I'm not sure yet whether I'm going to make it permanent or not but this week I will only be blogging on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I've started a critique group with some of my fellow writers and I want to give it the time that it deserves. Plus I need to write more so that I have something to be critiqued.
I also will be interviewed by Jessica, The Alliterative Allopmorph, on Wednesday so although that won't take much time at least my presence in the blogoshpere will remain somewhat constant.
So, now that I've updated you all I want to write about something that I enjoy very much: eating Sushi.
Sushi is a fun eating experience and when enjoyed properly can even give a sneak peek into the culture of Japan, another thing I enjoy very much.
I've lived in four major cities in the U.S. and visited several others but have never been to Japan or enjoyed Sushi there so please don't consider me an expert. That being said, I have taken the time to research Sushi and Sushi culture so I do probably know a little bit more than the next guy.
So here are some basic suggestions about eating Sushi:
- Go to a tiny place. The best Sushi spots are in the big city, are very small, and only serve Sushi. The highest quality Sushi restaurants will use real Wasabi which is not just horseradish died green.
- Sit at the bar. One of the best parts about eating Sushi is getting to observe the skill with which it is prepared.
- Talk to your Sushi chef (Itamae). A big part of the enjoyment of eating Sushi is to engage with and be entertained by your Sushi chef. This is part of the reason to go to a small place too. If you are at one of those Sushi Bar/Hibachi Restaurant places and the chef looks really busy you might not want to talk to him.
- Ask him to suggest certain items or special rolls, as he will know what is the freshest, and to suggest beers or Sake that will accentuate your order.
- Make sure not to ask explicitly what is fresh because you do not want to imply that anything is not.
Here are some suggestions about what to order and how to eat it:
- Order Sushi directly from the chef unless it is the type of place that has paper orders for you to fill out. Drinks, ginger salad, gyoza, tempura or anything that is not Sushi or Sashimi should be order from the waitstaff.
- Start with Nigiri (examples pictured above). Nigiri is the style of Sushi which consists of a finger or so of rice, topped by a thick piece of raw fish (or cooked shrimp or crab). The best ones are Tuna (Toro or Maguro, Toro is better), Salmon (Sake), Red Snapper (Tai), and Yellowtail (Hamachi).
- At the higher quality Sushi joints the chef will place the correct amount of Wasabi under the fish and you do not need to add any to the soy sauce that you pour into the shoya dish. At lower quality places it is fine to put some Wasabi in the soy sauce.
- Eat Nigiri with your hands. It is perfectly acceptable to pick up a piece of Nigiri with your hands and then bite it in half. When you dip it into the shoya dish try to dip only the fish into the sauce as the rice will soak up too much soy sauce and the flavor will overpower the flavor of the fish.
- Do not eat Sashimi with your hands. Use your chopsticks. Sashimi is raw fish without the rice.
- I would suggest a dry beer like Sapporo or Asahi and simply order the house hot Sake. Hot Sake between bites of Sushi makes the meal most enjoyable and really compliments the cold flavors of the fish. Higher quality Sake is only necessary if you prefer to drink it cold. Do not order wine or cocktails until you are done eating Sushi. They do not compliment the meal and it is considered against etiquette.
- The pickled ginger (Gari) is there to cleanse the palate. Eat it when switching between different types of Sushi so that you can enjoy the full flavors.
- After Nigiri switch to rolls, raw before cooked. These are referred to as Makizushi. Some of my favorites are Rainbow Roll, Hollywood Roll, and Dynamite Roll. Most Sushi places will have special rolls based on where they are located. Make sure to try these out.
- Technically anything with shrimp or crab in it has been cooked. Crab muscles are actually liquid until cooked, however, as long as they are served cold they can be considered raw.
- Finally finish up with cooked rolls and Nigiri. I like to finish with a Spider Roll (Deep fried soft shell crab) and Barbecued Fresh Water Eel Nigiri (Unagi). These are both cooked and are quite filling. Spider Roll should be topped or surrounded with Spicy Mayonnaise and Unagi will be topped with Eel sauce, which is a kind of cross between Teriyaki sauce and Japanese Barbecue sauce. Any Sushi that has its own sauce should not be dipped into soy sauce.
Some basic rules of etiquette regarding Sushi:
- Don't pass food to other diners using your chopsticks. This is reminiscent of a burial ceremony in Japan and is considered very rude. Pass the plate instead.
- Tip the Sushi chef separately from the rest of the staff but do not expect him to touch the money. Most places will have a jar but if you don't see one ask a waitstaff how to tip the Sushi chef.
- Don't rub your chopsticks together. I don't know why but apparently this signifies that you think they are of low quality.
- Don't leave any food on your plate but especially not rice. This is considered rude and wasteful.
- Never ask for a knife. This implies that the food is tough. Most Sushi should be eaten in one bite. Nigiri is supposed to be eaten in one bite and in Japan they make it small enough to do so. In America it's okay to take two bites to finish one piece because they make it so huge.
So that's it. I hope some of you enjoy Sushi as much as I do and maybe now you will try some new things.
If you want to know more there is a great article here. Otherwise what do you think? Have you ever tried Uni (Sea Urchin Roe)? Did I get anything wrong?