Guest Author - Chidori Phillips
Foreigners, especially when not in Japan, are forgiven for not knowing the lesser known etiquette rules of sushi dining but it is considered respectful to know them. Here are some general guidelines:
Fingers or chopsticks?
Both. Sushi originally was designed as finger food, a street food. Nori keeps the sushi rice from sticking to fingers. Temaki, in particular, always is eaten while being held in the hand.
But with that said, some types of sushi are topped with wet or hot cooked ingredients (broiled scallops, etc.) that necessitate the use of chopsticks. But do not attempt to *cut* a piece of sushi with your chopsticks. I have seen a person try to *saw* sushi, using one chopstick like a serrated knife! Just take a bite. So, use your fingers or chopsticks. Just do not use a fork and knife, please!
One bite or two?
Temaki hand rolls are large and need to be eaten in many bites. But nigiri and smaller rolls should be eaten in a single bite.
Each piece is cut into a bite-size piece, although some sushi chefs today make nigiri-zushi so big that I cannot put a whole piece into my mouth. I do not like having a stuffed mouth full of food! Chewing a large sushi all in one bite is unpleasant for me so I risk seeming rude by eating some sushi in two bites. And it gets even harder when the nori is chewy and wonft break off. Then, the sushi falls apart. If sushi chefs are reading this: please make your sushi in smaller bites! But if you can handle it, eat your nigiri-zushi in a single bite.
To dip or not to dip?
The question should be *how* to dip or how not to dip. Sushi with sashimi (raw fish) on it is meant to be enjoyed with a little wasabi and shoyu blended together. That is the purpose of the little condiment dish with wasabi paste. But foreigners dip the bottom of the sushi into the shoyu-wasabi sauce and the sushi rice falls apart in the liquid. The correct way to dip sushi is to turn it upside down and dip the fish side into the condiment, then flip it back upright to put it into your mouth.
Some types of sushi with loose ingredients on the top (raw quail egg, fish roe, etc.) should be enjoyed without the strong wasabi-shoyu sauce. Or, if you must, carefully dip the side of the sushi into the sauce.
Speaking of wasabi
You can enjoy wasabi anyway you like it, but because it is rather strong, most people blend in a little soy sauce (shoyu) into the paste. Use a little care when mixing to avoid unsightly, unsophisticated lumps. Start by adding just a little bit of shoyu and blend it into the wasabi paste with both of your chopsticks. Do not make a big show of it by stirring like a madman. Blend gently and add more shoyu a little at a time to keep a smooth consistency. Continue until you reach the ratio of shoyu to wasabi that you like.
If you like it mild, use only a little wasabi. Do not attempt to use the entire serving of wasabi given if the amount will render a too hot sauce. You will have to add too much shoyu and therefore, waste it. Take what you will use and add the proper amount of shoyu. You can always make more sauce. The Japanese believe in *mottainai* which is to regret wastefulness when something is not used to its fullest.
And, refrain from licking the wasabi off of your chopsticks. It is tacky.