Six mistakes people make when eating sushi, according to a Japanese chef

BFMTV.com met Shunei Kimura, chef of the starred Parisian restaurant Sushi Shunei, who explained to us some Japanese habits in front of a sushi platter.

It is to Japanese gastronomy what the burger is to American cuisine: sushi, a dish that is both emblematic of its country of origin and so popular that it has gone far beyond its borders. But unlike the sandwich made in USAthis refined dish is consumed according to quasi-ritual codes, which were not always exported at the same time as it.

Even in France, the European country most fond of sushi, amateurs tend to adapt these thin slices of raw fish placed on a ball of sticky rice to their sauce. Sometimes without knowing that Japanese habits can be very different.

“You have to know about Japanese cuisine before coming here!”, jokes Shunei Kimura, chef of the Michelin-starred restaurant Sushi Shunei, in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. Behind the counter of his establishment, where he prepares his sushi every evening in front of his customers, he reviews some of the Japanese habits that have been lost on the road to France.

• The “real” wasabi

The green, pungent paste you’re used to eating with your sushi may not be wasabi as you thought. Often, this Asian plant is replaced by another condiment.

“Wasabi powder? It’s horseradish!”, explains Shunei Kimura. To prepare his, he grates a wasabi sprout against a sharkskin utensil. He obtains a paste of which he himself applies a very small dose on a slice of raw tuna, before placing it on a ball of rice. And it’s not up to the one holding the chopsticks to add a thick dab of “wasabi”.

Shunei Kimura preparing wasabi
Shunei Kimura preparing wasabi © BFMTV

• The use of ginger

Ginger leaves, traditionally placed in small heaps on sushi platters, are not meant to be eaten at the same time as the sushi. They serve, on the contrary, to convey the taste of one before tasting the other.

“Ginger is not like salad”, explains the chef. “We eat it after eating a piece of sushi, to clean the mouth.”

• The sauce: sweet or salty?

In the merciless war between lovers of sweet or salty soy sauce, Shunei Kimura opposes a compromise: it all depends on the fish. For his tuna, salmon or shrimp sushi, he will apply a salty sauce (himself, with a brush). But it is certainly not up to the person who eats the sushi to generously dip his “nigiri” in a cup of sauce.

Eel sushi, the only one served with a sweet sauce
Eel sushi, the only one served with a sweet sauce © BFMTV

On the other hand, for his eel sushi, he will adapt the sauce to give it a sweet note. And to specify the composition of its sauces:

“It’s not just soy sauce. There’s soy sauce, sake, mirin (a very mild sake, editor’s note). For eel, it’s soy sauce, sake, mirin, and a little sugar.”

• The art and the wand

Better a sushi well held with the fingers than a sushi knocked over by shaking chopsticks. If their use seems dangerous to you, it is quite acceptable to go with your hand. The fork, meanwhile, remains a sacrilege: “there is none here”, sweeps Shunei Kimura.

Another habit that surprised the chef: that of tasting his sushi several times. A sushi is in one bite.

Those who would like to adopt Japanese habits to enjoy their sushi now have a few cards in hand.

The six classic mistakes, according to chef Shunei Kimura

1. Eat ginger WITH your sushi.
2. Wasabi does not go into the sauce.
3. You don’t dip the sushi in the sauce
4. We eat with our fingers, or with chopsticks in a very specific way.
5. Sushi should be eaten in one bite
6. The sweet sauce is only to go with the eel

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