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Sushi for Newbies: Tips on Sushi Eating and Etiquette

Janet Murray recently posted an article entitled “50 Sushi Tips for Beginners” and I picked some of the top items I thought were most interesting. To read the full article, click here.

Japanese food has garnered a considerable amount of attention in recent years due to its amazingly healthy properties and clean, balanced flavors. Though Americans have grown familiar with sushi and other cornerstones of Japanese cuisine, many still find it difficult to break through all the barriers, protocols, and – yes – cases of mistaken identity that continue to surround the dishes to this day. With these quick tips, those interested in learning more about sushi have a solid place to start before moving on to the advanced courses.

5. Want raw fish with no rice? Order the sashimi instead.
Many people unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine usually think of sashimi when the subject of sushi gets brought up. Anyone curious about the simple taste of raw fish without the vinegared rice that qualifies a dish as sushi should order slices of sashimi.

8. Order sake with sashimi. Sushi tastes best with beer or tea.
Because sake is made from fermented rice, most sushi connoisseurs consider drinking it with sushi a redundancy. It complements sashimi fine, but those hoping for a beverage best suited to accompany nigiri, maki, or other sushi dishes would do best to drink hot tea or beer instead. Try to avoid rice beers, of course.

18. Sit at the sushi bar.
Any newcomer to the sushi scene must sit at the bar itself. This allows for a firsthand glimpse of the chef at work, familiarizing them with the process and facilitating conversation with the itamae (chef) when he or she has a moment to talk.

25. Never stick chopsticks straight up in a rice bowl.
Instead, place them over the shallow shoyu dish or a provided chopstick rest. Making them stand upright in a bowl of rice recalls the incense sticks burned at funerals.

28. Fish flesh must be firm.
This can be tested by pressing it with a finger. If the flesh feels mushy or does not spring back (as it were) from denting, then it is not fresh and should not be eaten. The only exception to this rule is sea urchin, which has a naturally soft, buttery texture.

29. Do not eat raw fish if pregnant.
In spite of all the health benefits of raw fish, pregnant women are discouraged from indulging. Slices of sashimi, nigiri topped with sake or toro, and other dishes still pose a risk – however slight – of causing damage to unborn children.

35. Both hot and cold sake complement sashimi.
When ordering sake, diners have the option of enjoying it either hot or cold. Neither temperature particularly affects the flavor of the accompanying food in a positive or negative manner – it is purely a matter of preference. Those new to Japanese food ought to try both temperatures to figure out which they like more.

47. Order pieces of nigiri in pairs.
The tradition of serving sushi two at once comes from a time when diners would have to cut their pieces in half to eat them without choking. Beyond that, ordering one piece of nigiri or ordering four of something have unfortunate etymologies attached to them in Japanese. It is generally recommended to order in pairs to avoid awkwardness.

Still not ready to eat raw fish? How about a method of making sushi that uses no raw fish? Download the videos now. To get started, click on the link below.

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About the author

Malika Bowling

Malika is the author of several books including Culinary Atlanta: Guide to the Best Restaurants, Markets, Breweries and More! and the founder of Roamilicious. She is also a Digital Marketing and Social Media Consultant. Follow us @Roamilicious on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for the content not shared on the blog. And don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter (subscribe box below) and never miss a contest, giveaway or the latest must visit restaurant!