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Sushi etiquette

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are there any japanese (or other) restaurants in the u.s. that serve real wasabi?  i've only heard about it being extremely rare and expensive.  does it even resemble the wasabi powder mix served normally, or does it taste completely different?

I found this in the market and served it when I made sushi at home.

http://www.freshwasabi.com/prodpastetube.aspx

I tasted a lot like horseradish so I would say the difference is minimal. It was not as pasty as the horseradish powder variety.

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Like Kristin has confirmed, this is simply personal preference.  Another thing I want to say is that while there are strict dos and don'ts about the handling of chopsticks in Japan, there really are no strict sushi etiquette and manners in the Western sense and that you should be careful when asking questions to native Japanese because not all Japanese are the same.  Some are snobs, some want to impress you by saying impressive things, some want to tease you and say stupid things, and others are lenient like me.

dare i ask... what are the complete chopstick rules?

Sorry, I can't list all bad manners about chopsticks. This webpage lists some under "Bad manners:".

Bad manners:

Waving chopsticks above food dishes.

Sticking chopsticks into food instead of picking them up.

Picking up a cup/bowl with the hand that is holding your chopsticks.

Sucking chopsticks.

Sticking chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice.

Passing food from your chopsticks to somebody else's chopsticks.

This Wikipedia page in Japanese contains a near complete list of more than 20 entries, such as pulling a dish or plate with chopsticks and pointing something or someone with chopsticks.

I don't know whether this webpage has been linked to somewhere on eGullet before, but it does contains some nice suggestions on sushi eating practice.

If you haven't tried to eat sashimi in the way Kristin mentioned upthread and if you haven't tried to eat sushi in the way Fat Guy proposes, I do think they are worth trying.

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I feel there is a lot of exoticizing of wasabi outside Japan (and even inside Japan). First of all I've heard and read over and over again that it is rare. Where I live I can buy real whole wasbi root in the majority of super markets. Even the cheapest super market carries it. This may be a recent development, I'm not sure.

Second that wasabi is expensive. A wasabi root about the size of half a hot dog sells for $5~$10. At the wholesale markets you find roots that are grown larger and are designed for restaurant use. These are about the size of a large carrot and, depending on size and other factors, cost $50 and up. The roots sold for personal use can be ground into approximately 10 portions. I freeze the root and grate it on a shark skin grater (which is also quite reasonable, less than $10 in a restaurant supply store).

Wasabi is cultivated in North America as well. It is difficult to grow especially for inexperienced growers which keeps the price high in America. I would expect the best restaurants, where cost is not so much a factor, to offer the real stuff.

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Eat your food the way that is most enjoyable to you, dear...

Sure, but why not come to that conclusion after at least trying it the way the chef intended.

This thread is interesting to me, because I've enjoyed sushi mostly in the American fast food fashion ... the way I was taught, with a blob of wasabi in my soy sauce. I could defend it by saying "it's the way I enjoy it," but in truth it's just my habit, and I have nothing, including the chef-prefered way, to compare it with.

Next time I go for sushi I plan to try some of the ideas I've read about on e.g.: sit at the bar, take the chef's suggestions, and don't drown the fish in horseradish.


Notes from the underbelly

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dare i ask... what are the complete chopstick rules?

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What I find interesting is the reasons for the chopstick rules. For instance, I recall someone telling me that sticking the hashi upright in food and the passing of food from hashi to hashi is taboo due to particular Buddhist worship/burial customs.

Feel free to correct me if I'm incorrect.

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are there any japanese (or other) restaurants in the u.s. that serve real wasabi?  i've only heard about it being extremely rare and expensive.  does it even resemble the wasabi powder mix served normally, or does it taste completely different?

Ginza-Ko sushi in Beverly Hills, now Masa's in NY, used real wasabi -- it was grated in front of you on a traditional shark-skin grater as needed, using both ends of the rhizome. (The different ends taste somewhat different.)

In the pacific northwest, esp. Seattle and Vancouver, fresh real wasabi is available, and while it is expensive (usually around $45-$100/lb, depending on the quality), one doesn't need that much. A good sized rhizome is enough for a large-ish meal for at least several people, and might cost $10-$20, hardly expensive compared to the cost of great fish, etc.

You can buy real wasabi in powder form, and as a paste. I would say that freshly grated wasabi tastes "cleaner" and brighter than either of those, with a sweetness that they fail to capture.

Fake wasabi -- horseradish, mustard & coloring -- only vaguely resembles real wasabi -- it has more "kick" and heat, and far less flavor and complexity. The taste is *similar* but not nearly as interesting.

Best,

jk

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I still have one more thing to say:

From the webpage about sushi etiquette,

In the end, you can make a notification by saying 'O-ai-so' that you have finished your dishes and would like to check your bill.

The word oaiso is a fucho or ingo, as I mentioned elsewhere.

I usually avoid using those fucho at the counter, so I usually say, "Suimasen, o-kanjo" (Execuse me, check please) instead.

