If you’ve ever had the experience of eating sushi at omakase, you’ll know that it can be an intimate and well-thought-out affair with each piece carefully crafted by a sushi expert. While we’re not in Japan, we have our fair share of traditional Japanese dining establishments in Melbourne, and the same etiquette rules still apply – even in Australia. From using chopsticks to dipping in soy sauce, we tapped sushi experts at Nobu Melbourne to learn all there is to do and avoid eating sushi.
1. Work Your Way
Although many may not realize, there is a general rule about how to indulge in sushi. Working your way up to the heavy flavors makes the experience more enjoyable, so start with the whitefish before moving on to rich, oily items like fatty tuna and cooked eel. Be sure to cleanse the palate with ginger between the mouth.
2. Less is more
The flavor of fresh sushi is determined by the delicacy of the fish. Wasabi and soy sauce are designed to enhance flavors, not overpower them. Oftentimes, the chef will apply it for you to ensure that the fish are kept safe, but if you are snorkeling, tread lightly and don’t overdo it.
3. Fish side down
When eating sushi, fish is the star of the show. For the nigiri, put it in your mouth fish side down so it’s the first flavor you test before chewing the rice. The bottom fish side rule also applies to dipping in soy sauce. Not only will it cause the rice to crumble, but it will also upset the delicate balance of flavor that the chef so masterfully crafted.
4. Politely share
When eating with a group or sharing from a larger plate, use the opposite end of the chopsticks to pick up the sushi pieces. This will ensure that the end that was in your mouth does not touch what is on the plate.
5. Hands or chopsticks?
When dining out for Japanese food, you will likely receive a wet towel to clean your hands before the meal. The nigiri (rice covered with fish) and sushi rolls can be eaten by hand, but the sashimi must be picked with chopsticks. However, when using chopsticks, be sure not to rub the chopsticks together. This can be considered an insult and means that the quality of the chopsticks is poor!
6. Don’t get lost, don’t want
Leaving leftovers is sometimes considered a taboo in Japanese food. If you leave a lot of soy sauce in the bowl, this may indicate that the fish needs more flavor to be satisfying. When pouring the soy sauce, start with a little more and you can always add more later.
7. Get rid of the perfume
When sushi is brought to your table, the first thing you’ll smell is the tangy vinegar, followed shortly after by the bright, salty fish smell. For those who wear strong perfumes and colognes, you may not get a chance to notice it – so according to the gentlemen, ditch any strong perfume.
8. Down the hole
Sushi is designed to be eaten in one bite, which is why the pieces are sized the way they are. Each morsel can be prepared with more or less soy sauce and with or without wasabi.