Sushi etiquette

Sushi etiquette

Ocean Basket – South Africa’s beloved seafood restaurant and sushi leaders – shares 10 sushi etiquette secrets


  1. Cut rolls are supposed to be eaten with your hands. While South Africans are accustomed to eating sushi with chopsticks, traditionally, in Japan, sushi is eaten with your fingers, in one or two bites with chopsticks reserved only for eating Sashimi or noodle dishes.
  2. Don’t dunk sushi in soya. Soy is a seasoning, so just slightly dip the sushi in the soy. Soaking sushi in soy makes it fall apart, overpowers the sushi and drowns out the flavours.
  3. Pickled ginger shouldn’t be plonked into the soy either. It’s supposed to be eaten on its own after eating each sushi item like a palate cleanser, so you can taste the next different sushi item.
  4. Wasabi (a root vegetable known in English as Japanese horseradish) should be placed in a small amount on each piece of sushi with your chopstick just before eating. These days it’s quite common for people outside of Japan to mix their wasabi in soy sauce as a dipping sauce for the sushi, although not technically correct, it’s now acceptable.
  5. In traditional Japanese restaurants an ushibori (hot steamed towel) that’s handed to you is for wiping your hands before eating sushi, and not for cleaning grubby paws after your meal.
  6. Don’t order hand rolls for take-away or when eating on a side table in a restaurant, as they become soggy quickly. Hand rolls are designed to be eaten immediately.
  7. When seated at a sushi bar it’s a custom to buy the chef a drink or tip him, especially after he has made special menu items not served on the menu.
  8. Be patient when waiting for your sushi order to arrive. It’s recommend to sit at the sushi bar (as opposed to a side table), so you can see how the chef makes the sushi, how he plates and decorates it and the skill he has. Making sushi is an art and experience is everything.
  9. Drink Miso soup or green tea prior to eating sushi as it warms up the tummy. Sushi normally goes well with sake, Japanese beer (asahi or kirin) or white wine.
  10. To establish if the sushi you’re eating has been properly prepared, order cheap sushi like cucumber maki or tamago nigiri to begin with. Taste the rice, and if it’s flavoured correctly, generally the sushi will be good and you’re safe to order more expensive items (at Ocean Basket you can forgo this rule as you’re guaranteed top-class sushi every time).

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