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Sushi: Fingers or Chopsticks?

Do you eat sushi with your fingers or with chopsticks? All of the research I've done seems to indicate that sushi is traditionally a finger food and usually eaten with the fingers, picked up, raised to the mouth and consumed in one or two bites.

Because of this, I have always eaten sushi with my fingers--besides, it's easier! However, whenever I go out to a sushi bar, 95% of the clientele is using chopsticks.

So which is it?

Another pet peeve is going to a Thai restaurant where people eating non-noodle dishes insist on chopsticks. (Always white people, of course.)

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  1. I definitely eat my sushi with my (clean) fingers. Its just easier this way, and it is just an nice extra sensory touch (no pun intended.)

    1. Either is acceptable, but sushi is traditionally finger-food.

      1. Either is acceptable and the traditional method is considered with your fingers, but even in Japan, most people use chopsticks.

        1. I generally use my fingers for most everything, and will occasionally use chopsticks for items that are sauced.

          For those more inclined to use chopsticks, I would recommend using your hands when in front of an attentive, traditionally-trained sushi chef. By so doing you allow him to be able to adapt the density of the nigiri to the tane, whereas if you use chopsticks he will be compelled to keep the nigiri tight. It is quite amazing how much a difference such a small detail can make. (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/450613


          For instance my regular itamae-san will use a much lighter touch in forming the nigiri when anago is involved, a perfect match to it's unbelieveably delicate texture. (For our stateside sushi bars this will only happen for the few that bother to import fresh anago still on the bone. Most sushi bars receive their anago already pre-filleted.) This is where I will use my hands in spite of the sauce!

          4 Replies
          1. re: cgfan

            "For instance my regular itamae-san will use a much lighter touch in forming the nigiri when anago is involved, a perfect match to it's unbelieveably delicate texture."

            Have you ever sat with an itamae, states-side, who'll serve to your palm ( as opposed to a geta )?

            1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis

              Yes, but only in an impromptu session long after the sushi bar had closed and the tane put away. Everyone else had already left except for the two itamae-sans and myself. We were just sharing some drinks when the head itamae decided to bust out the tane again to enjoy (for me) another round of sushi. As it was very informal no plates or geta were used, and he just served the sushi directly to my palm.

              1. re: cgfan

                I'll definitely check out your Encinitas rec this summer.

                1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis

                  TDL(t)OA: No doubt you will enjoy your meal... Just make sure you let them know you are well-accustomed to traditional sushi, and sit in front of Morita-san, the head chef.

                  For those wondering where this is, it's at Kaito Sushi in Encinitas, North San Diego County. (They're in the middle of a move to a new location just a block away, so I've linked-in their new, post-move, address.)

                  Kaito Sushi
                  130-A N El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024

          2. Use whichever you like. With chopsticks, however, it is much harder to flip the nigiri over to dip the neta into the sauce, so many people that use them wind up dipping the rice. This gets way too much soy on the piece and, as one person put it, is like putting mustard on the outside of a hot dog bun. The easiest thing to do is reach over the piece and pick it up from the "back", flipping it over to dip the topping into the sauce on its way your mouth.

            But really, it's no big deal. Just invite me.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Richard 16

              I guess I'm odd because I use my fingers but still dip the rice in soy. It's not really that difficult to control the amount of soy absorbed by the rice.
              I'm so busy eating my own I never noticed and dont care if you use fingers or styx. Just as long as I get to go along as well!

              1. re: Richard 16

                an alternative is to remove the fish from the rice, dip in soy, replace, enjoy. Works beautifully.

              2. from what I understand when the nori (esp. when labeled a "hand-roll) is on the outside fingers are perfectly acceptable. but again it just comes down to: are you horrifying your table mates and neighbors?

                1 Reply
                1. re: hill food

                  It's perfectly acceptable regardless. If your table mates are horrified, it gives you the opportunity to explain this to them.

