So, you’ve mastered how to use chopsticks. You’ve been using them confidently (and smugly) since you ‘discovered’ sushi as a teenager. You’re a Pro now, yes?
You are merely a trainee, Young Samurai. There is much to learn*.
Let’s start at the beginning…
No perfume please. Sushi munching is a multi-sensory experience: a treat for the eyes, nose and mouth. So next time, leave your skin bare. Your Chanel is upsetting the fish.
Why are you rubbing your chopsticks together? Probably because you don’t want wood with your tuna sashimi. But if you can’t see any obvious splinters, then all you’re doing is making more. Stick-rubbing has baffled many a sushi artisan and can be considered improper—just as rubbing your knife and fork together might!
Pickled ginger is a palate cleanser. No, ginger is not its own course—although we’ve been known to treat it that way. Its sweet, acidic spiciness is actually supposed to refresh the mouth and prepare it for the next delicious morsel.
As for wasabi-dosage, that’s a decision traditionally left to the sushi chef: you’re meant to avoid mixing it into your soy sauce. (But we won’t tell.)
¿Right way up? Nigiri (the little ‘bars’ of rice with slivers of fish on top) should be dipped in soy sauce upside down. This stops the rice becoming too salty and too soggy. And the really good news? You should dump the chopsticks and use your fingers to hold the rice. This way you avoid squashing the perfectly handcrafted little mouthful. And if you can, eat it in one bite, fish to tongue first. Nom!
The exception is sashimi. You can use chopsticks and a soy-wasabi dipping sauce to guzzle sashimi. Crazy times.
Respect the taste hierarchy. Purists say you should start with some sashimi of the ‘lighter’, leaner fishes—like whitefish and shrimp—before moving on to richer, fattier fish like yellowtail and tuna through to mackerel and eel. End with the omelette, followed by some maki rolls if you’re still hungry and then, and only then, do you tuck into your Miso soup.
Which, by the way, is usually part of breakfast.
There’s a really sensible reason for this order: keeping the stronger tasting fish flavours from over-powering the subtler ones.
Sashimi isn’t sushi. Sushi actually refers to rice with a topping. Specifically, it’s vinegared rice, generally accompanied by raw fish. Nigirizushi, makizushi and temakizushi are different ways of enjoying this rice and fish combination. So sashimi isn’t sushi, as there’s no rice component, but the two often go hand-in-hand. Which is excellent news, as they’re both delicious.
Most important of all… it’s nice to know the ‘proper’ way to enjoy sushi, but in the end it’s up to you. If it goes into your mouth and it makes you happy then we think you’re eating it just right.
* cue 1000 posts telling us where we’ve gone wrong. Sorry Sushiyas.