How to eat sushi (properly like a pro)

How to eat sushi (properly like a pro)

Do you know how to eat sushi (properly like a pro)? Sushi is so tasty but I know it could be intimidating. I’ll teach you how to eat sushi (properly like a pro) so that you can eat sushi with confidence. 

How to eat sushi (properly like a pro)

how to eat sushi properly like a pro

Despite sushi popularity, people still don’t seem to know sushi ingredients and how to eat sushi (properly like a pro). Ignore all the advice online – because many of them are wrong (I’m a native Japanese who grew up in Japan!). If you want to know how to enjoy sushi at the sushi bar is here. Let’s learn how to eat sushi (properly like a pro) here!

What’s sushi?

Before you learn how to eat sushi, you should know about sushi. Sushi is deep. Sushi is art. Very few components – so everything will show. You can’t make a mistake. That’s why sushi chefs put lots of thoughts and techniques into it. 

For starters, sushi doesn’t always mean raw fish. Rather, it’s that raw fish (sashimi in Japanese) is the most popular ingredient in sushi.

The term sushi refers to foods that use a type of rice seasoned with vinegar and are garnished with raw fish or vegetables. You’ll learn more about sushi ingredients here.


Fish must be fresh and carefully prepared to maximize the flavors of the ingredients. The serving order is important. You can’t crash bold and subtle fish right next to each other. The flavors must be progressed – from light to bold in order to enjoy every ingredient.


Rice must have a quality, cooked and seasoned properly, and shaped properly. The temperature must be “hitohada” (human skin temperature in Japanese literally – actually about 30 degrees, which is a room temperature technically) so that you can keep fish cold/hot without destruction.

Sushi rice should NEVER be WARM – never!

When I tried a famous sushi spot in CA, where is known for “warm” rice – I spit it out because it was disgusting! Why don’t you put the fish in the oven instead of a fridge? I’ll get a bowl of steamed rice if I want warm rice! That’s not authentic Japanese sushi. I should say it’s almost an insult to call it “sushi”. You NEVER find “warm” rice at proper sushi bars in Japan, NEVER.

If the rice temperature was too hot, it’ll affect the cold fish slice. If the rice was too cold, it won’t crumble well in your mouth and ruin the rice flavor.

You can’t make it too sour nor sweet to enhance the flavor of fish. If the rice was held too light, it’ll stick to your hand. If the rice is held too hard, it won’t crumble in your mouth.


Too much wasabi or sauces will mask the flavor of fish. Good quality seaweed makes a big difference in the outcome. 

Everything must cooperate together. When you eat sushi, you enjoy the flavor of fish, the flavor of soy sauce, the flavor and spiciness of wasabi, and the flavor and texture of rice. All at a time. To make it happen, sushi chefs must be well trained. It’s not easy to do it. 

How to eat sushi (properly like a pro)

To enjoy sushi to the maximum, you must learn how to apply wasabi and soy sauce properly. This is something most people don’t do right. Sushi chefs would have a flaw on their faces when they see you doing it. If you do this right, you can impress your sushi chef and gain respect greatly. 

** NEVER mix your wasabi with soy sauce **

NO, NO, NO, on putting wasabi into soy sauce like the picture! It may not get you kicked out, but the chef is always watching to see if you know how to behave. 

Everything matters. So, you should never mix wasabi with soy sauce. You want to enjoy the sweetness of fish, sweet and tangy rice that crumbles in your mouth (not in the soy sauce), kick of wasabi, and mild soy sauce flavor – all once in your mouth. That’s how you truly enjoy sushi.

1. If you want extra wasabi, dab a small piece of wasabi on the middle of fish

Take a bit of wasabi with chopsticks, then put it like the picture (but that’s a bit too much). Remember, there’s already wasabi applied on top of sushi rice. Control the amount of wasabi. It’s very important to put wasabi in the middle of fish, not the end side. Because you want to dip the only ⅓ of fish into soy sauce, not drench your sushi into soy sauce. Wasabi should NEVER touch the soy sauce. Also, it’s important to put wasabi sticks to fish well. In that way, wasabi won’t drop into soy sauce.

How to apply wasabi - how to eat sushi properly
How to apply wasabi on sashimi/sushi

2. Tilt the sushi, fish-down, to apply only a hint of soy sauce

Put soy sauce only on fish, not the rice. If you do, you’d lose your rice into soy sauce. The reason why you put wasabi in the middle of fish is for you to be able to dip the only ⅓ of the fish and to prevent wasabi from touching soy sauce.

3. Place the sushi on your tongue face-down and eat!

Do you need to eat the sushi piece all in one bite? No! A good sushi chef would make it a perfect bite-size. But not all the time. Some fish would get cut skinny and long – impossible for one bite. 2 bites are perfectly fine, trust me. Who said it had to be one bite! Don’t listen to fools who know little about sushi!

Eat with hands or chopsticks?

Yes, you should eat sushi with your hands. It’s totally fine. You can also use chopsticks, too. No rule on the sushi. When you go to a traditional Japanese restaurant, they give you a wet towel (“oshibori”) to wipe your hands so you can continue to eat it with your hands.

On the other hand, you should use chopsticks when you eat “sashimi” (a piece of fish), never with your hands.

What are people supposed to do with ginger and wasabi?

Wasabi and ginger were originally used to help your stomach kill off potential bacteria. Now wasabi has become a flavor enhancer. You’re supposed to eat ginger as a palate cleanser – you eat ginger every time you had a piece of sushi so that you can have a clean palate for the next sushi. It’s not there like banchan (pickles) as condiments.

More Resources:

Secrets you want to know about eating at the sushi bar
Savor Japan

Conclusion: NEVER mix wasabi with the soy sauce - at least at the sushi bar! You’ll impress your sushi chef. Now you know how to eat sushi properly and how to enjoy sushi more.  

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