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Etiquette Guide for Eating Sushi

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/24/2006 | Food & Drink
Sushi bars in Japan are commonly visited by patrons looking for a relaxing atmosphere and to enjoy the company of friends much like a bar in America or pub in England. If you want to try something new and exciting with your friends (and look like an old pro) use this guide to learn the proper etiquette of eating sushi.

Traditionally sushi is eaten with the hand but is now commonly served with chopsticks. Whether you use your hands or chopsticks you are expected to place the whole piece in your mouth. While this can take getting used to (and is more difficult with larger pieces) you will find the combined flavors have greater impact when eaten in one bite.

Many sushi fans enjoy the addition of dipping their sushi in soya sauce for which a small, shallow dish is usually provided. While etiquette dictates that a person desiring more wasabi would ask the chef to prepare the sushi with additional wasabi it has also become popular (and accepted) to mix the wasabi into the soya sauce for dipping.

While maki sushi and sashimi are conveniently dipped with chopsticks you will find it best to flip nigiri sushi (hand pressed rice with shrimp or fish on top) upside down and dip the fish in rather than the rice or it may fall apart. Using your hand, dip the fish or shrimp into the sauce and place the nigiri sushi into your mouth with the fish side being placed on your tongue.

While some individuals like to add the ginger to their sushi as a garnish it is actually served as a palette refresher to be eaten between bites.

If you are sharing sushi with friends it is polite to use the opposite ends of your chopsticks to pick a piece up before using the proper end to eat it with.

You may also find yourself served green tea and miso soup with a sushi meal. Miso soup is a clear broth with kelp and tofu. It may be provided at the beginning or the end of the meal. Green tea is a mild tea which will also freshen your palette between bites. In addition (or if not provided) you may order an alcoholic beverage such as beer or sake. Sake, which is rice wine, is usually enjoyed before the meal rather than during. While you may be offered refills throughout the meal it is more typical to turn your glass over to indicate you are finished.

Concerned about eating raw fish? In most restaurants you needn't be however there are plenty of options available. Shrimp (ebi) and crab (kani) can both be cooked and so is the chicken and beef used in sushi. If you are eating raw fish it should not smell bad since fresh fish has very little odor. There are many vegetarian options which means no one has to be left out when experiencing sushi dining.

One roll of sushi (usually cut into 6-8 pieces) will cost, on average, about 3-5. You would want to purchase about three rolls, minimum, for a meal. You can also enjoy mixed sushi samplers or for less cost a lunch box which will often include other dishes, such as tempura, salad, soup or even teriyaki chicken for 8-10.

If eating sushi sounds appealing to you or if you are just curious about sushi it is quite likely that once you try it you will develop a taste for it that will send you back again and again!