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Sep 27, 2007 10:47 AM

Sushi code/rules [Moved from Los Angeles Area board]

In other threads I've seen references to "knowing the rules" of Sushi that, apparently, lead to the use of better cuts of fish. I don't think any of those posts actually explained what those rules are. Anyone care to elaborate?

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  1. As in making them yourself?

    I know you ask for Sushi grade fish at your fish monger, or tell them you're making Sushi so you get the best cuts.

    At a bar, ordering...I don't know there...about the only "rule" I know of at a Sushi bar is to always, if you use sauce, to place the non-dipped part of the Sushi on your tongue for the best taste, that it can offend a Sushi Chef if you over-do the sauce and not taste the true flavor of their masterpiece.

    1. Never go into a sushi restaurant with definite ideas about what you are going to eat. Those particular fish may not be at their best on that particular day. Always ask the chef what he recommends and what is the freshest. Omakase is usually my preferred method of ordering, as that way every piece of fish is selected by the chef himself.

      Please don't mix wasabi and soy and automatically dunk your nigiri into it. A good chef will place an appropriate amount of wasabi beneath the fish, and just adding more is akin to salting food prior to tasting it. If you feel that you need more, then feel free to add more but at least try it before making this assumption. The ginger is a palate cleanser, not a condiment. Ultimately, respecting your sushi chef and trusting his judgement will endear you to him and guarantee better fish.

      8 Replies
      1. re: hrhboo

        I wholly agree with all of your advice, hrhboo.

        I think we become disappointed when our pre-determined plan is not met. Your suggestion of letting the chef select for you (omakase) seems to create the best experiences. Usually, a wise chef will ask -- at the beginning -- if you, the customer, has any input; this is the time to tell the chef what you like or dislike, allergies, etc. Then, just sit back and enjoy being served. Trust the chef to serve it the way he wants you to enjoy it.

        If you frequent the same sushi bar enough and you offer some feedback (positive is all that is really needed) on what you really like, your experience will improve with each visit as the chef gets to know your tastes.

        1. re: hrhboo

          >> The ginger is a palate cleanser, not a condiment.

          Please enlighten me... What is the difference?

          1. re: val ann c

            The ginger is to be eaten between different pieces of fish to cleanse the palate, not to be eaten with the fish or (eek!) mixed into the wasabi/soy slurry.

            1. re: hrhboo

              My MIL piles it on top! If it were anyone other than my MIL I'd say something, but....

              1. re: Glencora

                does it matter if you like the ginger piled on top? What is the 'right' way to eat anything?? In the UK absolutely NOBODY would dream of eating the noodle kugle with their savoury main course but in the US it's the norm.

                Some people love ketchup with most of their food, others abhor it or only eat it with fries.

                Many recipes would never have been invented if people hadn't tried mixing and matching ingredients and changing the way things are eaten together.

                1. re: smartie

                  There's nothing wrong with eating anything the way one enjoys it best. Having said that there are "proper" ways to eat certain things, whether one chooses to follow them or not is entirely optional.

                  1. re: hrhboo

                    Agreed. I know it's completely uncouth, but to me, sushi is a vehicle for delivering wasabi to my tastebuds. I slather it on thick and green on each piece until they make me wince in pain, and I love it.

              2. re: hrhboo

                Wow. I never knew this. I always liked topping my sushi with ginger. Thanks for the info.

          2. Being Japanese, whatever way I eat sushi and sashimi is the right way.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              OK -- now I'm divided...because I believe in this "philosophy" as well, Sam.

              On the one hand, there really are no rules because it's my tastebuds and my stomach and my time and my dollar. On the other hand -- and perhaps because I find great sushi experiences to be ethereal -- I like to enter a sushi bar and let them take command. I like to enter with no preconceived ideas or desires or demands and just let them "perform." If the performance is outstanding, surely I will return.

              1. re: liu

                liu, actually there are few sushi places here in Cali, Colombia. I make my own sushi and sashimi--and mostly sushi that does not involve fish (due to the lack of sushi grade fish here, other than fresh Chilean salmon, various whitefish, squid, and octopus). I usually serve non-fish sushi and sashimi with hot gohan. The only rules are: a) enjoy yourself and the food, b) hold your rice bowl and chopsticks properly, c) no shoyu on the gohan, and d) don't refuse the wine, sake, booze...

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Sam, tell me about your "hot gohan." Is this a rice/egg mixture? Is the serving temperature hot, or do you add some pepper heat?

                  Also, please describe further your fishless sushi/sashimi. How do you achieve variety without a selection of fish?

                  1. re: liu

                    liu, sushi refers to vinagared rice and many, many preparations, most without sashimi (raw fish). I prefer saving my sashimi to eat with plain hot rice (gohan). Most of our traditional sushi is nori (thick) maki, hoso (thin) maki, su-meshi in abura-ge (sweet vinagared rice in fried tofu "bags"), and onigiri, rice balls like musubi with or without ume (pickled plums). The variety of sashimi (fish)-less sushi is enormous. A real treat is sashimi (thinly and properly sliced fish or seafood) eaten with a touch of wasabi-shoyu and lots of hot Japanese rice.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Thanks, Sam, for stretching my definition of sushi. I know vegetarians who do quite well with a sushi "diet," and much of what you have described is available -- perhaps in a modified form -- in our sushi cases in many markets here in Southern California.

              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Concur on this train of thought.

                My money. My food. My way of eating it is the right way. End of discussion.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I'll push the the Middle East/North and East Africa try eating with your left hand in public because it's your food, your money and you think it's right!

                  1. re: Pablo

                    Ok, I'll admit that maybe what I said was a bit too glib.

                    But I think there should be a distinction between etiquette and rules, the latter being what the OP was asking about.

                    It might be against the rules of eating sushi to add additional wasabi to a piece of nigri, but I don't consider that the same was improper etiquette.

                    It's like some other poster said above (hrhboo), that adding wasabi to nigri would be like automatically adding salt to a dish from the kitchen. While this may be frowned upon (and even a bit gauche), it is not, in my opinion, bad etiquette. Bad etiquette would be adding salt to a communal dish of salsa and expecting everyone at the table to accept it as so.