Sushi etiquette 101: An experts' guide to eating sushi

Put down the chopsticks: Nigiri sushi is generally eaten with your hands.
Put down the chopsticks: Nigiri sushi is generally eaten with your hands. Photo: iStock

Sushi is adored all around the world, and for good reason. It can be dressed up or down, offered at snacktime or supper, and packed into lunchboxes or served at stylish fine-diners (often with the price tag to match).

Most of all, it's delicious. Over the past 15-odd years, the sushi masters at sleek Japanese restaurant Nobu Melbourne have served thousands of the delicacy's devotees.

Don't overdo the soy sauce.
Don't overdo the soy sauce. Photo: iStock

In celebration of International Sushi Day, the Nobu team share their tips on how to eat sushi like a pro.

1. Chopsticks – yes or no? Sushi rolls and nigiri sushi (rice topped with fish) are generally eaten with your hands, while delicate slivers of sashimi tend to be eaten with chopsticks. Don't rub the sticks together, as this can be considered an insult and suggests the quality of the chopsticks is poor.

2. How to dip Dipping sushi in soy sauce rice-down often results in disaster. Not only does it cause the rice to crumble, Nobu's experts say, drenching the rice in salty sauce can also upset the delicate balance of flavour crafted by the chef. Instead, try to dip your sushi gently fish-first into soy sauce.

3. Go easy on the sauce Soy sauce adds a wonderful seasoning to sushi, as long as you don't overdo it. A small drop will usually suffice. Any more than that can overpower the delicate flavour of the fish, defeating the purpose of eating sushi in the first place.

4. To mix or not? Many people love to mix soy sauce and wasabi but this can create an unattractive greenish paste. Instead, apply a modest amount of wasabi to each piece (if the chef hasn't already added it), then dip it in the soy sauce.

5. Finish sushi in one bite Sushi is best eaten in one bite, as it tends to fall apart if you nibble at a piece. So take advantage of its bite-sized shape and enjoy each piece as a single mouthful.

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6. What's the ginger for? Those thin slices of pickled ginger served alongside your sushi aren't a special garnish or extra topping – they're actually a palate cleanser. When switching from tuna to salmon, for example, eating a small piece of ginger in between can allow you to appreciate each distinct flavour.

7. Fresh is best While it's tempting to take photos of pretty dishes, don't linger too long. Sushi is best at its freshest: when the rice is warm and the fat in the fish has been warmed by the chef's hand.

8. The right order Sushi should always be eaten according to temperature, texture and flavour, the Nobu team says. Start with sashimi, move onto sushi with rice, and finish with miso soup. Also try starting with lighter, smaller sushi pieces and finish with the complex, more filling varieties.

9. Finish all the sushi Cleaning the plate is a compliment to the chef, so there's no shame in eating every last grain of rice. Sushi chefs love to see empty plates – it means diners truly enjoyed their meal.