Eating Japanese Meal the Japanese Way
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Published by TOP4 Team
Beginning your meal
It’s customary to begin your Japanese meal with the phrase "itadakimasu", which literally means "to thankfully receive food". Yet, it more closely resembles the meaning of "bon appetit!"
You don’t need to use a spoon when eating soup served in a small bowl, such as miso soup, which is typically served in the beginning of most Japanese meals. You may bring the bowl close to your mouth and drink it. Meanwhile, for soup served in larger bowls — often containing noodles like ramen, soba and udon — use the spoon provided for the broth. Slurp away when eating the noodles, and don't forget to use your chopsticks to get the noodles into your mouth.
Tempura (battered, deep fried seafood and veggies) is typically served with either salt, or a tempura dipping sauce (“tsuyu”). When tsuyu is available, it’s usually served with a small plate of grated daikon radish and freshly grated ginger. Just add the daikon and ginger into tsuyu prior to dipping your tempura to eat. If salt is served with the tempura, just dip the tempura into the salt or sprinkle some salt over the tempura.
Ending your meal
Say "gochisou-sama" when you’re thankful for the delicious meal, or simply when you’re done with your meal.
Using your hand to catch falling food
This practice may seem polite, eliminating any spills or stains on the table top or your clothing, but should be avoided when eating a Japanese meal.
Using your teeth to bite food in half
Avoid using your teeth to tear food into smaller pieces and always try to eat things in one bite. Cover your mouth with your hand when chewing big pieces of food.
Mixing wasabi with soy sauce
You should instead place a small amount of wasabi directly on the piece of sashimi, then dip the fish into the soy sauce.
Inverting the lid of your bowl
The proper cue for having finished eating is to replace the lid on top of your bowl, just as it looked when brought to the table.
Placing clam shells in the bowl’s lid or on a separate plate
Just leave the shell inside the bowl it was served in.
Holding your chopsticks before picking up your bowl
You should first pick up the bowl or vessel you’ll eat from before picking up your chopsticks. When changing bowls, put down your chopsticks first, then change bowls. You should only pick up your chopsticks again after you’ve picked up the second bowl.
Hovering or touching food without taking it
Both practices are considered bad manners. You should rather pause to eat some rice between side dishes.
Resting your chopsticks across the top of your bowl
If you want to put your chopsticks down, do it on a chopstick rest. If none are available, you may use the chopsticks’ wrapper. If a wrapper isn’t available, place your chopsticks on the side of a tray or other similar item on the table.
Using the opposite end of chopsticks to take food from a communal plate
The backsides of the chopsticks aren’t very clean and shouldn’t be used to pick up food. The proper thing to do is to ask a staff for an extra pair of chopsticks or say in a polite manner, “jika bashi de shitsurei shimasu” (excuse me for using my own chopsticks), and take food using your chopsticks.
Raising your food above your mouth
Your mouth is the highest level your chopsticks may reach.
Passing food from one set of chopsticks to another
If you want to share your food to someone else dining with you, just move the food from plate to plate instead of having others use their chopsticks to take it from within your chopsticks.
Now that you know the do’s and don’ts, it’s time for you to apply what you learned. Visit the top Japanese restaurants in NSW.