5 Things You May Not Know About Sushi

by adragast

Everyone knows sushi but there are actually a lot of misconceptions about it. Here are 5 things you may not know about Sushi.

When people are ask about Japanese food, most of them immediately think about sushi. A bit like the Italian pizza, Norwegian salmon or Spanish paella. However, this does not mean people really know sushi. There are many misconceptions about it and you may be surprised by these 5 simple facts about sushi.

Photo author: Nesnad, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

1. Sushi Is Not the Most Common Dish in Japan

Japanese curry

No, sushi is not the most common dish in Japan, far from it. It is not even that common to find Japanese people who have sushi more than a couple of times every month.

So what do Japanese people eat? A lot of things! Generally a "main dish" (called "okazu") accompanied with rice and miso soup (called "miso shiru"). The "main dish" can be fried fish, fried pork, curry-based stew (cf picture), chicken skewers, etc... The Japanese cuisine is very varied.

Photo author: Hidehiko H, reproduced here with his kind permission

2. Sushi Does Not Necessarily Include Raw Fish

One of the main "topping" of sushi is raw fish. However, there are many types of sushi which do not include raw fish. The most common one is "tamago" or "gyoku" (with omelette) and others include cucumber, condiment, etc...

Actually, meat sushi are more and more popular, especially outside Japan (with chicken, beef, etc...).

Sushi: Taste and Techniques

An excellent book about sushi that I can recommend.

View on Amazon

Sushi Chef Sushi Making Kit

To make your own sushi at home. I haven't tried it myself but it is an absolute best-seller at Amazon so worth checking.

View on Amazon

3. Only the Fish Should Be Dipped in the Soya Sauce

This is a tricky one but the sushi etiquette requires you to dip the fish (or topping) of the sushi in the soya sauce, not the rice. Why not? First, the rice would absorb the soya sauce and make the sushi too salty. Also, this may leave some rice grains to go to the soya sauce.

However, as this is not so easy to do (with chopsticks, at least), it is ok to dip the rice part of the sushi in the soya sauce, as long as you don't "bath" the sushi in it. 

4. Never Exchange Food with Chopsticks

ChopsticksYou may want to give your friend/child/spouse a sushi bit but if so then take it with your chopsticks and set it on the other person's plate. You should never transfer food (sushi or not) from chopsticks to chopsticks.

This has to do with Japanese funeral rites and how bones are transferred from chopsticks to chopsticks.


Image courtesy of smokedsalmon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


5. Not Everyone in Japan Knows How to Make Sushi

My wife is Japanese and I cannot tell how often people ask her if she can make sushi. It would be the same as asking a French person if he can bake a baguette or a German person if he can make sausages. 

Also, remember the first point of this article. It is not that common to eat sushi in Japan and it is so easy to find everywhere that there is little incentive for Japanese people to learn how to make sushi.

Further Reading

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you want to know more about the Japanese cuisine in general, please have a look at this article. Otherwise, I have written a cute article about Japanese expressions you have never heard about before.

Updated: 03/24/2013, adragast
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cmoneyspinner on 06/04/2013

Good food is good food! :)

adragast on 06/04/2013

cmoneyspinner: I would say fried fish (yakizakana) is quite common and yes tempura and other deep fried dishes (like karaage) are common too.

Mira and EliasZanetti: Thanks for your kind comment

LiamBean and sheilamarie: I actually did not know about Haggis. I checked it out and it indeed looks scarier than sushi

katiem2 : I like to eat with chopsticks too but I am a bit afraid to do so in Japan as I always feel judged on my "chopsticks skills".

cmoneyspinner on 06/03/2013

Sushi isn't the most common dish in Japan? Well you sure cleared that up for me. Is it tempura?

Mira on 05/07/2013

Great article! I thought sushi and sashimi were all about raw fish. Thank you for this wonderful post!

EliasZanetti on 03/28/2013

I also thought that sushi was all about raw fish! Consequently, I was quite hesitant till now to try and taste it!
Thanks for this post, pretty useful!

sheilamarie on 03/26/2013

It's always good to learn a little more about something we know just a little about. And I'm glad Liam doesn't make haggis, too. It's a lot scarier than sushi.

LiamBean on 03/25/2013

Ha! I'm Scots/Irish and I don't know how to make haggis. For this I am eternally grateful.

Loved the article. Voted up!

katiem2 on 03/25/2013

I had a big Ah Ha moment about the exchange of chop sticks, I instantly thought of the many occasions when people us them as serving utensils as well as eating from them. I love eating with chopsticks and sushi thanks for the tips.:)K

adragast on 03/25/2013

To BrendaReeves: thanks, I am glad you liked this article and I am fond of Japanese curry. It tastes so good...
To Dustytoes: this is why I wrote this article! I know many people who think sushi equal raw fish but it is not the case. Raw fish for Japanese people is "sashimi". "sushi" is more the association vinegar and rice (in different forms but you need to have rice and fish is not mandatory).

dustytoes on 03/25/2013

I thought all sushi was just raw fish in one form or another. I recently visited a Japanese restaurant with a sushi bar ? but passed on any of it. I may give it a try one day.

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