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How to eat sushi?

I did a quick search and didn't see anything.

Recently I started looking at some more traditional places to eat some good sushi, such as Kaji/Zen.

After reading some reviews and seeing some pictures, it looks amazing; however, I know nothing about appropriate behaviour and method to eat this quality of sushi.

I was hoping we could get something going to teach people like me who haven't touched these high-end places yet and educate us, so we won't embarass ourselves!

heck, i don't even know how to pronounce omakase!

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  1. oh-mah-kah-zee (equal emphasis on each syllable)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Herb

      The last syllable is "se"- sounds like "say" in English. Not "zee". And like many Japanese words, emphasis is on second syllable of the word. In this case, the original word is actually "makase". The "o" is the added honorific.

      We've covered this subject multiple times over the years- with threads dozens of replies deep. I would do a search and set parameters for up to 5 years.

    2. The way you eat it should not depend on if it is "high end" or not. Eat the same way at any place. Just don't stick the pointy end of the hand made rolls up your nose and you'll be fine.

      1 Reply
      1. re: foodyDudey

        Don't dip your sushi rice side down into the soy sauce in front of the sushi chef. This is the same as salting your food without tasting it in front of the cook. The rice absorbs a lot of soy sauce and can mask the delicate flavors of the sushi, etc.

        I meant to reply this to the OP.

      2. Fingers or chopsticks are fine. Also, it is okay to pop the whole thing into your mouth if it isn't too big.

        7 Replies
        1. re: MissusLisa

          Actually, you're supposed to pop the whole thing into your mouth. I know of a sushi chef or two that will basically fire you as a customer if you eat the sushi in bites.

          1. re: Uncle Yabai

            thats true IF they have made the sushi in traditional sizes. some places make them too big even for my mouth... and i can down a mcD's hamburger in 3 easy bites.

            1. re: KaimukiMan

              If the pieces are too big, chances are that it isn't worth eating. In which case, eating it in two or more bites is the least of your faux pas.

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                Obviously if the piece won't fit in your mouth you can't eat it in 1 bite. But it doesn't change the fact that sushi is *supposed* to be consumed in a single bite.

                1. re: joonjoon

                  I've had many great sushi meals at moderately priced sushi shops in seaside towns in Japan that serve nice jumbo 2-bite nigiri. Not all good sushi needs to be pinky-sized slivers served in austere rooms with a koto soundtrack.

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    Thank you, Silverjay, I was feeling so very incorrect by not being able to fit most nigiri in my mouth in one bite- not that you'd want to see me try. I don't live in Japan or NY or LA or SF or any of the better sushi places so I have to take what I can get, and the getting's generally good for landlocked Arizonans. But it's usually two-bite sized.

              2. re: Uncle Yabai

                Two bites are fine, as long as you don't put it down between bites.

              1. re: c oliver

                Thanks for posting! Didn't know that.

              2. omakase refers to chef's choice.

                i enjoy sushi very much, but dont really hold myself to a right or wrong way to eat it.

                i have heard that you should put little pieces of wasabi on the fish directly and not to mix a chunk into your soy sauce bowl. i have also heard about dipping the fish side int othe soy sauce and not the rice.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Maggie Larkin

                  There are some sushi spots here where, if the chef observes you dragging sushi rice-side down through the soy sauce, he'll deliberately hold back on the best and freshest, since he thinks you're just going to drown it and wreck it anyway.

                  1. re: Sensuous

                    That video needs to be emphasized. Having seen the video I thought this was an old post (pre-video).

                  2. Some things I saw on my visits to Japan was folks dipping their chopstick into the soy and dragging a thin line across the fish if they wanted to add a bit to their nigiri. this was also done with a tiny bit of the wasabi. This was never done to the first piece of the nigiri of the same type since it was assumed it would be seasoned properly by the Itamae. The next pieces you adjusted to your own taste, but gently. Maki was never dipped in anything, or anything added to it.

                    I picked up this practice and now just wipe a tiny bit of soy or wasabi on my nigiri, although I may do it on maki as well.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: JMF

                      There is a very nice sushi restaurant in DC where they bring you a tiny paintbrush-like implement for your nigiri, so you can effectively season your fish this way. It's great.

