Tag Archives: mistakes

Common Sushi Eating Mistakes

25 Oct

Upon watching my girlfriend drown an innocent chunk of yellowtail in a pool of soy sauce, I decided to quickly share a few of sushi-related eating errors I have noticed over the years:

1. Too Much Soy Sauce – You ordered sushi because you like the delicate and different tastes of raw fish, right?¬†Submerging a piece of sushi in soy sauce kills the very taste of the fish that you have ordered, and in essence, renders the differences between restaurants moot. While we’re on the subject, I have been told by Japanese friends that it is customary and polite to fill the small soy sauce dish up only partially, and re-fill if needed, rather than filling it to the brim at first.

2. Eating Sushi with Fingers – Those wooden sticks that you probably think are impossible to use? Yeah, those are for eating the fish that you order. A friend recently told me that he thought it was polite in Japanese culture to eat sushi with your fingers. Wrong wrong wrong. Try eating with your fingers at the next five-star restaurant that you go to and see the looks that you get. Same principle.

3. Putting Ginger on Top of Pieces – The pickled ginger that is provided with virtually every sushi dish is to cleanse the palate between different cuts of fish. It provides a refreshing and strong flavor between bites, contrasting the fish that accompanies it. Heaping it on top of a slab of fresh tuna or yellowtail makes it impossible to taste the actual fish (see mistake #1).

4. Eating a Piece in Multiple Bites – This is a common mistake that I have been guilty of myself. Often, a piece of sushi will be too large for one bite, or I will want to savor a piece and divide it into two bites. Not only can breaking up a piece of sushi cause a great mess, but it is considered proper to eat each piece in one big bite. This belief stems from the principle that good sushi will be small enough to do this. (This is where you realize that the ‘cooked fish roll’ you picked up from Duane Reade yesterday sadly cannot be considered ‘good sushi.’)

5. Ordering only Rolls – Beginner sushi eaters will often order solely rolls, which they consider a safe bet. There is a reason for this – experienced sushi eaters like sushi for the distinct and various tastes of each type of fish, and not for disproportionate amounts of rice and seaweed, not to mention amateur desires like, GASP, spicy mayonnaise, masking the fish’s taste.

6. Saving Hand Rolls for the End – This is without a doubt the most nit-picky ‘mistake’ on the list, and serves more as a piece of advice than a request to change etiquette. Hand rolls are generally constructed by wrapping a large sheet of nori seaweed around the fish and rice, as if enclosing the ingredients in a blanket. This seaweed is often crisp, and should be eaten first to ensure that the seaweed does not become soggy, ensuring maximum freshness.

7. Eating Sushi on Sundays – In general, sushi served on Sunday will have actually been caught several days earlier. Japanese restaurants do not get fish delivered on Sundays (and sometimes not even on Saturdays), and this is a reason that many notable sushi places are also closed on Mondays.

8. Freshwater Fish as Sashimi? – I will leave this last topic open to debate. A handful of Japanese friends have informed me that it is not custom to eat fish from rivers, i.e. freshwater fish such as salmon, raw. More to follow as there have been various publications and websites musing about the topic now for quite awhile.

So there you have it. I tried not to mention any obvious errors of a sushi-eaters, such as ordering rolls named after American states (think: California, Philadelphia), going to All-U-Can-Eat establishments, or dunking your sushi in spicy mayo (may have briefly mentioned that one…). I will try to post common mistakes made by sushi restaurants as well.

Also, thoroughly enjoyed a meal at Shibui tonight. Look for a review in the coming days!

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