Manners Matter – Eating Japanese Food the Proper Way
"郷に入れば郷に従え": (Go ni ireba, go ni shitagae) a Japanese proverb which literally means, "When entering the village, obey the village". Basically, the Japanese way of saying "When in Rome, do as the Romans". So, maybe you have already guessed what this article will be about. Yes, young foreigner who has chosen to live in Japan, we must learn how to eat Japanese food the proper way.
If you are asking, why do I need to know this, I have learned table manners since my childhood days. Well, dear reader, since etiquette and serenity are an integral part of Japanese culture, learning these basic things could help you not look like a fool in front of your Japanese friends, colleagues, or clients.
The Proper Way To Eat Sushi
The signature dish of Japan. When you venture to eat at one of the many sushi restaurants in Japan, especially high-class ones, you will need to know these manners.
2 Ways to Eat Your Sushi
You can eat the sushi with chopsticks by flipping it sideways, lifting it, and dipping it in soy sauce. You can also eat it with your hands by holding it between your thumb and two index fingers, dipping it in soy sauce and raising it to your mouth.
How To Eat Shabu-Shabu
Shabu-shabu is the best dish to eat during winter in Japan. It is a hotpot dish with a lot of vegetables and meat in konbu dashi (stock made from kelp). Its name, shabu-shabu comes from the sound of chopsticks when stirring the meat in the pot.
1. What You Need
First of all, you need a boiling pot of konbu dashi. Then you will need a large amount of sliced pork and vegetables to boil. Be sure to have some bowls of sesame seed and ponzu sauce.
If you had visited a shabu-shabu restaurant in Japan before, maybe you would have seen a sieve-like long spoon. It is called an “akutori” in Japanese, which is used to skim the fat that boils from the top of the broth. Don’t forget to skim them off to keep its flavor fresh.
The other thing is “toribashi”; the word “tori” comes from “toru” which means “take”, and “bashi” means chopsticks in Japanese. So, it is used to place the vegetables and meat in the pot.
2. What Not to Do
Don’t leave the meat in the pot too long. Don't drink the konbu dashi broth straight.
How To Eat Sukiyaki
The main differences between sukiyaki and shabu-shabu are the meat and broth. In sukiyaki, they usually use beef and similar vegetables but boil them in a broth of sake, sugar, and soy sauce. Restaurants usually use Chinese cabbage, shiitake, enoki mushrooms, grilled tofu, and onions as ingredients. If you visit sukiyaki restaurants in Japan, the waitress will make it at your table and serve it to you. The important thing that you should know to eat sukiyaki is do not use your own chopsticks to take some meat or vegetables in the pot. Please use the “toribashi”!
Keep Your Chopsticks Laying Down
At last, there is one table manner that you should not forget in Japan. Please do not stick your chopsticks upright in the rice or any food! They usually stick the chopsticks upright when they mourn the dead.
In conclusion, I hope I haven't discouraged you from loving Japan. Japanese table manners may seem unique and mysterious to a non-Japanese, but the more you know, the more admiration you will receive. Having your friends tell you, "You've become Japanese!" will be a reward in and of itself. So next time you have a meal, try enjoying it the Japanese way.