                    2. I read through the "sushi etiquette" and while I agree that some of it belongs in the "opinion" category and not the "fact" category, one can't go very far wrong believing what's on there.

                      I also watched the CHOW video on "How to (Properly) Eat Sushi" and it's useful and correct information as well. I would like expand on the video's recommendation of sitting at the bar, not at a table: fish is cold, sushi rice is warm, that's why you don't want to sit at a table if you want mainly nigiri zuzhi, because by the time the pieces get made and brought to you, the fish would be kinda room temperature, or worse, warm; not good.

                      This is in Tyson Cole's recent book: "Uchi: The Cookbook". The book has other "tips" on eating sushi which echoes the info above: don't make a paste with soy sauce and wasabi; don't dip a sushi piece in soy sauce rice-first; don't put pickled ginger on your food; etc.

                      Here are a couple more:

                      Don't order all your sushi at once. See "cold fish, warm rice", above. A bigger order takes longer to make, and longer to eat. By the time you get to the last piece, the fish is guaranteed to be no longer cold or cool. Sit at the bar and order as you go and eat it right away.

                      Avoid the spicy tuna roll (unless it's a REALLY GREAT one and you REALLY LOVE it): that's how restaurants get rid of their older tuna.

                      Escolar is a natural laxative! :)

                      Tuna is actually better a few days after it was caught. It has to go through "a process of rigor mortis and loosening up", like beef aging.

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: aqn

                        Good advice. I've wondered about those 'rolls.' Ate some once cause we were out with another couple. Seemed awfully 'gussied up.' Almost like "I don't really like raw fish so I'm hopefully covering up the taste with all this other stuff." I know little about sushi and sashimi but I'm pretty much a nigiri/sashimi kinda gal. KISS :)

                        1. re: c oliver

                          I'm a nigiri guy myself (but will occasionally indulge in a "specialty" roll), but a well made roll is a thing of beauty. I'm talking about the classics, like a tuna, negi-toro, or yellowtail scallion rolls.

                          1. re: joonjoon

                            Thanks for the tips. I have a Chow-buddy who knows his way around sushi and I want to go with him sometime and further my edgy-cation :)

                            1. re: joonjoon

                              Yellowtail scallion rolls are as American-contrived as they come- up there with spicy tuna and California rolls.

                              Most of the handful of standard "classic" rolls are considered stomach stuffers for the end of the meal.

                              1. re: Silverjay

                                I'm kinda surprised to hear that. I coulda sworn I had a yellowtail roll at one of the sushi joints at tsukiji...

                                1. re: joonjoon

                                  It would require a completely contrived explanation in Japanese just to say yellowtail scallion roll.

                                  1. re: Silverjay

                                    Silverjay is right, but my guess would be

                                    "hamachi to negi no temaki"

                                    In any case, it is not at all common in Tokyo.

                                    1. re: Tripeler

                                      The scallion and chopped up hamachi is the American "negi-toro". A good place will get you chopped hamachi from a nice block of fish. A horrible place will spoon scraps off the carcass, chopped up till it turns to mush to give it that melt in your mouth feeling, and voila, $5 to $6 in the name of negi-hama maki is gone faster than a game of blackjack.

                                      1. re: K K

                                        To be honest, I've never seen hamachi served in a roll in Japan. It's not particularly considered a valuable raw fish. It's served as sashimi at cheap izakaya usually. But maybe there are exceptions.

                                        1. re: Silverjay

                                          I vaguely recall ordering and eating hamachi nigiri at a sushi bar very near the Osaka Daimaru depachika area (adjacent to the train/underground station) not too far from Shinsaibashi back in 1999 when I had very limited sushi knowledge, and perhaps it was made available just for tourists like me. Who didn't know buri from warasa.

                                          But I also remember having my first hamachi handroll at a pseudo Hawaiian style sushi boat restaurant and inside were two finger length thin strips of farmed fatty hamachi with scallions. Kind of like the next step up from the California roll (if not the tekka maki). For sure, the scallion hamachi and scallion salmon handroll predates the seared salmon, seared hamachi, seared scallops nigiri fad in the US.

