People have very strong opinions about sushi. We learned that lesson pretty quickly back in 2012, when our own ravenous raw-fish correspondent, George Embiricos, published his very pointed 12 Commandments of Sushi, prompting some of the most heated reader comments in Food Republic history. One guy went so far as to suggest that the writer had a “stick” lodged in his nether regions. (Considering that this crude commenter didn’t specifically say “chopstick,” we’re presuming that he’s among those partisans who insist on eating their sushi without utensils.)
Recently, some other media outlets have boldly entered this lightning-rod debate over proper sushi-eating etiquette. (See here and here.) The latest comes via Medium, which takes its own “commandments” from one particularly opinionated sushi chef in Tokyo.
Comparing these various dictates, it appears that we can all agree that rules are necessary. We’re just not all in agreement on what those rules should be. There is some consensus, though, on a few of the more basic points:
1. Go easy on the soy sauce.
Dunking your sushi like a doughnut in coffee pretty much ruins it. You should really only apply a little dab to the fish side of the thing, if at all. And keep it off the rice entirely. Or better yet, leave the saucing to the chef. You came for fresh-cut fish, after all. You should be able to actually taste it.
2. Wasabi and soy don’t mix.
Adding the spicy green stuff to your tiny dish of soy sauce is a common faux pas. Oftentimes, your nigiri comes with a schmear of the stuff already. If you want an extra kick, add a teensy bit directly to your fish, not your rice. The common theme here is this: Keep your rice as clean and pristine as possible.
3. Save the ginger for intermission.
Those razor-thin slices of pink (or, if it’s fresh, white) spice are there to cleanse your palate in between bites. They’re not condiments, so don’t treat them as such.
Now, as for the rest of the supposed edicts, there remains a wide range of opinions. Perhaps the most divisive issue involves utensils, or the lack thereof. On this point, the Japanese chef quoted in the Medium article is adamant: “Use your hand!” Our own guidelines suggest the opposite. But in the three years since the publication of that article, Embiricos himself has eaten a lot more sushi and has come to a more nuanced conclusion: Bare hands are best for nigiri, he says, while chopsticks are perfectly fine for handling maki rolls.
He remains steadfast on one point, however: Chopsticks should never be deployed inside one’s body.
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