Sushi Etiquette, or Swimmy Noms

Posted on 17 April 2016 by Vanessa DeMelo

Hello once again! It is time to come back from a decently clerkship-sized writing hiatus and bring you my latest, thoroughly and refreshingly unsourced topic, how to eat sushi as would the Japanese version of Emily Post. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that some of these guidelines I in fact break without questioning (and have no fear, I’ll tell you why), but it’s comforting to know that should I ever find myself in Japan and dining with their royals, I will at least know what I should be doing. One of my dear friends from undergrad has been living in Nagoya for two years now, and her stories of corner store sushi that will knock your socks off make me feel as if this is a place I will be making a sincere effort to visit sooner or later. That, and the cherry blossoms.

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How could you not want to be sitting under trees made of pink clouds?

Source: Alyssa Craik, the expat herself


I’ve chosen to deliver the select pieces of advice in distinct temporal segments, so that you too might imagine you are eating a delicious sushi dinner, instead of the Campbell’s, broccoli-chicken-rice trio, or single lime popsicle you are currently consuming for dinner.


Step 1: The Preparation

It turns out that you’re not supposed to rub your chopsticks together to rid them of the tiny potential hemorrhage-causing splinters as if you were trying to start a campfire – it’s considered an insult to the host as you’re insinuating the chopsticks are of poor quality. You are supposed to gently graze the wooden chopsticks together instead should you notice any splinters, which I imagine sneakily and confusingly trying to do under the table as if playing a tiny xylophone. In the past, I have often opted to go full Girl Scout on the chopsticks as buccal bamboo shanks are not exactly up my alley. In truth, I’d much rather the restaurant just have reusable plastic chopsticks. Supposedly jade or gold chopsticks are a thing, and I’d accept those too.

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Step 2: The Obtaining

You should use the blunt ends of your chopsticks to take sashimi, maki, or sushi from the common plate. Supposedly, using the tapered business end of the chopsticks is somewhat akin to thoroughly dunking the half-eaten end of a baby carrot back into the ranch dressing and offering the bowl to the next minor acquaintance. A point can be made that you’re likely not on this sushiventure with relative strangers, but should end up at dinner with some combination of your boss or roommate’s grandma, you can minimize the presence of PO foreign salivary amylase exchange and consumption.

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People really seem to care about this societal faux pas.


Step 3: The Flavouring

You are apparently supposed to dab bits of wasabi onto the sashimi, as opposed to mixing it into the soy sauce as if you were making a purple soup. Prepared sushi is intended to be made with the proper amount of wasabi already, necessitating no additional green fire required. As for this soup-making, I love doing this. Given that I once ate an entire ball of wasabi in one gulp on a dare (at an NYC all you can eat sushi restaurant containing mostly fraternities– I thereby classify this action as a Would Not Recommend), I considered myself a hardened and loyal soldier to the pungent sinus cleanse. I’ve even developed a certain art to ensure proper emulsification of the paste and soy sauce. So the fact that it’s a dining no-no makes me somewhat sad, and I think this might be the rule I opt to break under the table, sacrificing smoothly sanded chopsticks for the preferable oh-so-good burn.

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Just look at this leaf, so ready to be stirred right in.


Step 4: The Dipping

While on the topic of soy sauce, I’ve learned that you’re supposed to dip the fish-side of the sushi into the soy sauce, not the rice-side. This is done with the intention of gently flavouring the bites as opposed to eating soy-rice pudding. This one makes sense to me, but I am still figuring it out – how do you make the pieces stay together if the smaller piece is inverted? It seems as if one is advised to dip an ice cream cone in chocolate sauce with the dairy portion left to the fate of cruel, cruel torque. My breech in etiquette isn’t for a lack of trying to do otherwise, as there have been many an attempt that have resulted in the necessary rescue of the former sea dwelling creatures from a new version of salty depths.

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Step 5: The Consumption

It turns out that sushi can in fact be eaten with chopsticks, nuances of which can be found outlined above, or with either of the five-digit high fivers of which you are in possession. Maybe the second option would solve my issue with gravity trumping my efforts to protein-dunk in soy sauce as opposed to rice-dunk. You are also meant to eat the sushi in one bite (NOM!), but should this not be possible, you should eat in two bites in one go-about, and not return a half-eaten piece of sushi to your plate.

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Not a chopstick in site.

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We also know who is definitely double-dipping.


Now, I have outlined five points (each of which I have broken on most if not all occasions) to illustrates that sushi eating customs in Canada seem to have landed somewhat by way of “Chinese” food in North America – modified, to say the least. However, sushi eaten with company or alone is great fun, an awesome chance to try food that you otherwise might not consume, and as there never seems to be enough ginger to go around in life, it has gained a near and dear place in my heart with its ready supply.

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Quoting learned doctor Chevy Priyadamkol, “mad susheries at the club”


Until next time,


The Procrastination Compilation

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