Follow Me Foodie: Sushi 101 – Part 3: How to eat it
Published: June 26, 2013 1:00 PM
Updated: June 26, 2013 1:14 PM
In Sushi 101 – Part 1, I discussed the difference between rolls (maki) and nigiri-zushi (nigiri). I suggested trying nigiri over the funkier creative rolls, but it is not to say rolls are bad. Simple rolls without all the sauces and toppings are traditionally served at sushi bars alongside nigiri. Nigiri is the simplest form of sushi showcasing the sashimi or grilled fish and what sushi connoisseurs value.
In Sushi 101 – Part 2, I discussed the use of condiments. The soy sauce is meant to be used sparingly and only the fish part is dipped into it, not the rice. The wasabi is not meant to be mixed into the soy sauce, but put on separately. Lastly, the pickled ginger is a palate cleanser; however it is appropriate to use it as a “paintbrush”. Dip the pickled ginger into the soy sauce and brush it onto the fish part of the nigiri as another way of applying soy sauce to nirigi. This way, it also leaves an essence of ginger.
Sushi 101 – Part 3 is about how to eat it….
What do ribs, chicken wings, pizza, Indian food and sushi have in common? They are all foods meant to be eaten with the hands. Yes, sushi is finger food. Chopsticks are still acceptable, but traditionally it is encouraged to enjoy well-made sushi with the hands.
Fingers are preferred over chopsticks because properly made nigiri is challenging to eat with chopsticks. Authentic sushi risks falling apart if picked up by chopsticks because the rectangular pressed sushi rice (shari) is supposed to be loosely packed. There should be minimal chew and the sushi rice should melt in your mouth along with the fish on top.
Sushi must be eaten immediately after serving, so either speed up the photos or skip them entirely.
Pick up the sushi with your thumb and middle finger gripping the sides and the index finger hovering over the fish and touching the tip. If the sushi chef did not season it already with his own soy sauce, then consider dipping it in soy. Since only the fish is meant to touch the soy sauce, use your fingers to help the fish from falling off when you flip it upside down to dip. Add wasabi separately if you wish, but again, most of the wasabi in Vancouver is fake, or horseradish dyed green. Real wasabi is expensive and rare.
Now that the sushi is dressed, eat it, but in one bite and with the fish touching the tongue first (so eat it upside down). Sushi is meant to be enjoyed in one bite, two if you must, but the sushi chef should be making one-bite sizes. Some even adjust the size to suit their customer. It is not a strict rule to have the sashimi touch the tongue first, but the flavours of the fish are so subtle and delicate that some argue it is the only way to taste it.
A good and clean sushi place should provide a hot towel for the customer and it is meant to be used between each nigiri. Wipe the fingers clean of fish oil and residue so there is no transfer of flavours from one piece of nigiri to another. For sashimi, use chopsticks.
There is an art to making sushi and an art to eating it. In the end it is personal preference and taste, but knowing sushi etiquette shows appreciation to the chef, Japanese culture, and tradition. Sushi can be grab-and-go food, but find a place that provides an experience and enjoy it the way it was meant to be eaten.
See Sushi 101 Part 1: Nigiri VS Rolls
See Sushi 101 Part 2: How to use condiments
Recommendations for experiencing edomaezushi (classic nigiri):
Maruyama (3883 Rupert Street, Vancouver, BC)
Masayoshi (4376 Fraser St, Vancouver, BC)
Sushi Hachi (8888 Odlin Crescent, Richmond, BC)
Octopus Garden (1995 Cornwall Ave, Vancouver, BC)
Sushi Bar Maumi (1226 Bute St, Vancouver, BC)
Kiriri (8780 Blundell Rd #190, Richmond, BC)
See more Follow Me Foodie stories from Mijune in the WE Vancouver:
- FOLLOW ME FOODIE: The “Forget-Me-Nots” of Vancouver’s restaurant scene
- FOLLOW ME FOODIE: Wild BC spot prawn season begins
- FOLLOW ME FOODIE: The best thing I ever ate…
- FOLLOW ME FOODIE: Gentrification and Vancouver’s DTES
- FOLLOW ME FOODIE: Cooking up a career
- FOLLOW ME FOODIE: Father’s Day for Vancouver foodies
- FOLLOW ME FOODIE: Sushi 101: Part 1 – Try the nigiri
- FOLLOW ME FOODIE : Sushi 101: Part 2 – How to use condiments
Timing is everything, apparently. Not necessarily the *best* person to talk about Jiro’s, but this vid demonstrates how the nigiri must be eaten immediately after being made: