t.
Chopsticks for Sashimi, But Not…
Chopsticks are standard practice for sashimi, but don’t feel as if you need to use them for other parts of the meal. It’s not rude to use your hands for a nice piece of nigiri or sushi. Just make sure your hands are clean. About that…
Most sushi, sashimi and nigiri (non rolls) are meant to be eaten in one lovely bite. A sushi master will make portions designed to perfectly fit, without too much effort. Always endeavor to take it one bite. No one (including the chef) wants to watch you tear fish and rice apart.
Bright, Crisp Drinks
If you enjoy Champagne, Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling, you’ve picked the perfect meal. Bright, crisp flavors are perfect for sushi. You never want over powerful wines, drinks or aromas to take away from the beautiful delicacy of a top notch sushi meal.
Use The Towel
Part of the ritual of a delectable sushi meal is cleanliness. The fish and rice are treated with the utmost cleanliness, and you should follow suit. Use the towel provided to clean your hands and feel free to go back to it, as you get into fishier bites. Especially if going by hand.