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Do you know all the rules and etiquettes of eating sushi? Did you even know there is one? And do you know what is the proper way of eating sushi rolls – in one or several bites?
You are probably thinking now: am I eating sushi all the wrong way? Well, truth to be told sushi rolls (nigiri sushi) are consumed in only one bite. And if you need to eat the sushi roll in two bites – then the sushi is too large.
Did you discover now that you have been eating sushi in the wrong way all along? No worries keep reading, and you will find out why you need to eat sushi rolls in one bite and all other crucial Japanese eating etiquettes.
Eating sushi rolls in one bite
Think of the last time you ate sushi – did you eat it one bite? And if you did, you probably had trouble with chewing because nowadays sushi keeps getting bigger to satisfy our appetites.
Traditional Japanese sushi is supposed to be eaten in one bite to enjoy the perfect balance of rice and raw fish. That’s why if you bite it halfway the balance of tastes will be lost.
If you eat sushi the right way, it will enhance your overall experience and make you learn more about Japanese culture. So, the rule of thumb is – eat the sushi roll in one bite. And why is that important?
If you split your sushi into two bites, or even cut it in half, you are not following the tradition and also being rude to the chef, who spent time making this sushi roll for you. If it happens that the sushi is too big, you can always tell the chef, and he will adjust the size of sushi rolls for you.
That way you won’t embarrass yourself or even offend the chef while honoring the tradition and right manners of eating sushi. We know that it is not always easy to eat sushi in one bite, and that is especially valid for U.S. and western countries.
In most cases, sushi portions are huge and not natural while in traditional Japanese way sushi is supposed to be the proper size to fit in one bite. But, try your best to display some manners and respect to the dining culture by eating sushi in one bite.
The proper way to eat sushi
When you first look at sushi, it seems like a simple meal that you can’t mistakenly eat, right? But as you dig deeper into the sushi experience, you find out that there’s a complicated world that requires some skills and a certain amount of knowledge.
Many people don’t know there is actually a proper way to eat sushi and that sushi experience is beyond sushi with one bite. With the rising popularity of sushi, these unique table manners just got lost. However, we are here to explain some of them.
Firstly, before you start your meal, you are usually offered a hot, wet towel – use it to wash your hands (not your face) and fold it back neatly the same way it was provided to you.
Next on, the order of eating. Although there are no strict guidelines as to which type of sushi you should eat first, it is considered good if you start with fish that has a lighter flavor and finishing with the heavier ones (like tuna rolls).
Did you know that you should eat your sushi rolls with your hands and not chopsticks? Yes, you’ve been eating it all wrong. So, the rules are that you eat sashimi with chopsticks and sushi with hands.
You need to pick up the sushi roll with your thumb and middle finger – that way you will feel its texture and most importantly – it won’t fall apart. Eating sushi with chopsticks might damage it, and you will lose its magical texture and flavor.
When you grab your sushi roll place it on your tongue face-downed – by doing so you will get the full flavor and freshness of the fish.
Moreover, there is an important order and rules on how you eat soy sauce, wasabi, and ginger.
First of all, when dipping your sushi in soy sauce apply it gently and dip only the fish. The rice will soak up too much of soy sauce and in the end that will overrule the taste of fish.
If you decide to add extra wasabi (although there is already wasabi between the fish and the rice), take it with chopsticks and put it on the top of the fish. What is forbidden is mixing wasabi into the soy sauce – the only appropriate time is when eating sashimi.
As regards ginger (gari) – eat it only between bites or if you mix different sushi rolls and it is considered a palate cleanser. Do not eat it in the same bite when you eat your sushi. You can have a look at this article for more information – Why Is Ginger Served With Sushi?
The last but the most important thing – enjoy in every bite of your sushi rolls – it such a delicate and magical experience and an essential part of the Japanese culture!
Other important Japanese sushi dining etiquette
We now covered the basic sushi eating etiquette, but what about other Japanese dinging traditions? Is there anything more to know?
Oh yes, the Japanese tradition is full of customs and unique manners. For example, with alcoholic beverages (see best drinks for sushi, it is polite to pour the drink to each other (if you are in a group), rather than just pouring yourself.
Additionally, the serving of drinks is considered a “hierarchical” practice, meaning that the person that is most “influential” among others will pour the drinks. As an example, the professor would pour to his students or the host of the dinner would pour the drinks to its guests.
One common thing to drink while eating sushi is sake, traditional Japanese rice beverage. But did you know that traditional sake is never paired with sushi, only with sashimi? Yes, another western misconception about sushi and sake.
Since sake is a drink derived from rice, it is considered that eating sushi and drinking sake is just too much rice and that they don’t compliment each other well. Some other options for drinking are green tea or fruit drinks.
There are also several rules regarding your chopstick. First, never stick your chopsticks in your rice and in no way leave it sticking up. Second, when you are not eating or not using them, your chopsticks should be beside your plate and parallel to the table. If you leave your chopsticks elsewhere that may indicate that you finished with eating.
If you order a bowl of miso soup and don’t receive a spoon for it – don’t worry, that is perfectly normal! You are expected to drink it directly from the bowl. Also, miso is supposed to be an appetizer, so make sure you drink it after you finish with sushi rolls.
Back to soy sauce – pour only a small amount of soy sauce in the bowl – wasting soy sauce is considered really rude in Japanese dining etiquette. Also, if you pour it too much, that may be a sign that you don’t think the fish is fresh and you want to kill the taste.
Ultimately, don’t pass food to another person with your chopsticks. That is in Japanese culture connected with traditional Japanese funeral. Additionally, don’t pick up a piece of food from another person’s plate with the end of the chopsticks that you put in your mouth. The polite way to pick up other people’s food is with the end that you hold.
1. What about the interaction with the sushi chef?
There are several rules concerning the interaction with the sushi chef. First is – don’t try to have a small talk with the sushi chef; this is not that type of cuisine. This man is a pure artist, and you should let him work.
Moreover, address him only when it is necessary and ask what he recommends – that will be a sign of respect and care about his opinion.
And if you are beyond satisfied with your sushi and you want to tip the sushi chef – don’t. You can offer to buy the chef some sake, but never attempt to hand any tips to the chef.
2. Any other unofficial sushi rules?
• No smoking and no strong perfume
Any strong perfumes or cigarette smoke will ruin the refreshing aroma of sushi – rice vinegar and raw fish. Try not to wear any strong scents when eating sushi and refrain from smoking while eating. The smell just like the taste is a vital part of the whole sushi experience.
• Don’t add too much of wasabi
Maybe this rule seems weird because the wasabi is served with sushi, but the sushi chef already adds the amount of wasabi. In case if that’s not enough wasabi for you, pick up a bit with your chopsticks and put it directly on the sushi – but try not to disrespect the chef by putting too much.
• Don’t leave your sushi for later
When you get your portion of sushi rolls, start eating immediately! Don’t take pictures or have a long conversation because you won’t be able to feel the freshness of the sushi.
Related article: How Long Does Sushi Last? (Detailed Explanation)