The traditional sushi shop has its own special language, such as using murasaki (meaning "purple") for soy sauce instead of the usual word, shoyu. Sushi chefs were said to treat customers better if they knew the correct jargon. One of the reasons why conveyor-belt sushi has become successful is said to be that there is no need to learn the special words and culture of the traditional sushi shop.

This is ridiculous. Such words as murasaki, agari (tea), and oaiso (check), collectively known as fucho (符丁) or ingo (隠語), are for use by those behind the counter (chef, servers, and so on), and those sitting at the counter (customers) should not use them. Note, however, that some of these terms, such as neta and shari, have become so commonplace that I use them without hesitation when I talk to a sushi chef.

Thus, I think it is recommended to use those fucho sparingly and tentatively. The counter is not a place where you show off your knowledge of sushi but show your interest in it. Be a good questioner and listener, and the chef will appreciate your attitude. Don't "pretend to be a connoisseur" ("tsuu buru" in Japanese).

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Everyone should try real wasabi at least once, I was first served freshly grated wasabi at Morimoto in NY and the difference was striking. Sunrise Market with several NY locations usually has fresh wasabi , a 4" piece is about $25, well worth it it youre a Sashimi fanatic.

it can also be ordered from Real Wasabi.com

and if you feel like trying your hand at growing the notoriously finicky Rhizome yourself,

Wasabi Farm sells plants for $7.50.

Back to the topic at hand, whats the deal with putting bamboo chopsticks in the water glass ?

I saw a lady in a Japanese restaurant do this telling her son thats " How they do it in Japan"


" No, Starvin' Marvin ! Thats MY turkey pot pie "

- Cartman

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Back to the topic at hand, whats the deal with putting bamboo chopsticks in the water glass ?

I saw a lady in a Japanese restaurant do this telling her son thats " How they do it in Japan"

I've never heard of this. I did some googling, but nothing came up. Another joke about mysterious Japanese culture? :hmmm:

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Something to keep in mind, re: the wasabi with sushi thing in the US, is that average "Joe American" has the following misconceptions about sushi...

A) that all sushi is raw fish

and

B) don't understand that sushi and sashimi are not the same thing

If I had a dime for every time I've told someone one of the above points, I'd have enough money to buy enough sushi to feed an army.

That said, I know a lot of third and fourth generation Japanese-Americans that gob wasabi into their shoyu when they eat sushi. I don't even like the fakey wasabi stuff, so I don't bother.


Cheryl

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I remembered one more thing I would like to bring up: I have never seen someone in Japan break apart the disposable chop sticks and then rub them together to remove "splinters". This seems to be the normal ritual in the U.S. When a friend came to visit me and performed this ritual in a restaurant who's chef had visited America the chef corrected him by saying "Rubbing the chopsticks together is rude to the owners of the restaurant because you are implying that the chopsticks are cheap/low quality and have splinters. Look at the chopsticks when you break them, there are no splinters. Rubbing them together only makes the surfaces rougher". When I see someone do this now it gives me that nails-on-chalkboard feeling.

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I remembered one more thing I would like to bring up: I have never seen someone in Japan break apart the disposable chop sticks and then rub them together to remove "splinters". This seems to be the normal ritual in the U.S. When a friend came to visit me and performed this ritual in a restaurant who's chef had visited America the chef corrected him by saying "Rubbing the chopsticks together is rude to the owners of the restaurant because you are implying that the chopsticks are cheap/low quality and have splinters. Look at the chopsticks when you break them, there are no splinters. Rubbing them together only makes the surfaces rougher". When I see someone do this now it gives me that nails-on-chalkboard feeling.

Excuse me, but to paraphrase my restaurant critic friend who has addressed this very same issue:

"If you have to break your chopsticks apart, then they *are* cheap/low quality!"

And rubbing the cheap bamboo surfaces together burnishes them and does make the surfaces somewhat smoother by removing the chaff and splinters. A few seconds is all it takes; you don't have to go overboard with the process.

Bob

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I remembered one more thing I would like to bring up: I have never seen someone in Japan break apart the disposable chop sticks and then rub them together to remove "splinters".

I've seen it, more than once, done by Japanese people.

I've also seen them swish their chopsticks around in their tea.

It's mostly people from certain backgrounds, though.


Edited by prasantrin (log)

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I think chopstick rubbing has nothing to do with etiquette and it's simply a habit. I wouldn't say it's a bad habit, but personally, I don't do this.

After having checked this video, which explains chopstick rubbing as a handy hint, I have to think how difficult to learn the culture of another country. :sad:

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I think chopstick rubbing has nothing to do with etiquette and it's simply a habit.  I wouldn't say it's a bad habit, but personally, I don't do this.

After having checked this video, which explains chopstick rubbing as a handy hint, I have to think how difficult to learn the culture of another country. :sad:

Funny, because as a sushi fan, I have always heard and read the don't rub warning.

