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2. CHOOSE YOUR BEVERAGE
The waiter will probably bring you an oshibori (hot towel for wiping your hands and face) before asking what you would like to drink. Your first impulse might be to go for a Coke or a mineral water, but you?ve come this far, so why not try to be authentic? We recommend one of these three options:
Sake (Japanese Rice Wine): Made from fermented rice, sake is served warm and is drunk before eating, not during or after. Some would say that the drink is obligatory, while others would say it is redundant because (like the sushi) it is made from rice. Drinking sake during the meal is certainly akin to ordering bread with a sandwich. But it?s tradition, so cope. Remember that the waiter will continue to fill an empty cup, so flip it over when you?re done. And yes, it is acceptable to have sake with sashimi (which doesn?t have rice).
Ocha(Green Tea): Green tea is served throughout the meal. It removes aftertastes and freshens the mouth for the next serving. Don?t be miffed by the color; the flavor is actually quite mild.
Beer: Sapporo, Kirin, or Asahi. You?ll have to try them on your own.
3. EAT THE SUSHI CORRECTLY
So you're sitting at the table, and the waiter gives you your order along with some green paste, some thinly-sliced pink stuff, and a bottle of dark mysterious liquid. What is all this stuff?
Soy Sauce: The bottle of dark mysterious liquid, soy sauce, is essential to eating sushi. However, the sushi should not be soaked in soy sauce. The rice will fall apart, and the soy is meant to complement, not overwhelm, the flavor of the sushi. With your sushi will be a small dish where you can pour the soy sauce and use it for dipping. Pour as much as you think you will need, keeping in mind you can always add more. It is poor form to fill the dish like a wading pool.
Wasabi (Japanese Horseradish): The green paste. Grown only in Japan, finely-grated wasabi is pungent and guaranteed to clear your sinuses. Because fresh wasabi is very expensive, cheaper powder and paste alternatives are often used. Many people mix some wasabi into their soy sauce, but this is only proper with sashimi and maki sushi. Even though wasabi is given for nigiri sushi, it is not supposed to be used. This really only holds true at the bar; feel free to use wasabi to suit your own tastes out of the chef?s view. The most important thing to know about wasabi is that it is VERY HOT and VERY SPICY. Only use a tiny, tiny dab.
Gari (Pickled Ginger Root): The thinly-sliced pink stuff. Used to freshen the mouth between bites of sushi, pickled ginger root comes in numerous small and incredibly thin slices. It is eaten with chopsticks (hashi) and essential for cleansing your palate between eating different types of sushi.
First, place some wasabi in the soy dish. Be moderate; you are paying for the taste of the fish or topping, not the taste of the wasabi. Then it?s time to move on to the sushi. While there is no specific order for eating the various kinds of sushi, the maki should be eaten first, since the crispness of the seaweed does not last long after touching the damp rice. Before the nigiri sushi is eaten, the soy dish should be changed. Unlike maki sushi and sashimi (which require chopsticks), nigiri sushi should be eaten with the hands. Grip the sushi from the top, then flip it so that the rice is on top. Dip only the topping into the soy sauce, and always place the sushi in the mouth so that the topping meets the tongue first. Most of all, remember that you?re not eating hot dogs; sushi is far more expensive, and should be savored as a delicacy.
Lots of people like to eat of each other?s plates when experiencing death by sushi. When you pick something up from a friend?s dish, make sure to turn the chopsticks around and use the backend, not the end you ate from.
A note on chopsticks: even if you are uncoordinated, you should try to use them. A fork and knife will seldom be found at a sushi bar, and even if they are, using them is akin to saying that the meat is tough. Do you want to insult the chef? Go with your hands if you have to. Some restaurants may have you finish the meal with a bowl of miso soup, rather than serving it at the beginning of your dining experience.
So now you?re all set. Not only are can you begin enjoying a classic sushi meal, but you can make fun of the heathens that are still sushi-impaired.
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