Sushi isn’t considered a daunting word to most people, but to some, it can be panic inducing. It implies seemingly difficult things like chopsticks, wasabi, and spoonless soup. While our Western culture has come to love sushi, a lot of diners are still perplexed by its etiquette and traditions. The truth is that sushi isn’t difficult at all. Here are a few tips to help make your experience less daunting.
First, know this about sushi restaurants: Price does not equal quality. If you have to take out a small loan to foot the bill, something’s amiss. Also, every sushi restaurant should provide fresh ingredients. Walk up to the bar and make sure the fish is fresh. This also gives you an opportunity to talk to the itamae (sushi chef) and see what he recommends.
Next, take a seat at the bar. A server should take your drink order, plus orders for any side dishes you want (like miso soup or edamame). You place your sushi order with the itamae, who’s more than just a cook; he’s a food artist with years of training and experience, and no one knows sushi better than him.
Contrary to popular belief, sushi does not mean “raw fish.” The word actually refers to the key ingredient in all the different types of sushi: vinegared rice. Want the raw fish? Order sashimi. The fish is generally served in slices with garnishes like wasabi (also known as Japanese horseradish), daikon (Asian white radish), and perilla leaf. Apart from sashimi, there are many other types of sushi to choose from: nigirizushi (hand-formed sushi), narezushi (fermented sushi), and Western sushi (like Alaska rolls and California rolls).
As sushi grew popular here in the States, some of its customs and traditions were westernized. If you’re unsure what’s considered polite or proper behavior in a sushi restaurant, ask questions. Most servers should be well versed in sushi etiquette. “Do I use my chopsticks for this food?” or “What item is traditionally ordered first?” are great questions to ask. Above all, have fun and let your taste buds be your guide.
Intern Maeva Considine compiled this weeks Bites. We want a Bite! Send us your food, wine, and related news at firstname.lastname@example.org.