You’re eating sushi all wrong
WE AUSSIES are an enthusiastic bunch, and we’re keen to try new things. But according to some sushi connoisseurs, there are some big mistakes we’re making when it comes to eating Japanese cuisine. We asked three of Sydney’s top sushi chefs to highlight where we’re going wrong.
1) Stop mixing wasabi into your soy sauce, you animal
Sungyong Lee, sushi chef at Saké Restaurant & Bar says customers shouldn’t need to use wasabi at all. “The fish should be perfectly seasoned already,” he explains. “Wasabi is often added to the nigiri by the chef (dabbed under the fish before it’s placed on top of the rice) ... Mixing wasabi and soy results in a clash of flavours.”
2) You know how you lay the pickled ginger on the sushi and eat it in one gulp? Oh no no no ...
“Pickled ginger should be eaten between different pieces of sushi to cleanse the palate,” explains Chase Kojima from Sokyo.
3) Scraping your wooden chopsticks together before eating is not on
Head chef Sunil Shrestha from Toko explains “often guests do this with wooden chopsticks to remove any splinters, although it is seen to be rude in high end restaurants as they use high quality chopsticks”. “This is definitely a no-no” adds Kojima.
4) You shouldn’t be adding soy to your nigiri ...
“If you’re a purist, give soy a miss,” says Lee. Kojima agrees: If you are served nigiri at a fine dining restaurant or any good Japanese restaurant, it should already be seasoned. “Everyone likes a different amount of saltiness on their sushi so a lot of people will still season their sushi to taste. If in doubt, ask your sushi chef ”. Shrestha adds that people who add soy sauce to their miso soup make him cringe a little. And if you must add soy? Don’t pour it straight on to the nigiri. Use one of the nifty little dipping bowls. “The correct way to season your sushi is to flip the fish so that only the fish is dipped in the soy sauce, not the rice,” says Kojima. Lee adds that you can use pickled ginger to dip in the soy and brush it lightly on top of the fish as an alternative.
5) Good news for anyone who has grappled with chopsticks ... you should actually be eating nigiri with your hands
“Traditionally sushi is eaten with your hands which is why the portions are prepared bite size,” explains Shrestha. “Because of this, often an oshibori (hot hand towel) is provided at the start of the meal so you can clean your hands.”
6) You’re eating your nigiri upside down, you putz
“When I eat nigiri I always turn it upside down, so the fish hits my tongue first,” explains Lee. “If you eat it rice first, the vinegar in the rice will help mask the beautiful, delicate flavour of the fish. If you’ve doused your sushi in soy by rolling it in a dish, all you will taste is soy”.
7) Don’t bite into the nigiri and drop it all over the shop — hoover it in one mouthful
“Sushi is designed to be eaten in one bite and each piece should be designed to taste great as a whole,” says Chase. “If you can’t eat it all in one piece, ask your sushi chef to make it smaller for you.” Lee adds “if you eat it in two mouthfuls, the second bite will never taste as good as the first.”
8) There’s a particular order your sushi should be eaten in
“You should start with the lightest flavoured fish first: so work from white fish, to slightly fattier fish such as salmon and tuna, then oily fish such as mackerel, followed by nigiri that has been blowtorched, and finally scallop,” explains Lee. “If you eat heavily flavoured fish first, you won’t be able to taste the more delicate flavoured fish.”
9) Those “cooked” tuna rolls are a bit frowned upon
“Please don’t ask for sushi rolls that include tinned tuna or salmon,” implores Lee. “Try the beautiful raw fish options instead, the flavours are much more lovely”.
10) Drinking wine with your sushi is a little off
Every chef we interviewed was unanimous about this: they would like to see more Australians drinking sake with their sushi, instead of wine. Kojima says, “I would love to see more diners drinking sake with sushi, or if you’re not drinking alcohol, stick with green tea as it matches the flavours perfectly. “A lot of Australians like to drink wine with sushi, so it’s worth noting that red wine is the hardest to match as it brings out the fish flavour of the sushi ... “That said, I love my red wine. Maybe try to save it for after your sushi.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: We make some big mistakes when it comes to eating Japanese cuisine.