What is the first food that comes to mind when you think about Japan? Chances are, that food is sushi. Indeed, sushi is one of Japan's most internationally renowned dishes. A bowl of freshly caught seafood can be divine, although possibly very different from what we usually eat for breakfast.
How to Eat Fish in Japan
Many tourists when they come to Japan want to try the cuisine. It is one of the most famous things about Japan - sushi, tempura, ramen, and more. One of the most popular things to try is of course sushi. For some people, the thought of eating raw fish makes their mouth water, while others are a bit more hesitant. If you can, we recommend trying sushi at least once while you are in Japan, as it really is DELICIOUS if eaten fresh.
So how do you eat fish in Japan?
This blog post will talk you through how to eat sushi in a sushi restaurant in Japan.
What kind of sushi should I start with if I don't like the idea of raw fish?
If you are a bit worried about raw fish, do not start with octopus or squid, as these can be chewy and hard to swallow. Try "nigiri sushi", which is raw or seared fish on top of rice. The rice may help you get used to eating raw fish, and you will be able to taste the flavour nicely without any difficult textures. When you get more confidence, you can try "sashimi", which is just the raw fish without any rice.
At the restaurant - etiquette
If you are at a cheap sushi bar, you can just enter and use the electronic screen to add your name to the waiting list. The staff will call you when it's your turn to be seated.
If you are going to a high-end sushi restaurant, usually the chef will come out to greet you, so quietly wait to be seated.
At a cheap restaurant, there will usually be a tablet you can order on. Very simple to use and no need to talk to the staff. If there’s a sushi train, you can just take dishes straight from the belt as well (but not ones intended for another table, only the unmarked ones that can be taken freely). Remember – once you touch a plate, it’s yours. Do not put it back if you change your mind.
At a high-end place, it shows respect if you ask the chef for their personal recommendations on what to order. You can try “omakase dining”, where you leave the order in the hands of the chef, trusting them to give you the best meal.
The table will contain soy sauce and wasabi, but do not use too much. Using too much hides the taste of the sushi and could be considered an insult.
There will be pieces of ginger on the table as well. You are supposed to use these to “cleanse your palette” in between dishes.
Make sure the rest the chopsticks on the chopstick holder and not flat on the table. Also never stick them upright in your rice as this is associated with death and disrespectful.
Depending on the dish, you should either eat it with chopsticks or by hand. Nigiri can be eaten by hand, but sashimi should always be eaten with chopsticks.
When you dip the sushi in the soy sauce, make sure to dip it fish-first, otherwise the rice will get all crumbly and fall apart.
If you are dining at a cheap restaurant, the rules and etiquette are not so important. In high-end places, it can be difficult to even get a seat and bookings can be full months in advance. At some restaurants, diners are not even allowed to talk, while others ban foreigners altogether as they have been offended in the past.
Make sure to:
- Make a reservation - you will need it. Book as far in advance as possible, and DO NOT CANCEL as this is considered very rude.
- Don't expect customisation - This is not your home country. You cannot customise the menu. You get what you are given, and asking for changes is not appropriate. If you have allergies, inform the restaurant when you make your booking.
- Behave with class - Do not talk loudly, take lots of photos or wear strong scents that will bother other guests.
If raw fish isn't to your taste, that's okay, there are plenty of cooked fish dishes in Japan. Generally, the Japanese use the same few seasonings for their fish. Rather than the more richly flavoured Mediterranean cuisine, Japanese favour simplicity. Fish is often grilled, with salt, mirin, soy sauce and sake added. Possibly miso too.
How do you deal with the bones?
Sometimes you'll be given a whole fish, complete with head and tail, while other times just a piece. In any case, the fish will likely have many small bones.
If you have an entire fish, start eating from the head end and eat along the body until the tail. You can remove the head. Then use your hand and chopsticks to remove the body bones. Then eat the other side. You can use the chopsticks to pick out the tiny bones inside as you eat. Place the bones on the edge of your plate.
Dive in and have a culinary adventure in Japan
We highly recommend you venture beyond your culinary comfort zone and try the delights of eating fish in Japan. Eating fish in Japan is not just about the flavours; it's also about the rituals and etiquette that accompany each dish. Learning and respecting these customs can enhance your culinary adventure and deepen your appreciation for the country's rich gastronomic heritage.
Engage with the local culture, savour each bite, and embrace the deep connection between Japan's people and the ocean that sustains them. Happy eating!
Article courtesy : OMAKASE Tour https://omakase-tour.com/