How to eat sushi properly: a complete guide

Sushi is the perfect food option for any working lunch, event or corporate function. Filling and flavourful, this healthy snack is an easy crowd favourite. But, how do you eat sushi? Do you like to smear wasabi on top or slather it with mayo? Do you like to bite into the sushi, or eat it in one go? Did you know there is actually a ‘correct’ way to eat it? Not many people do and understanding the different types of sushi, condiments and side dishes will not only help your overall experience, but save you from disrespecting any sushi chefs.

Whether you’re sitting at a sushi train, Japanese restaurant or enjoying a staff lunch, here are some tips and insights on how to eat sushi properly.

Your complete guide on how to eat sushi

The different types of sushi

Nigiri: A topping (usually fresh raw fish) served on top of sushi rice.

Sashimi: Fresh raw fish or shellfish served alone. Technically not sushi, but often served with it or mistaken for it.

Maki: The sushi you probably see most often - rice and fillings wrapped in seaweed.

Uramaki: Similar to the above, but the rice is on the outside of the roll.

Temaki: Sushi that has been hand-rolled into a cone shape.

Inari: A fried tofu bean pouch filled with sushi rice. Can be plain or with a variety of toppings.

different types of sushi infographic

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Basic ways on how to eat sushi

Sushi is meant to be enjoyed in one bite. It is seen as a work of art, crafted by the chef, and biting into a sushi piece is considered rude. If the sushi is too big, or you’re feeling self-conscious, you can request the chef make smaller pieces and they can adjust the portions. Unless you're eating a handroll or temaki, you should be able to pop a piece in your mouth and enjoy it whole.

When eating sushi, you should place it on your tongue face down, so you get the full flavour and freshness of the fish. Sushi is meant to be appreciated as a whole experience. From flavour, to texture and even presentation, take the time to enjoy each bite!

It’s OK to eat with your fingers

Sushi can be eaten with your fingers or with chopsticks, so if you’re not the best at handling these utensils, don’t worry! Sushi is the ultimate finger food and you're encouraged to eat these delicious bite-sized pieces with your fingers. Eating with your fingers is considered more polite than the stabbing tactic!

eating sushi with chopsticks

Photo credit: Jcstudio / Freepik

Chopstick etiquette

When you sit down for sushi at a restaurant, there’s never a knife and fork by your side and this is because sushi is traditionally eaten not only with your fingers, but with chopsticks.

One top tip is to never rub the chopsticks together to remove splinters as this can be seen as a serious disrespect to the chef. It implies you think they have supplied poor-quality chopsticks.

As mentioned before, it’s seriously advised to steer clear of stabbing your food with one chopstick. Better to just pick it up with your fingers, or follow our instructions below on how to use chopsticks.

How to use chopsticks

Step 1: Hold your dominant hand loosely. It’s important to not put too much pressure on the chopsticks, or you could end up flinging food everywhere. Place the first chopstick in the nook between your pointer finger and thumb, while balancing it on your ring finger.
Step 2: Place the second chopstick in the same nook but rest it on your middle finger instead.
Step 3: Now, use your thumb and pointer finger to grasp the second chopstick a bit tighter.
Step 4: The first chopstick (on the bottom) remains more or less stationary. The thumb and the pointer finger should be doing all the heavy lifting with the second chopstick on top.

Using your thumb and pointer finger to move the top chopstick up and down, open your chopsticks and get eating!

how to use chopsticks infographic

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Know your condiments

Soy sauce - use soy sauce sparingly

The most common sushi condiment, everyone loves the salty goodness that is soy sauce! (Or tamari if you’re gluten free). The most important thing to note when seasoning your sushi with soy sauce is to not over-dunk your piece. The rice soaks it up and it’s all you can taste. Soy sauce is meant to compliment the flavour of the sushi, not overpower and kill the flavour.

Just add a little soy sauce into the little dish as needed. Don’t overfill it. Tilt the sushi, lightly brush the fish in the soy sauce and enjoy it in one bite. Ensure that the rice doesn’t touch the soy sauce. Dipping your sushi fish-side down is mainly to prevent the rice from falling apart and you’ll agree that it tastes better – compared to soy sauce soaked rice!

Maybe even try enjoying the sushi soy sauce free and experience the individual flavours.

When eating sashimi, you can either dunk the fish lightly into the soy sauce or use a slice of ginger to soak some up and brush it onto the fish. This gives you a delicious ginger flavour too!

Ginger - used to cleanse your palette

One common mistake people make when eating ginger is eating it on top of the sushi! Pickled ginger is meant to serve as a palette cleanser, so you can experience the individual flavours of each variety of sushi you have. It’s best enjoyed in between different types of sushi or fish. Simply take a small piece in between your bites.

Wasabi - add a little on top of the fish

The best way to enjoy wasabi is to take your chopsticks and put a small amount on top of the fish. Do not mix the wasabi into the soy sauce. This will take away the nice aroma of the wasabi, as it becomes dissolved in the soy sauce.

Some restaurants offer fresh wasabi freshly grated on top when requested.

how to eat sushi

Sushi sides

Miso

If you love ordering a bowl of miso soup with your sushi, it’s perfectly alright (and easier) to drink it directly from the bowl.

Tempura

Tempura is a dish usually containing a variety of seafood and vegetables that have been battered and deep fried. Crispy and delicious, tempura is often served alongside sushi or even on a roll itself!

Edamame

Edamame are pre-ripe soybeans served in their pods, steamed and salted. A classic snack in Japanese cuisine, and a tasty pairing for sushi.

Seaweed salad

Seaweed salad can also be included in some vegetarian rolls, on top of inari or as a side dish. Often mixed with sesame seeds and sometimes chili, it’s a refreshing addition to a delicious sushi meal.

Ordering sushi

There are differing views on whether there is an order to eating sushi. While there are no set rules, some say that it’s best to start from light (eg snapper) to dark (eg salmon), as the lighter fish is less oily and won't coat your tongue in fat. In any case, we suggest eating a pickled ginger or taking a sip of tea to cleanse your palette between fish.

If you’ve ordered a sushi platter, we suggest starting with the sashimi first and eating the maki rolls next. They have multiple ingredients and tend to have more complicated flavour profiles.

Next time you’re having a working lunch, a meeting or looking to impress some corporate guests and clients, why not order some sushi catering? Not only is it healthy and satisfying, you can now show off your newfound sushi etiquette.

How to eat sushi properly

Check out our infographic below for a quick summary on the do's and don'ts of eating sushi properly.

how to eat sushi properly infographic

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The best sushi caterers in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane

We have a great selection of the best corporate caterers in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane specialising in authentic and fresh sushi catering including:

I Love Sushi - offering a delicious range of sushi platters, lunch boxes, finger food platters and more.

Seasalt - offering an extensive range of sushi, sashimi and nigiri platters for your Melbourne office.

Sushi Jones - healthy and fresh sushi platters, poke, and bento boxes for your North Sydney office.

Sushi Pro - sushi platters for offices in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast.

Shuji Sushi - authentic Japanese catering including sushi rolls, donburi bowls, noodles and bento boxes.

Sushi at Work - handcrafted sushi rolls and rice paper rolls.

The Rice Cooker - authentic and fresh sushi platters and poke bowls.

If you’d like to order sushi catering for your next business lunch meeting or corporate event, speak to the corporate catering experts at Order-In on 1300 851 900. We have a range of corporate caterers who offer fresh and delicious sushi catering, nigiri platters and other Japanese catering menu options that are perfect for working lunches and corporate functions.

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