Everyone loves eating sushi, but have you ever thought of the etiquette that comes with eating sushi? If you haven’t, don’t be ashamed, because eating sushi has overtime turned into a meal that is eaten as casually as sandwiches. However, as with eating anything, following the proper etiquette for eating shows another level of respect to the cuisine, and from others, an added respect for your foodie knowledge.
The etiquette with Sushi:
1) Eat your sushi in one bite: Though taking two bites is acceptable, be sure to keep the uneaten part in the chopsticks – never put it back on the plate while you have bit in half.
2) Go easy on the soy sauce: Using too much soy sauce, just like adding flavor enhancers to anyone’s cooking, implies the original flavors of the food is not good enough.
3) Use the washcloth: Also known as the oshibori, this small, damp hand towel is given to you before the meal and during the meal for wiping your hands (and face as well). When you are done with it, fold it and place it back in its container, usually a little basket or tray.
4) Fingers are okay: Although chopsticks are the norm, sushi is traditionally eaten as a finger food, so it is acceptable to eat with your fingers as well.
5) Clean the plate: It is just downright impolite to leave any rice on your plate.
But don’t forget the Chopsticks:
1) Don’t rub the chopsticks together: This implies the chopsticks are cheap and have splinters, which is an insult to the host – if anything, ask for a new pair.
2) Place them in front of you below the plate, parallel to the edge of the bar: Either that, or put the narrow ends on the has-hi oki (chopstick rest). However, do not lean them on the plate, cross them when setting them down, or stick them upright in a bowl of rice (looks like a funeral rite). Be sure they point right if you’re left-handed or left if you’re right-handed.
3) Use the broad, blunt end to pick up from communal platter: It is impolite to use the same end you use to put sushi in your mouth to pick up food. Use the broad end if need be.
4) Don’t pass food by chopsticks to another: in the Japanese funeral ritual, family members pass bones of the deceased to each other by chopsticks, so doing the same with sushi would just be offensive. If sharing is necessary, simply pick it up and place it to the other person’s dish. However, between lovers or parents and children, this rule is exempt and is as seen as a gesture of closeness.
Keeping this eating etiquette in mind and putting it into practice next time may not make your next sushi taste better, but at least you can eat with the comfort of mind that you are showing another level of respect to the cuisine. And maybe, just maybe, that one chef will reward your respect with his best sushi.