                2. Thanks for bringing back a memory. In the pre-Internet days, I attended a business lunch where the host thought he was cutting edge by bringing us to a sushi bar. I made the mistake of arguing that eating sushi with your fingers was acceptable and then proceeded to demonstrate. The sushi chef was eventually consulted and he agreed with me, even though the 5 other people were all using chopsticks. I won the argument, but the host (my boss) made my life miserable for the rest of the week. I learned my lesson about business etiquette, but as far as I know, he's still using chopsticks.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Sloth

                    if the boss was using asparagus tongs, I might have asked for a pair as well.

                  2. Not sure if this is "correct" but I usually eat sushi with fingers and sashimi with chopsticks. MMMMMMM...sushi!

                    1. Depends on the type of sushi. I eat large rolls and some types of Nigiri sushi with my fingers, as it tends to get a bit messy when I try using chopsticks. Sashimi and smaller, more compact sushi rolls I will eat using my chopsticks.

                      1. Either is completely fine. Food shouldn't be about your "supposed" to do, but what tastes good. I sometimes use a fork and knife to eat a sandwich and it tastes just the same. I think utensils are a preference, just like food.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: seedove17

                          When it comes to Asian food I'm one who will not eat until the waitstaff brings the chopsticks if they were not already available. To me it does taste different, especially with the more subtle tastes of Asian cuisine.

                          For me it's largely due to the metallic taste of silverware along with the hot or cold aspect of the metals, and a small but unmistakeable part of it is the texture too.

                          Of course the emotional correlations developed by growing up eating certain foods with chopsticks is also very real and not a small matter, though I do believe that the objective differences are also very much in play.

                          Quite simply food can taste better with chopsticks, at least for me. Hmmmm... This might make an interesting topic all on its own...

                          1. re: cgfan

                            asian food? not all asian cultures use chopsticks.

                        2. Just curious, why is it a pet peeve of yours when people eat non-noodle dishes with chopsticks at Thai restaurants?

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: spkspk

                            Maybe because Thai tend to use a fork and spoon for other dishes.

                            1. re: linguafood

                              so? why would it bother you what cutlery someone else is using

                              1. re: seedove17

                                well, it doesn't bother *me* personally

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  It doesn't bother me, but my friends snicker when people demand chopsticks for the wrong dishes in a Thai restaurant. I think this is kind of mean. However, when you order noodle soup and your companion orders chicken over rice, it IS funny to try to convince him that the staff gave you chopsticks and him silverware because you just seem more authentic.

                              2. re: linguafood

                                No one snickers when the round-eyes eat chinese food with forks...so use whatever implement is comfortable for you. Personally I prefer wooden or plastic ohashi because I don't like the hardness of metal chopsticks. I enjoy eating indian and thai curries with a spoon, but the restaurants in my area cater to American sensibilities and offer only forks, so I end up stealing a serving spoon. Never tried chopsticks on a soupy thai curry, that would be a challenge.

                                1. re: feastygirl

                                  why not just ask for a spoon? thats what i do

                            2. I am a relative newcomer to sushi, but i'd like to think that either is acceptable, and it would depend on the sushi, it's toppings etc. Probably also depend on where you were, or in what company. If you weren't an experienced chopstick user, using your hands would actually be easier. On a side note, i sometimes use chopsticks for stir fries etc, because it slows down the eating process, and i feel full quicker...

                              btw, why is it ok to basically say that all white people do a certain thing?

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: im_nomad

                                it's probably okay for the same reason it's okay to imply asian people are "uncivilized."


                                i'll never eat sushi with my fingers if the place doesn't have towel-type oshibori. those scented handi-wipes can give your sushi an odd flavoring.

                                1. re: uchinanchu

                                  Sushi pushes so many buttons...foodie snobbery, xenophobia, wasabi-machisimo, and chopstick neurosis to name a few; for heaven's sake it's just a rice sandwich, and it can as simple as PBJ or as over-the-top as a Kobe burger. You don't want to know the indigestion-producing attention we got here in the middle West by grilling and serving fish WITH THE HEADS STILL ON. (Never again, except inside with the shades pulled down.)

                                  1. re: feastygirl

                                    oh man head on fish picked clean by hand - yum, some of that flesh, mmm.

