If you’ve ever been to a sushi restaurant, you might have noticed the beautiful pink flower-shaped food and the dab of bright green on the plate. These things are usually off to the side and not included as part of the food.
Someone entirely new to Japanese cuisine might not know what these things are. However, if you have experience eating at a Japanese restaurant, you can tell. The pink food is ginger and the green paste is the famous spicy wasabi.
But why are wasabi and ginger served with sushi at all? How are they supposed to be eaten?
We’ll be covering a little bit of wasabi and ginger etiquette in this quick guide. Read to the end to learn more about how to use these additions to your plate.
Quick Answer: Why are Wasabi and Ginger Served with Sushi?
The wasabi and the ginger each have their own unique purposes on your plate. Wasabi can be used to add some heat to the meal, while the ginger should be used to cleanse your palate.
Please note, however, that sushi is generally not vegan. It is possible to make your own vegan sushi, but traditionally, even vegetable sushi contains some fish flakes in it.
How to Properly Use the Wasabi and Ginger
In fancy traditional Japanese restaurants, there’s a lot of etiquette involved in how you eat your meal. Nowhere is this more apparent than with sushi, which is both made and eaten with an immense amount of purpose.
Even that wasabi and ginger on the plate must be eaten correctly. We’ll explain in a little more detail what you should do with either one.
Unlike ginger, the wasabi is actually intended for use with the sushi. If you’d like to add wasabi the traditional way, you would simply put a tiny piece on either side of the sushi.
Dabbing a small amount on both sides of the sushi makes sure the flavor is balanced all-around, just as the chef intended.
The ginger is not intended for use with the sushi. Putting it on top of the sushi, like some do, is actually insulting to the chef.
Making sushi is an art that’s taken very seriously in Japan. Many sushi chefs study for years, if not decades, to make the perfect sushi. If you’re eating at a high-end sushi restaurant, the chef will add as much ginger to the food as deemed appropriate.
When you add your own ginger, it is as if you are claiming you know more than a sushi chef that has studied the cuisine intensively.
So how do you use the ginger? It’s a palate cleanser that’s meant to be eaten in between different types of sushi so the flavors don’t mingle.
In between eating different kinds, simply lay a piece of ginger on your tongue and eat it to clear away any lingering tastes.
Whether you’re hoping to provide advice to friends eating sushi or apply traditional concepts to your own vegan sushi, we hope this article gave you some valuable information about etiquette. Following the tips in this post will help you ensure you pay adequate respect to the chef and the tradition next time sushi is on the menu.
If you’re curious about mixing wasabi and soy sauce, take a look at our post on why doing so is actually considered rude.