Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sushi Rules

I've slacked off on my Sushi Enforcement Task Force duties and failed to post much about sushi etiquette and traditions, which were part of the original raison d'etre for this blog.

I was reminded of this over the weekend, when I met up with some new friends for brunch and met one of their friends, a funny, smart (white) gal named Brooke who had lived in Japan for several years.
I'm always impressed by Caucasians who live in Japan and adapt to a language and culture that can be so 180 degrees different from the American way of thinking and living.

Anyway, Brooke shared some entertaining tales of living in Tokyo, and how she did observe chefs at some Japanese eateries publicly scold hakujin (foreigner) diners who "ruined" their food by doing things like:
* Ordering udon to go.
This is a HUGE no-no among purists: Noodle soups are meant to be consumed when the broth is hot and the noodles fresh; any time spent in transport causes the noodles to stretch and even disintegrate, and the broth flavor can be affected.
* Dousing katsu (breaded pork cutlet) with tonkatsu sauce, a yummy condiment that blends ketchup and Worcestershire Sauce.
You're supposed to put the sauce on the side and dip bites of tonkatsu in it.
* Drowning your nigiri sushi in soy sauce, rice-side down.
First of all, you're not supposed to doctor a piece of sushi handed to you from a sushi chef at all; you're supposed to trust that the chef carefully crafted this morsel and seasoned it perfectly - the concept of "omakase."
Of course, most places, even in Japan, will offer up the little plates for pouring a bit of soy sauce and maybe an extra dab of wasabi for you to lightly dip your nigiri - but FISH-SIDE DOWN.
The vinegar-ed sushi rice doesn't need to be further overwhelmed with soy sauce, and of course, this also causes the perfect little bundle of food to crumble.

To be honest, I've slacked off a bit on sharing "The Rules" like this because I've found some other excellent "sushi guides" on the web that do a good job:

* Sushifaq.com: This is an awesome site, with all sorts of credible info, covering everything from tips for beginners to this "etiquette" page, which covers a lot, including the aforementioned dipping nigiri in shoyu.

* Orange County Register Food Editor Cathy Thomas' well-researched and articulated guide to enjoying sushi.
Cathy is one of my idols, a true food expert who has traveled the world and tried all sorts of cuisine; knows the best markets in Asia and how to cook authentic dishes; loves to teach others; and is simply charming, warm, embracing and still curious - not at all a snobby, know-it-all gourmand.

* Eatsushi.com. There's an interesting article on sushi history (though I'm not sure about its source and can't tell how credible the information is), and this site boasts a sushi bar locator that is robust (lists places across the country, and is quite thorough in its Orange County listing), though not necessarily discriminating. It's a Yellow Pages-style directory with location info on each place, but no reviews or details.

Meanwhile, I learned there's a longtime authentic sushi bar right near my home that is so good that sushi chefs go there in their off hours! I'll be checking out Echizen in the coming week with my new dining friends mentioned above.
You'll see from Yelpers' reports that Echizen was recommended by the owner-chef of my new favorite south-county place, Wazen, and I was especially tickled by Florabelle's review that confirmed this is the type of place where Japanese Food Rules are enforced.
Needless to say, I'm very excited about visiting Echizen. Stay tuned for my report, and/or if you've been already, let me know your thoughts.


  1. When I was a kid my parents took me to a soumen/soba-ya in Japan and when I soaked a good portion of my soumen in the otsuyu a group of old men sitting next to us gave me the death stare. Being only a kid, they proceeded to show me the correct way to eat soumen, which is to only dip a third (sanbun no ichi) of the noodles in the otsuyu then slurp it up!

    Shhh...don't tell them but I still soak 100 percent if I eat it at home. haha...i need more flavor!

  2. Công ty vận tải uy tín chuyên nhận vận chuyển hàng hóa nội địa tốt nhất hiện nay. Hãy đến với chúng tôi, sàn giao dịch vận tải hàng hóa bạn sẽ được tận hưởng những dịch vụ vận chuyển tốt nhất hiện nay. Có thể kể đến dịch vụ vận chuyển bắc trung nam, vận chuyển hàng đông lạnh, vận chuyển hàng tươi sống, vận chuyển hàng hóa TPHCM, chuyển hàng đi Hà Nội giá rẻ... Và còn rất nhiều dịch vụ đang chờ đón bạn. Nếu như bạn có thắc mắc hay cần sử dụng hãy liên hệ với chúng tôi nhé.