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Eating Sushi
The Food

We have included below a rough guide to sushi for the uninitiated. What may at first appear a little daunting can be picked up in minutes and will improve the experience of eating authentic Japanese sushi. While it is not expected that all westerners will be able to follow or even know all the rules to sushi dining etiquette, you should certainly try.

 Regardless of the city or even the country, some things about sushi restaurants and bars just do not change. Assuming that you are lucky enough not to have to wait, once you arrive at the establishment, the host or hostess will seat you. Once seated, you will notice several items in front of you. The most recognizable of these items are the hashi, or chopsticks.  Your wooden hashi should be in one piece, and they will need to be split in two. Once the hashi have been broken, they should sit with their rounded ends in the hashi oki, a small ceramic block which usually has an indentation to hold the chopsticks. At the right of your setting will be a small oblong ceramic saucer that is for the shoyu, or soy sauce. The soy itself will be in a lidded jug, rather like a miniature teapot.

* First clean your hands by using the hot towel provided (known as an oshibori.)

[You will have been provided with a small empty dish, a container of soy sauce and a small amount of green paste (wasabi or Japanese horseradish)]

* Add a little of the soy sauce to the small dish - it will prepare the base of the dip. [ Add a little as you go rather than overfilling the dish to start with]

* Next mix a small amount of the of wasabi into the soy sauce according to taste. (Be sparing as this can be an eyewatering experience). [Many people prefer not to include the wasabi but just use the soy sauce for the dip]

* When you eat nigiri-zushi (hand-pressed sushi), pick up one sushi piece between your thumb and middle finger, putting the index finger on top.

* Dip the end of the neta (ingredients/fish slices side) into the soy sauce [not the rice part if possible as the sushi will tend to fall apart into the dip] and eat, dipping the sushi pror to each further mouthful.

* It is generally easier when eating maki-zushi (rolled sushi) to place the whole piece in your mouth if you can as Maki-zushi falls apart easily when you bite.

*  Pickled ginger is usually provided when eating sushi. Many Japanese people will eat a small piece between each mouthful of sushi to both help cleanse the palate and add to the overall flavour.


Finally there are a few tips and rules of etiquette that you may want to remember -

  1. Never pass food to someone using chopsticks. If you must share food, pass them the plate so that they can pick from it instead.
  2. If you take food from a shared plate (such as in the above situation), use the reverse ends of your chopsticks rather than the ends which go in your mouth.
  3. Never bite into a piece of food and then replace the other half on your plate. Once you have picked something up you should eat all of it.
  4. When not using your chopsticks, you should place them in front of you, parallel to the edge of the sushi bar, with the narrow ends in the provided hashi oki; never place them directly on the bar.
  5. Never leave rice after a meal. Leaving any kind of food is considered rude, but leaving rice is especially so.
  6. Never smoke in a sushi bar, it obscures the delicate flavours of the fish for everyone else. Ashtrays will likely be provided in many sushi bars (especially in Europe and America) but to use them is dismissive of the efforts of the chef.
  7. Never expect the chef to handle money, another employee will settle the bill for you. People who handle the food never touch the money.





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