                                          And to make it more fun, a family member used to call handrolls as cones, and literally would ask the chef to make a hamachi cone.

                                          1. re: K K

                                            I've managed to avoid eating hamachi for years. If you pay attention to season, selection, etc., you can eat better versions of this fish in Japanese dining.

                                    2. re: Silverjay

                                      It's quite possible that it was just a hamachi roll and I just imagined the scallion part! The memory's a bit fuzzy now. :) Thanks for the correction!

                                2. re: joonjoon

                                  I'm almost afraid to say that I love salmon skin rolls- is that a specialty roll or is it considered dumpster diving to the sushi elite? Not that it will stop me from eating it.

                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                    I'm a fan of crispy salmon skin any way I can get it...if loving them in a roll is wrong, I don't want to be right! :)

                            2. i find people worry to much on how to eat things "proper"eat however it suits you ,if the pieces need to be eaten with one or two bites ,do how you want ,your paying for it why ruin your expireince worrying about etticate ,just enjoy.everybody has different tastes and sometimes they need extra flavor,there is nothing wrong with soy and wasaby ,use what you need.i dont use them myself but to each there own.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: howlin

                                Well, I'm not going to agree with you or go down the etiquette path with you as general discussions are done on NAF. But when sushi is made with quality ingredients by a competent chef, I think it's a good idea to use at least a few guidelines. I'd say if someone doesn't like any sushi without soy and wasabi, then they probably just don't like sushi. They'd probably be happier ordering something else. I have a friend who loves all sorts of food and is one of the best home cooks I know. She doesn't like raw fish and her husband does. She's not gone hungry yet :)

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  I would like to raise my hand and say that I disagree with you on that.

                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                    Okay. Could your hand :) tell me what part of my all over the place post you disagree with? Please.

                                2. re: howlin

                                  The pointers above aren't designed to cause anxiety, but to allow a diner to appreciate and enjoy a meal to the greatest extent possible. If worrying about "etticate" will ruin the dining "expireince," then the diner should feel free to make a Yoda mud bath of soy and "wasaby" that can mask the taste of everything else. This may not be a good idea at better sushi places, though.

                                  In the first place, there's no point in spending the extra money on top-quality ingredients if you're just going to mask their flavor. And in the second place, there are at least a handful of itamae who'll throw you out if you try. Seriously, pull a chair up the counter at Nozawa (or Ino or Sasabune or Sawa or ...) and explain to the chef that you can do what you want with your sushi because "your paying for it." Go ahead - I dare you.

                                  1. re: howlin

                                    Please pass the La Choy brand soy sauce.

                                    1. re: howlin

                                      I totally agree... especially if you order "omakase" ...
                                      too too ... "usually", one never hears this word.

                                      1. re: howlin

                                        At the end of the day, it's your money, and you are free to do as you wish. This thread should be regarded as not about "etiquette", but about "The Correct And Logical Thing To Do".

                                        I don't suppose you would pay multi-hundred dollars for a hunk of truffle and then red-cook it in a vat of fish sauce and sugar? If you love fish caramel, by all means, but you might as well save yourself a lot of money and not bother with the truffle. Same idea here. Some people love soy and wasabi; I know I do. In my early sushi years, when I was much more culinarily naive, I routinely did the soy-wasabi mud bath thing. But I eventually learned, after having spent a small fortune on sushi, that I was wasting money. These days, I buy supermarket "sushi" when I want to indulge in my soy-wasabi fetish.

                                        1. re: howlin

                                          Well, yeah, mostly. But many people will start off imitating others and sloshing everything through wasabi mixed soy sauce because that's what they see everyone else doing. So it's good to hear about the "right" way, if only because it's an alternative.

                                          I like to pay for real fresh-grated wasabi, and I like a little extra on my fish though, because I love that stuff. I put a little dot on the top of my nigiri and paint a stripe of soy with the end of my chopstick. Yum. And then I eat it with chopsticks and not my fingers, just because I like to.

                                        2. I think that like a lot of foods, the way you eat sushi depends a lot on where you're eating it. If you're in a high-end restaurant, sitting at a bar in front of an experienced sushi chef, it's just good manners to exercise a little decorum when you're eating, just like you wouldn't chug a glass of red wine in front of a sommolier in a fancy restaurant.

