Yuwa Japanese Cuisine's chef Masahiro reveals the dos and don'ts of eating sushi
International Sushi Day is coming up on Tuesday, June 18th, but you might not actually know how to eat sushi the proper way. Luckily, chef Masahiro from Yuwa Japanese Cuisine has put together a sushi etiquette guide so you don't make any fish faux pas.
- A sushi chef is called an “itamae” (eet-ah-mah-eh)—but when you talk to him/her, you would say "Hi, Ita-san" or "Hi, Taisho" (head chef).
- There can be a lot of options for sushi. Ask for recommendations instead of asking for what is fresh because it is insulting to imply that something may not be. If you think the restaurant has fish that isn’t fresh, you shouldn’t be eating there.
- It is impolite to leave food on your plate after your meal, or to act as though a particular dish is “gross” if you didn’t like it (especially if you ordered the itamae’s recommendation).
- When not using your chopsticks, you should place your chopsticks on your chopstick holder, parallel to yourself with the chopsticks pointing to your non-dominant side.
- Nigiri is traditionally eaten with your hands—sashimi with chopsticks.
- Rice temperature is important, so eat at the sushi bar! The temperature is drastically different from when you eat at a table and you can also interact with your itamae.
- Do not put ginger on your sushi and eat together—it's considered bad manners. Ginger is eaten as a palate cleanser in between bites.
- Roll your nigiri onto its left side, pick it up with your chopsticks or your fingers, then dip the nigiri into the soy sauce fish side down (just a touch)—don’t shake your nigiri to get any soy sauce off. This is considered bad manners.
- Just a touch of soy sauce is enough—there's no need to drown your nigiri in soy sauce.
- Don’t mix wasabi into the soy sauce dish! Don’t put wasabi directly into the soy sauce dish! Nigiri sushi comes with wasabi already, and reflects what the itamae feels is the proper balance of wasabi to fish. Of course, some of us like a little more. In that case, take your chopsticks and put the smallest amount needed on top of the fish—don’t smear the wasabi on like peanut butter on toast.
- Eat the nigiri piece all in one bite. Splitting it in half is considered rude to the chef who spent time making the perfect piece for you. If you find the sushi portion to be too big, tell the chef so he can adjust the size for you. Of course, in North America, there are some sushi restaurants that make huge pieces, but a traditional itamae will make proper sized pieces for you to eat in one bite.