But, as a non Japanese, I feel I have some leniancy and I take it by gosh. I like to eat with my hands for sushi as my chop skills are low (well moderate) and I want to enjoy the food as the chef has prepared. Sashimi, I always use the chopsticks as it just seems the polite and smart thing to do short of sitting on a fantail with a freshly caught fish. Luckily, my home base for sushi is very understanding and "Scott" is obviously second generation with formal training. He knows I appreciate all he has and all the skills of his crew. I take my time and just enjoy which I know he appreciates. What I hate are the "gotta make the movie crowd" who come in and wolf down their food and leave. How sad. How can you taste the delicate fish in one huge bite?

Oh well preachin to the choir here. :smile:


Edited by Doodad (log)

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. . . Some are snobs, some want to impress you by saying impressive things, some want to tease you and say stupid things, and others are lenient . . .

None of this is exclusive to Japan, of course--you find examples of all these things everywhere.

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Every time a sushi/sashimi conversation starts up, I always think of

Everybody's got some quirks. I tend to smear the slightest bit of wasabi onto the tips of the chopsticks. Easier to regulate the sting that way. Soy sauce only on one corner of the roll. I've found that some sushi does not need the additions. I try the first piece naked, then add as needed. I do prefer to taste the ingredients, but some seasoning can improve the flavor.


Screw it. It's a Butterball.

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The word oaiso is a fucho or ingo, as I mentioned elsewhere.

I usually avoid using those fucho at the counter, so I usually say, "Suimasen, o-kanjo" (Execuse me, check please) instead.

Nani Desuka?... I was taught to say "Keisan Onogaishimasu" for check please.

I was also taught by my okinawan finace at the time to mix the soy and wasabi and to dip it protein side down. Okashi ne!

and how DARE you put kethup on my french fries..err pomme frits!


Edited by RAHiggins1 (log)

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.

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keisan is ok too but it sounds a little stiff to me. Protein side down is objectively good. and the wasabi and soy sauce thing... well as we've seen here opinions vary in and outside Japan.

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Keisan (lit. calculation) sounds strange to me. For the record, I was born and bred in Tokyo, was there until I was 30, and I speak standard Japanese.

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I am another for whom keisan sounds weird. I would use it in a hospital when paying my bill but not in a restaurant.

I actually avoid saying anything if possible as I have a strange problem with the word kanjo also. In about 90% of restaurants I go to the bill is placed on the table so I don't need to say anything, 8% of the time I am with someone else who can ask for the bill and the last 2% I would be in a very small family run type place and I would say "gochisousamadeshita" as I walk to the register and the person would meet me there and ring me up.

My problem with kanjo is that I am absolutely terrified I am going to walk to the register and mistakenly say kanchou instead. :sad: Kanchou, in general, means enema but it is also associated with a wedgie like prank. (for anyone who really wants to know more)

There are certain Japanese similar sounding words that I really have problems with, the other main one being mantan and manten. Mantan is how you ask the gas station attendant to fill up the car. Manten is a harmless word with a couple meanings (depending on the characters) like, 100 points or a perfect score like on a test and the whole sky. Whenever I pull into a gas station I repeat over and over to myself "mantan, mantan, mantan" but every now and then manten slips out. In this case I would just correct myself and no one would thing anything of it but in the case of kanjo and kanchou I would die of embarrassment.


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I'm always amazed when I see people drown their sushi/sashimi with a pile of wasabi. How can they taste the fish? It makes me wonder if people actually enjoy the delicate taste of the fish or just that they think eating sushi is trendy. It wouldn't surprise me if one reason sushi restaurants are so crowded is that, especially in the metro NY area, sushi is the "trendy" thing to eat. I see and know many people who still won't go beyond ordering california rolls and salmon or tuna sushi. There is so much more to explore, yet some people still can't get past the basic types. Of course there are plenty of people who are serious about their sushi, especially on eGullet, but I still wonder about people who LOVE sushi and only eat varieties that are most common to American culture.

I have always read/heard that the "proper" way to eat sushi is using your fingers and slightly dipping in soy sauce protein down. Sashimi is always eaten with chopsticks and a little wasabi, if preferred, and a little dip in soy sauce. The books, articles, and posts I have read seem to suggest that this is the "correct" way.

I have one question for all of you. We're all talking about the pile of wasabi that accompany our plates. What about the pile of ginger? I never touch the ginger. When I first started eating sushi I always added my wasabi and then a slice of ginger on top. After I learned that this was bad practice I stopped. I realized it was to cleanse your palate between courses and not used as a condiment. Do you use the ginger? If so, between every piece or only if it is a different protein component?

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I'm always amazed when I see people drown their sushi/sashimi with a pile of wasabi. How can they taste the fish? It makes me wonder if people actually enjoy the delicate taste of the fish or just that they think eating sushi is trendy.

the act of putting something very spicy on food (and lots of it) isn't limited to sushi. It seem that there may be another element at play here. Machismo. With the wasabi on sushi, have you noticed that it's mosty guys doing it?

There seems to be more a good thing is better and a whole lot of it is the best thing going on. I mean, I like spicy foods, but I'll see people load up an already spicy item with even more spicy stuff (more wasabi, more hot sauce, etc), then eat it. They wince in pain, but get through it and declare it "Awesome!", But what's there? It's almost all heat. Really, it seems like a contest to many people. Who can tolerate the most heat.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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