                                          On the other hand, most sushi restaurants (in Japan and America) are not super fancy. In those cases, I say just eat however you want. In kaiten sushi places in Japan I see Japanese people doing all kinds of things listed here as being bad manners - mixing wasabi and soy sauce, using their hands, wolfing down multiple rolls.

                                          Anyway, if it increases your pleasure of the meal, by all means follow these directions. If not, what's the point?

                                          12 Replies
                                          1. re: Japanecdote

                                            Using your hand is not bad manner. To eat nigiri sushi pieces, that is. :) But, again, I'm not concerned about manners and etiquette as much as I am about doing things bass ackwards.

                                            Re. "not super fancy": during a drinking/hanging out session, a sushi chef told me that indeed, sushi is "street food" in Japan, that it's only here in America that more is made of it. He was very matter-of-fact and even with his remark, not being condescending towards Americans elevating a lowly "cuisine" to new height. (This is is Tyson Cole's "sushi sensei".)

                                            And, right on cue, here is a video (in five parts) of Uchi/Uchiko's owner/chef Tyson Cole making a suzuki ceviche. I learned a couple of new things from these videos. For instance: the tail end of a fish is the least "valuable" part because there is more muscle back there (fish swim with their tail). Also: there are several layers between the skin and the flesh of a fish; those layers carry some of the fish's body fat, and a lot of flavor.

                                            I hope you'll find these interesting and educational as well:


                                            1. re: aqn

                                              Nigiri sushi started out as street food in Japan during the Edo Era, but it was elevated in Japanese cuisine by the Japanese themselves- mostly post WWII. The influence of American sushi culture has had only nominal impact on sushi in Japan. At 99.99% of the sushi shops in Japan, you're not going to find any of this tangerine infused oil ceviche crap like you see in that video. We've talked about it many times on CH- the Japanese drama '"Shota no Sushi" (将太の寿司), which was based on a manga series, goes into interesting detail about making nigiri sushi. It's available in subtitles at various streaming media sites. You just need to tolerate the idiotic plot, but the sushi stuff is interesting. Also, it's an older book, but "The Book of Sushi' by Kinjiro Omae is a decent primer on history, techniques, and ingredients.

                                              1. re: Silverjay

                                                "...you're not going to find any of this tangerine infused oil ceviche crap like you see in that video."

                                                I can see how watching that video one might get the impression that it's just another nouveau cuisine con-FUSION preparation, heavy on wow factor and low on actual performance. Instead of seeing the chef as an "artist", one might get the impression that he's a "con artist" trying to talk up a weird combination that does not actually work very well. There are lots of examples of that type.

                                                OTOH, while one will probably never see any traditional Japanese-like fish preparation that includes a fruit (even tomato), I would claim that one is missing out on a lot if one regards such a preparation as "crap". It's like dismissing out of hand the possibility of putting fish sauce in spaghetti sauce, or mustard in "shaking beef". Sure, that's not "authentic" Italian or "authentic" Vietnamese. That wouldn't necessarily make it any less clever a combination or less tasty of a dish.

                                                Recognizing authenticity is a good thing. Dismissing something out of hand for being "unauthentic" would be a bit of a tragedy.

                                                1. re: aqn

                                                  Excellent post and points, aqn. I was having a non-food chat with a friend and commented that one should know the rules before breaking them.

                                                  1. re: aqn

                                                    To many of us who grew up with and have lived immersed in sushi, tangerine infused ceviche presented as sushi would be considered "doing things bass ackwards". Authentic and inauthentic isn't as much the issue as simply understanding the vocabulary and the context. Much of what's been written on this thread ignores the importance of respecting and honoring traditions - it's an old Chowhound bugaboo - if it tastes good, if it feels good, it must be good. But as I've said many times before, that leaves no room to learn and grow. Not everything can be called sushi. (Or barbecue, or soul food, Chinese, whatever...) Offending your host is not very honorable. Offending your customer is even worse.

