So you’ve decided to eat some sushi. You head to your local sushi joint, sit down at the counter, place your order, and before you know it you’re being handed piece after piece of gleaming nigiri (thin slices of raw fish pressed over rice, as opposed to maki rolls). Unfortunately, you’re probably eating it wrong.
Soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger are common sushi accompaniments, but they’re not all supposed to be eaten in one bite along with the sushi. Most good sushi chefs already put a small amount of wasabi under the fish, and piling wasabi onto a fresh piece of fish is like dunking a dry-aged ribeye into ketchup.
But what’s the right way to eat a piece of nigiri sushi? It’s actually a lot easier than most people make it out to be. Start by pouring a small amount of soy sauce into your dish. Pick the sushi up with your thumb and middle finger (no need for chopsticks). Then, flip it upside down and dip it in the soy sauce fish-side-down, avoiding the rice (dipping the rice in soy sauce will absorb too much soy and throw off the rice-vinegar balance that chefs work hard to master). Finally, pop the whole thing in your mouth; it’s a big bite, but you can handle it!
So why, you may be asking, are the wasabi and ginger there at all if there’s no need to use them? Well, if you want to place a small amount of wasabi on the sushi (especially if it’s a roll), you’re allowed to, but don’t use too much (you want to taste the fish, after all!). And as for the ginger (called gari), it’s there as a palate cleanser to nibble in between pieces of sushi.