Sushi and Sashimi

Though it’s an oversimplication, the easiest way to remember the differences between sushi and sashimi is to recall that sashimi is generally sliced, raw fish. Sushi is prepared with sticky, vinegar-enhanced white rice. While some Americans are squeamish about eating raw fish, we’ve found the biggest problem is knowing when to stop.

As always, a few guidelines will enhance your sushi-eating experience:

  • Sushi is finger food. Yes, you read that right. You can safely ditch your chopsticks and pick up the sushi with your hands. Each piece is generally consumed in a single bite (if you’ve ever tried to break your sushi down into several bites, you know why). Before your meal is served, you will be offered an oshibari (hot or cool towel, depending on the season) to clean your hands.
  • While the rice is designed to stick together, it’s wise to dip the fish, not the rice in the soy sauce. The absorbent quality of the rice means the soy will overwhelm the delicate, sweet flavor of the rice.
  • In fact, use soy sauce sparingly. Its strong flavor can detract from the more subtle flavors of fish and other ingredients in the dish.
  • In American sushi restaurants, it’s traditional to mix wasabi with soy sauce. The Japanese method involves asking the sushi chef to add extra wasabi to the sushi. With sashimi, it’s fine to mix the wasabi with the soy sauce. Confused? Well, you won’t be thrown in jail for breaking wasabi rules.
  • Sushi chefs prepare and serve sushi. The waitstaff at the restaurant will handle beverages, additional non-sushi dishes, extra napkins, and any other needs you encounter. However, when it comes time to ask for the bill, you inform the sushi chef as he’s tracked your consumption. The actual financial transaction will be handled by the waitstaff.
  • If you’re sharing sushi, flip your chopsticks and pick up pieces with the end that hasn’t been in your mouth.
  • Ginger is considered a palate cleanser, not a condiment.