There are few things better than a night spent with wine, sushi, and good company. After enough sake and spicy-tuna filled evenings, your local Japanese joint starts to feel like home, and a pair of chopsticks becomes an extension of your hand. It turns out, though, that we all may have been breaking more than a few sushi-eating rules according to the new book, The Complete Guide to Sushi & Sashimi ($30; amazon.com).
The nearly 300-page manifesto, written by Robby Cook, the executive sushi chef at renowned N.Y.C. restaurant Morimoto, and Jeffrey Elliot, the director of culinary relations and executive chef of J.A. Henckels, instructs both first-time and regular Japanese eaters on how to properly indulge in and create sushi and sashimi. (The two are fellow knife fanatics and longtime friends – Elliot even chose to propose to his wife while enjoying Cook’s plates at Morimoto.)
Below, a few basic rules and suggestions from sushi chef Cook.
1. Make a date. Fish is typically freshest on Tuesdays and Fridays (specifically fish deliveries from the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, Japan, which are jetted all over North America and Europe).
2. Be smart with spice. In order to best experience the combination of the soy, fish, and rice, resist the urge to mix wasabi into your soy sauce. The spicy paste can make the sauce murky and compromise its flavors. If you need a little extra kick, add some wasabi directly to your sushi.
3. Dip like a pro. Each piece of sushi requires a different dipping technique. For nigiri (sliced raw fish on top of rice), dip fish side down so as not to oversaturate the rice. Similarly, a cut roll should only have one corner carefully submerged. When dealing with a hand roll, drizzle just a bit of soy sauce over the top.
5. Pace yourself. Try not to order too much at the same time. It backs up the sushi bar, and prevents you from experiencing the dishes at their freshest. This technique is especially easy when seated at the bar, where you can simply wave down the chef when you’re ready for the next round.
6. Be kind to your palate. When ordering, start with white or leaner sashimi to maintain a clean first taste. Move on to a fattier fish from there, like yellowtail tuna, and finish with nigiri, hand rolls, or cut rolls.