Sushi Etiquette Tips

by Claire Valenty on August 6, 2010

in Table Manners

table sushi etiquette

As more and more people introduce sushi into their diet, the lack of understanding of sushi etiquette grows.  Let’s put a stop to it now!

Sushi etiquette discussions are important as the popularity of this delicacy continues to increase.   I was first introduced to sushi in college, but there were no sushi etiquette lessons that went along with that introduction.  Back then, we thought we were adventurous and exotic with our sushi intake, but these days, everyone, including my mom, eats sushi.  It’s a pretty safe bet their knowledge on sushi etiquette is about as dismal as mine.  However, after doing a little research, I found some key pointers to share:

  • The host/hostess will great you with “Irasshaimase” (“Please come in”).  You don’t have to say anything back, but acknowledge the greeting!
  • Your order form will be on your table.  Sushi etiquette says to fill it out yourself, but I’ve found (probably because they’re sick of people not doing it), the waitress/waiter just takes the order and writes it down themselves.
  • If you are sitting at the sushi bar, only order sushi from the itamae (chef).  Your wait person will provide everything else.  When you sit at the bar, it is proper sushi etiquette to also tip the itamae separately (there is usually a tip jar somewhere up there – don’t hand the itamae the money).
  • Never ask the itamae if the fish is fresh; that you would accuse them of serving you bad food is an insult!
  • If having soup with your sushi, sushi etiquette allows you to pick up the bowl and slurp (not too loudly!) directly from it.
  • Sushi etiquette states you can eat sushi with your hands, but sashimi should only be eaten with chopsticks.
  • Traditionally, a piece of sushi should fit in your mouth in one bite.  However, as with everything in the U.S., bigger is better!  It’s acceptable to eat the bigger sushi pieces in a couple of bites.
  • Sushi etiquette states you do not pour soy sauce over your meal; sushi pieces should be dipped fish side down into the soy sauce dish.  This is because rice is considered sacred to the elders still and the soy sauce should be used as a flavoring to the rice, not to drown it.
  • Ginger (that pink stuff they give you) should not be placed on any pieces of sushi, but, rather eaten between dishes to cleanse the palate.
  • Wasabi should be placed on the sushi directly and not added to the soy sauce bowl.

Some other articles that might help you out are Sake Etiquette and Chopstick Etiquette.  Now that I know what I’m doing, anyone hungry for some sushi?  Let’s go practice our newly learned sushi etiquette!

Photo: dreamstime/Litwinphotography

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