You’ve been using chopsticks since you were five. You know the difference between a maki roll and a hand roll. And you’d never eat a California roll with imitation crab. So you’re basically a sushi pro, right? We asked a chef from a popular Japanese restaurant to set us straight. Here are eight surprising things a real sushi-lover would never do. (Admit it: You’re guilty of at least a few.)
They’d never put wasabi in their soy sauce
Ready for it…gasp, it’s really never OK to add wasabi. The sushi chef uses what they deem to be just the right amount of wasabi to create the perfect flavor profile for each piece of fish. Mixing wasabi into your soy sauce is a major sushi faux pas. Even the smallest amount of wasabi can cause an overwhelming kick of heat and, in turn, prevent you from experiencing the intricate layers of flavor the sushi chef intended for you to taste.
…Or dip the rice into the soy sauce
Don’t you just hate when you lose all of that delicious rice into the abyss of the soy sauce dish? When dipping your sushi, you should only dip only the fish, never the rice. Otherwise, you’ll absorb way more sauce than you’ll actually need. And go easy on your pour—the soy sauce dish should look like the shallow end of the pool, not the deep end.
They’d never place chopsticks directly on the table
Most fancy sushi joints include a handy stand for you to rest them on, but if you find yourself without one, fold your paper wrapper to keep them from touching the table. But chopsticks aren’t always required: It’s A-OK to eat sushi with your hands. (Sashimi, on the other hand? Chopsticks only.)
…Or leave them sticking out of a bowl of rice
It’s considered disrespectful to leave your chopsticks sticking out of any dish because it resembles incense used for funerals and ceremonies in Japanese culture. Also: never rub your chopsticks together after breaking them apart. This tells the host you think the sticks could have splinters, and therefore you think his utensils are cheap and disposable.
They’d never eat ginger and sushi together
Pickled ginger (or gari) is provided as a garnish to cleanse your palate as you try new types of fish throughout the meal. You should start with lighter, white fish and end with rich, fatty fish.
…Or eat a roll before sashimi or sushi
Sushi rolls (aka maki-zushi or if you prefer the larger kind, futomaki) should be eaten only after sashimi and sushi, and each piece should be small enough to be easily finished in one bite. Again, dip only lightly.
They’d never eat a roll with 10 ingredients
A sushi purist would never order or eat the massive sushi rolls with ten ingredients we commonly see on menus today (we’re looking at you, shrimp-tempura-stuffed dragon roll). Honoring the simplicity of each ingredient is key when crafting good sushi.
…And brown rice is a no-no
Brown rice is not traditionally used to make sushi in Japan. It has a tougher texture and chewier mouthfeel than short-grained sushi rice, which binds together without being sticky or gummy. A good piece of sushi should melt in your mouth. Sorry, whole grains. You’re just not gonna cut it.