The most delicious way to eat sushi at restaurants where the sushi chef applies Nikiri (soy sauce perfectly evaporated with sake) for you is just the way it was prepared. However, at restaurants where sauce is not applied for you, the sushi is eaten by dipping it in soy sauce. The soy sauce used for dipping is provided for you at the counter or table. Many restaurants use the same evaporation formula for the dipping soy sauce.
Soy sauce for dipping is put into a small dish for use, but don’t put in too much. It depends on the depth of the small dish, but the diameter of the circle of soy sauce after being poured should be approximately 25mm.
When dipping sushi into the soy sauce, turning it upside down (although it will be somewhat tilted) and dipping the topping seems to be the most common method. If you keep the topping on the bottom when you put the sushi in your mouth, the flavors of the soy sauce and the fish are in complete harmony and the delicious taste spreads through your mouth. There is also an opinion that turning the sushi upside down for dipping is unacceptable practice. There are also some with the opinion that whether to eat with your hands or chopsticks depends on the situation.
Make sure not to get any soy sauce on the Shari (vinegar rice). You don’t want to add unnecessary saltiness to the Shari, which has already been seasoned. It would be a terrible waste to cancel out the exquisite balance of the topping, wasabi and Shari with the saltiness of soy sauce.
Large fish that are caught are always kept and transported on their side with their heads facing left from the port to the market and to the restaurant where they are served. The part of the fish facing down when in this position is called “Shitami” or the “bottom body” and the part facing up is called “Uwami” or the top body. The Uwami costs more than Shitami. This is because the Shitami takes on the weight of the Uwami, reducing the freshness and possibly causing cracks in the body (cracking occurs on the edges of the muscles).
This mostly applies to Pacific bluefin tuna (tuna that is consumed without any freezing after being caught). At any rate, since this fish costs hundreds of dollars per kilogram, a full-grown fish may be worth more than a luxury sports car. Therefore, from the time they make their catch, the fishermen work quickly, which affects all aspects of the quality. Most of all, this work affects the price. A Pacific bluefin is never placed directly on the deck of the ship. If a fish weighing 100 kg or more is set directly on the hard deck, its own weight would cause injury to its surface. Naturally, any damage or injury to the fish reduces the price. Instead, each fish is laid on a soft, spongy mat to protect its skin surface. Next, the blood is drained, the spinal cord nerves are destroyed and the fish is submerged in ice water. It might be easier to understand if you imagine handling a luxury vehicle, like a Ferrari, rather than a tuna fish.
Shari (vinegared rice or sushi rice) used for making sushi is kept in a rice tub and normally placed by the hand the chef uses to shape the rice. The chef places his shaping hand in the tub and takes out several hundred grains of rice. It is said that a skilled chef can consistently grab the same number of grains with an error of only a few grains, every time. This is the result of many years of training.
If the chef lacks such training, they may take too much shari and you’ll see them return some to the rice tub. This is called “sute-shari (捨てシャリ)” or “discarded shari”. This sute-shari is not a very appealing sight. But the reality is that even the world-famous Jiro* can be seen discarding shari in this way.
*Jiro Ono is the owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a sushi restaurant in Ginza that has earned the status of three Michelin stars for 12 consecutive years.
There is a part on the tuna belly called “Sunazuri (gizzards)” or “Zuri” . Normally “Jabara,” with the diagonal white lines is the king of tuna, but the fatty tuna is spoiled if the white lines are left in your mouth. Also, on the dorsal side there is a part that produces chutoro called wakaremi. This part is also complex with hard, white lines throughout that we want to avoid eating. Instead, the knife cuts along those lines, gently removing the fish meat from them, making “Hagashi.” If the chef is not skilled, this cut will take time and extra meat is left behind. This is delicate work, making for a delicious and satisfying experience.