The 12 Sushi Commandments

You sit down at a sushi restaurant on a Sunday night, fill your soy sauce dish to the top and mix in a chunk of wasabi, then order a few rolls stuffed with cream cheese and fried bananas. You've just broken four of the 12 sushi commandments!

Here's a rundown, as well as some advice on how to eat sushi without making the chef want to commit Hara-kiri.

1. Thou Shalt Not Drown Thy Sushi

You ordered sushi because you like the delicate and diverse flavors of raw fish, right? Submerging a piece of sushi in soy sauce kills the very taste of the fish that you have ordered — and in essence renders the differences between the $15 budget plate and the $150 omakase moot. While we're on the subject, it is customary to fill the small soy sauce dish up only partially, and refill if needed — rather than filling it to the brim at first. Also, the rice side of sushi should never touch the soy sauce. Never.

2. Thou Shalt Use Chopsticks

Those wooden sticks that you probably think are impossible to use? Yeah, those are for eating the fish that you order. Try eating with your fingers at the next upscale restaurant that you go to and see the looks that you get. Same principle with eating sushi and sashimi. Use your chopsticks.

3. Honor Thy Ginger

The fresh or pickled ginger that is provided with virtually every sushi dish is to cleanse the palate between different cuts of fish, or at the end of the meal. Heaping it on top of a slab of fresh tuna or yellowtail makes it impossible to taste the actual fish.

4. Thou Shalt Not Take More Than One Bite

This is a common mistake, as a piece of sushi can be too large for one bite for some people. But not only can breaking up a piece of sushi cause a great mess, it is also considered bad etiquette. This belief stems from the principle that good sushi will be small enough to finish in one bite. That Monster Roll you picked up from Duane Reade yesterday sadly cannot be considered quality sushi.

5. Diversify Your Order

Beginner sushi eaters will often order rolls, which many consider a tasty, and safe, bet. Experienced sushi eaters like sushi for the distinct tastes of each type of fish, and not for the disproportionate amounts of rice and seaweed you tend to get in a roll. We're not against ordering rolls. Just why not branch out next time?

6. Avoid the Insane Green Racoon Roll

You're not going to find any top quality sushi restaurants serving "Spicy Mexican" or "Crazy Dragon" rolls. That goes for any rolls named after American states, too. Not sure if an ingredient is unorthodox? It probably is.

7. If You Order Rolls, Eat Them First

This is without a doubt the most nitpicky commandment, and serves instead as a piece of advice. Hand rolls and gunkan maki — "battleship sushi" — are generally constructed by wrapping a large sheet of seaweed around the fish and rice, as if enclosing the ingredients in a blanket. This seaweed is often crisp, and hand rolls should be eaten first — not saved for last — to ensure that the seaweed does not become soggy, and to preserve maximum freshness.

8. And On The 7th Day, He Did Not Eat Sushi

Try to avoid eating sushi on Sundays since Japanese restaurants do not typically get fresh fish delivered (and sometimes not even on Saturdays). Quality sushi restaurants are also usually closed on Mondays.

9. Beware Of Freshwater Fish (Maybe)

Preliminary research points to raw freshwater fish potentially being unsafe for human consumption due to the presence of parasites. This topic remains open for debate, however, as more studies are conducted. But it's good to know regardless.

10. Thou Shalt Avoid All-You-Can-Eat Sushi

There's a reason you are getting a "bargain" for $12.95. Don't even think of setting foot in an all-you-can-eat or buffet sushi establishment.

11. Thou Shalt Not Covet Wasabi

Contrary to popular belief, it is not recommended to add wasabi to your dish of soy sauce. If you require a little extra kick to your sushi, administer the wasabi directly onto your cut of fish (there will likely already be a thin coating), rather than mixing more flavors.

12. Ordering Take-Out Sushi Is A Sin

As a rule of thumb, delivery sushi will always be of lower quality than that eaten at the restaurant. It's worth noting that the majority of top-notch sushi restaurants may not even offer a delivery option. Why? The cuts of fish brought to your front door will be less fresh and thus less satisfying than those at the restaurant.

Portions of this story originally appeared in different form on

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