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Jul 25, 2007 07:55 PM

another sushi question

Am I being a pest? ;-)

I've read here that it is bad form to add wasabi to your soy sauce... I've also read that you shouldn't add it to the bite of sushi you're about to eat. SO what are you supposed to do with the lovely little green mount fuji on your plate?


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  1. Several ways to handle this:

    Sushi chefs you're dealing with just a foot away at the sushi bar often prefer to (as you might say) "season" their masterpieces according to your stated preferences, since they know how the particular ingredients in any individual piece will balance with the wasabi they include. It's like a master chef in any cuisine being dismayed at a customer who dumps salt on his creation before tasting it. Or at all.

    On the other hand, sitting at a table you can do what you want, because (1) nobody's looking over your shoulder judging you, and (2) Americans almost always do it, they're resigned to it, so they're not exactly going to send a sumo wrestler out to wrench it out of your grasp..

    On the third hand, at a buffet (which is all I can afford) who cares? I tend to like vivid flavors, so I tend to paste a bit directly onto some pieces (knowing that it's a crude choice). And I really like Korean-style sushi that is often topped with bold-flavored sauces.

    We've bought into the "terribly upscale" positioning of a food genre that was only given much regard in its native country after WWII - before that it was seen as downscale snack food. Somebody was a marketing genius and "repositioned the brand."

    3 Replies
    1. re: wayne keyser

      Sushi is upscale because quality seafood is rare, expensive, and requires great skill to prepare and serve (i.e. sourcing and selecting good fish, knife skills, rice preparation, etc.). I wouldn't get caught up in the preserved fish, street snack origins of sushi. Today, sushi is about fine, subtle, fresh flavors and texture of seafood, along with the skill of a well-trained chef. It has nothing to do with brand positioning.

      Both grated wasabi and grated ginger are used lightly for sushi and sashimi to reduce fish smells, wake up the tongue, and allow for better appreciation of the fish. They are also considered to have antiseptic qualities as well. If the chef hasn't placed a small dollop of one or the other between the fish and the rice or on top of the fish itself, there's nothing unusual about putting a small amount in your soy sauce dish and mixing it in. Though, some seafood items are regarded as better with wasabi, some with ginger, and some with neither.

      Probably because Americans have a fondness for bold flavors and perhaps a fear of raw seafood, it looks like it has become common practice here to serve sushi with a mound of wasabi (fake wasabi actually). If you want to know what you're supposed to do with it, there's really no right answer because people will do what they want- i.e creating a wasabi/soy slurry, smearing directly on fish, combining it with ginger, using it on every item, etc. If one wants to be sensitive to, less toward etiquette and more towards the intention of the cuisine, leaving it up to the chef is preferred. Otherwise, a reasonable, not overpowering amount would be mixed in with the soy sauce.

      1. re: Silverjay

        I saw a snippet of a show once that was outlining sushi etiquette, stuff like how to season different types of sushi with soy, when to use fingers or sticks, thing that I remember is they said the ginger is only there as a palette cleanser, not an accompaniment to any food served, so they said...Personally, I LOVE pickled ginger and nibble it when ever it's around. My approach to sushi is based on where I'm eating, at a high-end place, like Caji in Toronto, I would prefer to be guided by the expertise of the chef, on the other hand, a $15 sushi dinner at and number of trendy establishments around town, well it is what it is and I doubt if anyone would be offended by personal tastes...

        1. re: Recyclor

          Yes, sweet pickled ginger, called "gari", is served in slices and is a palette cleanser and purported antiseptic. Gari is not to be mixed with fish or eaten as a condiment. However freshly grated ginger is often used as a topper for silvery sushi fish and a few others as well. The color of fresh ginger is closer to yellow than the pale orange of the pickled stuff.

    2. jfood makes the soy/ginger/wasabi slurry. he likes a little kick in the soy when he dips the fish (not the rice) into the slurry.

      1. I used to always add some wasabi to the shoyu. Then I read that you weren't "supposed" to; some of these people treat it as pretty rude; that you're showing that you don't know what you're doing and/or don't trust the chef. Then I read that it was fine.

        Who to believe? Why pick one? I go with what I like. Sometimes I happen to like a fair amount of wasabi on certain items. At the usual place I go to the chef knows this, so he sometimes puts on more. But anywhere else what I now do is peek under the neta -- if I want more wasabi I put it between the neta and the rice. With rolls I eat a piece and, if I want more, I put it right on the pieces. Is this rude? I don't know. But I'm not otherwise obnxious.

        1. A sushi chef once taught me to take a little bit of wasabi and dissolve it at the edge of the soy sauce. This creates a graded level of wasabi across the dish -- dip lighter tasting fish in the part with less wasabi and richer tasting fish in the part with more wasabi.