                                    and you're right sushi pushes buttons, it's relatively new to people in the US and somewhat uncommon to the center states in particular and either they're afraid it's all raw fish (which would be fine in my book) or they're afraid they'll look stupid. and hey we all do the first time at anything really.

                                  2. re: uchinanchu

                                    Hey, all those white people look alike!!

                                    1. re: flylice2x

                                      hey I aspire to appear as some everyday waspy but trashy joe. it makes it more fun when you can rattle off an order in Parisgot or denounce how hard it is to find really good black vinegar in most of the US.

                                2. God put those extensions on my hand for a reason. Fingers are the best. When I go to a sushi bar and see people using chop sticks, I just think they are trying to show off for the rest of the people that they can use chopsticks. My chop sticks on the ends on my hands are much thicker and can grasp more and not have it drop in my lap. IF you can't tell, I dont even know how to use chopsticks! ! ! ! !

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. Any type of food involving rice and/or noodles I would use a fork, spoon or chopsticks. It's a personal choice. I know that sushi should be eaten with fingers but I prefer not to.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: moymoy

                                      this is what confuses me about Thai customs, fork and spoon for most things and then chopsticks for noodles? I can use chops fairly deftly, but noodles? at that point it's like going from geometry to trig and I'm hopeless.

                                    2. A guy I know, of Italian descent, told me sincerely the other day, that he eats sushi with a fork and knife. To which I replied that it's OK since Japanese eat spaghetti and pizza with chopsticks.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Silverjay

                                        Okay, I have to ask. How do you eat pizza with chopsticks?

                                      2. I've never been to a high-end sushi bar, so etiquette has never seemed to be an issue between myself and the sushi chef. (An owner, on the other hand, had issues with me bringing Korean chopsticks and speaking Spanish with one of the cooks.)

                                        I have an "issue" with getting my fingers sticky or dirty with food, so I always use chopsticks. But then again, I'll use a fork and knife when eating ribs or many pizzas. Hmmmm, maybe that should go back to "Foods I eat Strangely".

                                        1. In general I think you should use whatever tool makes the meal the most enjoyable for you.

                                          I personally like to eat sushi with my hands most of the time, but at Chinese takeout restaurants I'll often ask for a fork (even though I'm asian and grew up with chopstix). I've gotten some SERIOUS death stares from people for using a fork instead of chopsticks. I've been to various asian restaurants where I'm the only asian at the table, and I request a fork when everyone else is eating with chopsticks. On the other hand, chopsticks are my cooking tool of choice most of the time.

                                          I also have a white friend who always keeps a pair of chopsticks in her purse and will use them for almost everything. This same friend, 10 years ago was convinced she had a physical disability that prevented her from using chopsticks because it was so hard for her.

                                          To each his own!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: joonjoon

                                            exactly, use what you feel comfy with and screw all! I'm reminded of Sylvia Plath's "Bell Jar" where she recounts a senior editor eating his salad with his fingers with utmost unconcern and self-confidence. and I say YES. just don't be disgusting.

                                            1. re: hill food

                                              Do what you want in your hovel but where I live eating @ a Sushi Bar with anything but chopsticks will get you a death stare and possibly a short sharp lecture.

                                              1. re: Sam Salmon

                                                f%@k 'em.

                                                and Happy Holidays! and I really mean that part. we only LET ourselves be chastised. sometimes it is for a reason, but this would be for no real cause. unless I'm touching your maki, it really is a non-issue. a certain oblivious attitude, correctly employed can work wonders.

                                                1. re: Sam Salmon

                                                  I would never return to a sushi place that gave me a lecture for eating sushi with my hands. And IMO neither should you or anyone for that matter but it's your prerogative.

                                                  I wouldn't return to ANY restaurant that lectured me for my choice of eating utensil (unless it's something disgusting, like hill food mentioned).

                                            2. Here in Tokyo at good sushi bars, it seems to be about half the customers use chopsticks, the other half just eat with their hands. I say that you should do what is most comfortable.