Thursday, July 23, 2009
Do you love to eat sushi? Here are some ways to practice proper sushi etiquette the next time you enjoy this delicious Japanese treat.
Proper chopstick placement,Place chopsticks properly. If at a sushi bar, place the chopsticks in front of you, parallel to the edge of the bar, with the narrow ends on the has-hi oki (chopstick rest). While it is not as polite to place them on the plate, if you do, place your chopsticks across your plate, not leaning on your plate.Use the broad end of your chopsticks to pick up sushi from a communal platter.Maki sushi.Don't pass food from one set of chopsticks to another. As part of a Japanese funeral ritual, family members pass bones of the deceased to each other by chopsticks. Passing food from one set of chopsticks to another mimics this ritual, and is therefore considered extremely impolite and offensive. If you must pass something to another person, pick it up, and place it on their dish. They can then pick it up with their own chopsticks.Know the difference between "nigiri," (pieces of fish, shellfish, or fish roe over rice balls), "makizushi (rolled in seaweed, sometimes just called "maki")," "temaki (hand rolls)", "sashimi" (sliced/chilled raw fish without rice), and "chirashi sushi" (sliced/chilled raw fish served like sashimi but over a bed of rice).Nigiri sushi, Always place your "nigiri-sushi" upside-down in the soy sauce and eat it "rice-side up." Don't pinch it too hard, and place it so the fish touches your tongue. (The soy sauce will cause the rice to fall apart.)Sushi should be eaten in one bite if possible, but two bites is generally acceptable. However, don't put the sushi back on the plate if you bit it in half already. Once you pick it up, eat all of it.Feel free to use your fingers as utensils. Wipe your hands on a damp towel, if they provide you with one. But generally, use your fingers for sushi, and use chopsticks for sashimi.Clean off your plate. It is impolite to leave a grain of rice on your plate.Ask the chef what's good, and let him pick for you, especially if it's your first time eating sushi. This shows your respect for what he does, and maybe you'll get a good snack. If you're in Japan, buy the chef a drink, like sake or beer, as a compliment.
Learn a few polite Japanese words and phrases, like:
Say thank you, or even better, Arigato gozaimasu (ah-ree-gah-toh go-zah-ee-mahs su) which means thank you very much. Before eating, say "Itadakimasu!" (ee-tah-dah-kee-mahss) and when you're done, say 'Gochisousama deshita!" (Goch-sou-sah-mah-desh-tah). This is what Japanese say before and after they eat. When asking for a waiter/waitress say "Sumimasen" (su-mee-mah-sen). This is the equivalent of saying "excuse me". (Note on pronunciation: in Japanese, all syllables receive equal stress)
Note that if you are outside Japan, the employees at the restaurant may not speak a word of Japanese; use these phrases when you know they'll be understood.
If you order a "teishoku" or set item which includes soup, ask to have the soup served with the sushi as an accompaniment, rather than before the sushi as an appetizer.Tea does go well with sushi. Avoid the blowfish unless at a three star or higher restaurant.
If there is tea available, drink it with one hand holding it, and the other hand supporting it from underneath, using two hands to hold the cup. If there is sake for drinking, it is boorish to pour sake for yourself. Pour some into cups for others, and let your companions pour sake for you. The purpose of the soy sauce is to flavor the fish, not the rice. Never pour soy sauce directly on rice! The Japanese words and phrases are optional; not every employee in a sushi shop will speak or understand Japanese.
Don't play with chopsticks!Avoid playing with your chopsticks. Use only the necessary amount of soy sauce, and avoid the temptation to drown the sushi; it's impolite to fill up your dish with excess soy sauce.It's just fine to put a a small amount of wasabi on your sushi; likewise, it's fine to tell the chef (itamae-san) that you don't want any wasabi- it will never be taken as an insult. Just use the phrase "wasabi nuki de." Some folks just don't like wasabi, and the customer is king- or "god" as they say in Japanese: "okyaku-sama wa kami-sama desu."
Don't expect the chef to handle the money. Have another employee assist you. People who handle the food never touch the money. Never ask for forks or knives. Sushi is not steak.Never stick your chopsticks in food, standing upright. This is rude, and resembles the incense at a funeral. Always use even, matching chopsticks. People use uneven chopsticks to express sorrow and pass cremated remains.If dining at a table away from the sushi counter, allow the waiter or waitress to be the go between for you and the sushi chef. While approaching the sushi chef for recommendations is welcomed while dining at a table, it is always best to place your order with the server assigned to take care of your party, and this includes regular patrons too. If you prefer to place your order with the chef personally, it is recommended that you sit at the sushi counter to avoid any confusion or delay with your order.