THE IDIOT’S GUIDE: SUSHI Pt. 2 (Proper Eating Etiquette)
EDIBLE ART by Gabriel Spieler
All sushi is not created equal. I judge my sushi on the quality of the ingredients, and the mastery in which those ingredients are combined together and prepared. The finest raw fish is extremely fresh and melts in your mouth, while the best sushi rice has the perfect amount of vinegar, so that it is flavorful and structurally sound but not overwhelming. There shouldn’t be too much rice, either, and it should be presented simply and elegantly.
But, even if the chef does everything right, it is up to you to be aware, if not comply with, traditional Japanese sushi etiquette in order to get the most out of your meal. First of all, wasabi should be used sparingly, to give an extra kick to an already good thing. Remember, sushi is expensive, and wasabi is not. So, when you smother your sushi with wasabi, you are eliminating the complexity of flavors in exchange for a single spicy one. Also, mixing wasabi into your soy sauce is a no-no, unless you are eating sashimi (raw fish by itself) in which case it is totally OK. Soy sauce, like wasabi, is to complement the flavor of the sushi, not undermine it, so use it sparingly. Anything that already has another sauce, like eel sushi always does, shouldn’t be dipped in soy sauce at all. When you dip ngiri into soy sauce, do so seafood side down to avoid soaking the rice with excess amounts of it. Ngiri is also traditionally eaten with the hands, although to adjust to Western table manners chopsticks are OK. The other commonly used condiment, pickled ginger, is to be used as a palate cleanser in between courses, and not to be eaten on the sushi itself. Finally, sushi is best consumed immediately after preparation, so don’t hesitate to dig in, and when you have a choice, avoid buying anything that has been sitting around all day. Right after creation, not only is the sushi the most structurally sound, but there is also a difference in the temperatures of its components, which adds contrast to the experience.