Did you know that there is a historical purpose behind those little pieces of plastic grass you find in takeout sushi? While they are meant in part to add color, the tradition also comes from providing a divider between foods to help slow bacterial growth and extending the shelf-life.
Eating sushi is one of the joys of modern life, with something like 4000 sushi restaurants sprinkled across the USA.
If you’re new to sushi, though, the whole process can be a bit intimidating. From ordering to the proper etiquette, it’s easy to bounce off the whole process for fear of doing something wrong.
Don’t let fear keep you from enjoying sushi. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know!
A Brief History of Sushi
Sushi is an ancient food and its creation is surrounded by folklore and legends.
In one Japanese myth, an old woman started hiding her pots of rice from would-be thieves in osprey nests. When she went back to collect her pots, the rice had fermented. At the same time, fish scraps left over from the meals of the ospreys had gotten mixed in with the rice.
The legend goes that this concoction was both tasty and practical. This is because the fish was preserved by being mixed in with the rice and therefore had a longer shelf life.
No one is exactly sure where sushi really came from. It was perhaps first mentioned in a fourth-century Chinese dictionary. It is known that the process of preserving fish with fermented rice originated in Southeast Asia at least several hundred years ago.
It is thought that the concept of sushi reached Japan somewhere in the ninth century. As Buddhism spread which advocated for abstaining from meat, sushi became very popular in the country. While sushi might not have started in Japan, the Japanese are credited with being the first to prepare sushi as a complete dish.
Over the next hundreds of years, the concept of sushi continued to evolve. With the advances of refrigeration and transportation, sushi bars opened throughout Japan in the 1970s. Los Angeles became the first US city to fully embrace sushi around the same time.
How to Order Sushi
If you’re new to eating sushi, the process of ordering might be enough to send you to your favorite burger joint. However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be glad you took the plunge!
First, you’ll want to find a good sushi restaurant. Take a look at the reviews and don’t just go for the budget option! When it comes to sushi, quality matters.
Next, you’ll want to understand the difference between each form of sushi.
Sashimi is simply raw fish, without any seaweed or rice. Nigiri is a ball of sushi rice with raw fish on top. Maki are rolls that are wrapped in seaweed and uramaki is a seaweed wrapped roll that has rice on the outside.
The last type is temaki that is rolled into a cone shape.
Also, you might consider ordering sushi for lunch rather than dinner, as you can sometimes get good deals mid-day.
Dining Etiquette For Enjoying Sushi
You’ve probably heard people tell you it’s rude to use wasabi or that you should never eat ginger on your sushi. There is an etiquette to eating sushi, but depending on where you dine it might be more or less expected to follow such etiquette. We’ve put together this list so that you can at least be informed about what the etiquette is before you decide how you’ll live your sushi lifestyle.
Don’t Rub Your Chopsticks Together
It is seen as an insult to rub your chopsticks together. There is a good reason for this: when you rub your chopsticks together the implication is that you’re trying to rid the chopsticks of splinters, and chopsticks would only have splinters if they were cheap.
Looking for more tips? Learn more about how to eat sushi here.
When to Use Your Hands
You’ll find mixed opinions online about when it is appropriate to eat sushi with your hands. The general consensus, though, seems to be that you can eat nigiri sushi with your hands, but sashimi should always be eaten with chopsticks.
How to Pick Up Food From Someone Else’s Plate
If you are going to pick up food from someone else’s plate, the proper way is to use the opposite ends of your chopsticks. This means that the part of the chopsticks you normally hold is the part that you pick up the sushi with. This is considered to be the polite way.
Additionally, you aren’t ever supposed to pass food onto someone else’s plate with chopsticks. Instead, you should pass the entire plate, allowing them to take the food off themselves.
Use Ginger As a Palate Cleanser
Ginger, or gari, is intended to be eaten between bites of different varieties of sushi. The intention isn’t for it to be included in the same bite as a piece of sushi.
The Wasabi Question
The proper technique for eating wasabi with sushi is to place a small amount on each piece with your chopsticks. While it is common for people to mix wasabi with soy sauce in countries other than Japan, this is not technically the correct method.
Sushi Lifestyle: How Do You Eat Sushi?
At this point, there are so many different types of sushi restaurants out there that these etiquette tips might not apply to all places. There’s a big difference between eating sushi in Japan at a restaurant and eating takeout sushi from the grocery store on your couch. However, having a sense of the history and the etiquette of sushi can help you make informed decisions about the etiquette you’ll follow when you dine out.
Did you find this article on enjoying sushi interesting? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more fascinating and informative content!