How To Eat Sushi In Japan
"Wasabi in the soy sauce dish is a smack to the face!"
As some of you may know, I recently went on a Japan trip and had a rad time there. One of the things that comes to mind when people mention Japan is sushi. But how many of you know what the proper way of eating sushi really is? Most of you will say it’s just dipping the whole sushi into soy sauce and mixing it with wasabi, if that’s you then you really got it wrong. We often forget cultures have their own traditional table manners. One thing I go by is, “If you want respect? First you got to give respect, period”. However most sushi shop owners are quite open-minded, so they will forgive you if you make an ass of yourself. But if you don’t want to look like a typical tourist and want to embrace the traditional Japanese culture then here are 6 rules to eating sushi.
1 Hand Towel
In traditional Japanese restaurants, you will most likely find a wet towel in front of you when seated. This wet towel is to wipe your hands and even your face if you have 100% faith in the restaurant. When you’re finished with the towel, roll it back the way you found it and place it back on the tray (if there is one). Throughout your meal the towel will be used to wipe your fingers.
In some restaurants, you may get served some disposable chopsticks. If this is the case, never rub them together as this is implying that the chopsticks are cheap and made of bad quality. If they do however have splinters, simply just kindly ask for a new pair.
The chopsticks should be placed horizontally parallel to you with the pointy end facing opposite to your dominant hand. Do not cross chopsticks or stick them in the rice as it represents incense and is perceived as disrespectful.
3 Wasabi & Soy Sauce
Never fill your sauce dish too full, this symbolises that their rice is flavourless. The Japanese take pride in their rice, it’s their everyday food after all. So drowning your sushi with soy sauce is like saying their rice sucks.
Wasabi in the soy sauce dish is a smack to the face! In an authentic Japanese shop the chef will have already placed wasabi in the sushi, an amount in which he reckons is the right proportion. If you wish to add more, do so by placing it on top of the fish.
4 Eating The Sushi
When dipping the sushi in the soy sauce do not dip the rice into it. This will drown the flavour of the rice and make it fall apart. You should be dipping fish side down first, do this by flipping the sushi on its side and then picking it up to dip. As a general guideline, if you’ve done it right, the soy sauce should still retain it’s clarity and not be murky. Eat in one bite and make sure you don’t leave a speck of rice on the plate.
Use the thick end of the chopsticks to pick up sushi from a communal plate. It is rude to pass from one set of chopsticks to another, if you are passing food make sure to place it on the person’s plate first. Then he or she can pick it up.
In terms of sake, never pour for yourself. It’s super rude, pour for your friend and they will return the favour. If they don’t, then they aren’t really your friends are they?
When drinking the green tea or sake, make sure to hold the cup with two hands. One of the hands should be underneath the cup supporting it.
Next time you’re in Japan, you can now show that you care about their culture and traditions. Anyone that’s been to Japan can tell you that they are astoundingly polite, so why not return the favour?