                                                    1. re: aqn

                                                      Most of this thread is so clearly about traditional Edo-mae sushi, that in context, calling ceviche Japanese food is a tragedy. And so is claiming that "right on cue" you`re going to link your pet theory about the history of how sushi relates to America with your pet favorite restaurant in Austin. Falling back on the typical concerns about stifling creativity or the authenticity argument is fine, except if you really hang around Chowhound long enough and read around, I think you'll find that many people here are genuinely interested in what and how food is eaten in Japan, Italy, and Vietnam. And they want to educate themselves on that on a cultural and culinary level without having it diffused through the lens of some "artist" taking creative liberties- no matter how clever they may be...not that there isn't a place in the world for such experimentation.

                                                      1. re: Silverjay

                                                        "Most of this thread is so clearly about traditional Edo-mae sushi, that in context, calling ceviche Japanese food is a tragedy."

                                                        Is calling such food "Japanese" the issue? Would "Japanese-inspired" work? Do you have a standard that qualifies food to be labeled "Japanese"? "Italian"? "French"? "Vietnamese"? Let me know so I won't piss you off again. Buddha knows, once is enough.

                                                        "And so is claiming that "right on cue" you`re going to link your pet theory about the history of how sushi relates to America with your pet favorite restaurant in Austin."

                                                        I offered no such theory. I reported something I heard ("sushi is street food"). I named my source; it'd be up to the reader to decide whether that source are credible and therefore whether to believe that they read without further research or verification.

                                                        If anybody cares, they can see from the fact that the overwhelming majority of posts on your most recent ten pages of posts are on "Japan" or "ramen" or "sushi" or "Tokyo" that you might be the more reliable source of theories and observations relating to Japanese cuisine than, say, a sushi chef whose remark is being reported firsthand.

                                                        I do, indeed, have a pet favorite restaurant here in the non-Japanese culinary backwater :-/ that is Austin. Why that would be irksome to you is quite beyond me.

                                                        "Falling back on the typical concerns about stifling creativity or the authenticity argument is fine, except if you really hang around Chowhound long enough and read around, I think you'll find that many people here are genuinely interested in what and how food is eaten in Japan, Italy, and Vietnam."

                                                        And indeed that is a great thing.

                                                        "And they want to educate themselves on that on a cultural and culinary level ..."

                                                        And *that* is great, too.

                                                        "without having it diffused through the lens of some "artist" taking creative liberties- no matter how clever they may be...not that there isn't a place in the world for such experimentation."

                                                        OK, let me know when it's safe to talk about "artists" and "such experimentation".

                                                        1. re: aqn

                                                          Obviously, there's some history here that I'm not familiar with. But I would say that an artist's food-related opinion has little or no relevance to a CH.

                                                          1. re: aqn

                                                            Have spoken with many chefs in Japan firsthand, dined extensively there, read extensively in both Eng & Jap and have posted on CH thousands of words on this subject over the years. Look into the resources I suggested above and look into my older posts. You will get more out of that than we will get from a point by point multi-paragraph response to defend a ceviche recipe and any interests in stearing the discussion off topic.

                                                            1. re: aqn

                                                              To give credit where credit is due, ceviche is a genuine Peruvian dish (especially if you get cancha with that) and probably doesn't belong in a debate about Japanese food, given that it's not Japanese, nor an attempt to trick one into thinking it is Japanese. Raw or marinated fish/seafood is eaten in many different cuisines.

                                                          2. re: aqn

                                                            "Authenticity" stands shoulder-to-shoulder with *citation* & stance ...
                                                            the passion ... the passion ...yeah, sure ... of the pharisees.
                                                            (This board seriously needs to consider its, uh, 'moderation')

                                                    2. Old post but still relevant. We've had sushi a couple of times recently and a non-sushi lunch in a mostly sushi place the other day. I'd read this thread two years ago and learned a lot. Especially about eating non-sashimi sushi with your hands and the ins and outs of wasabi and ginger. Yet when I've been in these places, EVERY person was using chopsticks and abusing the "laws" about wasabi, etc. Even the servers and the sushi chefs had never heard of such things. Why not? The history and the explanations are so clear. As popular as it is, why don't more people know about this? Now I grant you we're in the Lake Tahoe/Reno area and not in SF/NYC/etc. Is it different there?