To dip or not to dip? Chopsticks or fingers? One bite or two? We asked Meg, our local guide in Tokyo, how to eat sushi like a local. (Hint: ginger is not a topping.)
Sorry, I’m going to give so many rules here, but hopefully even with these rules, people can still enjoy it!
First of all, sushi can be eaten with your hands. Don’t be embarrassed! It’s a snack that can be held with your fingers instead of chopsticks. Just keep the wet towel that they give you close by so you can clean your hands.
In Japan, the most common type of sushi is nigiri sushi (slices of raw fish over rice), and the wasabi comes in between the fish and the rice (or in the middle, in the case of sushi rolls) — so if you are not a wasabi fan, let your server or the chef know before they prepare yours.
When you eat your sushi, hold it with your hands in a way that you can keep it all together. Turn it so just the fish touches the soy sauce. Never touch the rice in the soy sauce, otherwise it falls apart and will be too salty. Also, just put a little amount of soy sauce in the small saucer they give you — there’s no need to add lots of soy sauce, as you can always add more later on if you need it.
Then, eat the sushi in one bite! If you bite just half of it, it’ll get messy and fall apart, so just have it all in one go and enjoy!
Use the pickled ginger to cleanse your palate between sushi bites. We never put the ginger on top of the sushi — if you do that, you’ll just taste the flavour of the ginger, instead of the fish. Eat as much ginger as you want, they’ll always give you more — just don’t eat it on the sushi!
You can find sushi almost everywhere in Japan, so it’s hard to say where the best spot is. For most locals, the best place is simply the one where they feel welcomed by the owner and staff, and where the food tastes good. It could be a famous place where dinners are USD 300 or it can be a USD $20 place. Different sushi for different occasions, but it’s all good if you know how to appreciate it.
And a final #localsknow tip: If you come to a restaurant and the fish smells too strong, it’s not a good sign, so stay away. If it smells fishy, you know it can’t be good!