Japanese sushi chefs weighs in on customers who practice “wasabi joyu”.

Have you ever mixed a bit of wasabi into your soy sauce and dipped your sushi into it? If you have, you’ve committed a culinary taboo that’s frowned upon in the dining world, according to news shared widely in Japan recently.

Sushi Sasaya Korin, a sushi restaurant in Kyoto’s Pontocho district, is one such establishment that believes wasabi should not be mixed with soy sauce, and Itamae Sushi Edo in Tokyo’s upmarket Minato Ward also holds the same opinion.

The reason why the practice is discouraged is because dissolving wasabi in soy sauce is said to not only sully the soy sauce, but also diminish the spiciness and aroma of the wasabi.

Mixing wasabi with soy sauce is known as “wasabi joyu“, an amalgamation of the words “wasabi” and “shoyu” the Japanese word for soy sauce. According to Sushi Sasaya Korin, wasabi joyu is a violation of etiquette not only when it comes to sushi but all Japanese food in general as the two should always be enjoyed separately.

Itamae Sushi Edo believes wasabi should be applied directly to the fish itself, especially in the case of fatty fish like chuutoro (medium fatty tuna) and ootoro (pink fatty tuna), as the wasabi helps to neutralise the fat, which makes it taste even more delicious.

A recent survey of 15,558 diners found that 6,347 people (40.8 percent) said they always add wasabi to the fish on their sushi and never make wasabi joyu. However, 4,317 people (27.75 percent) said they mix wasabi in with their soy sauce and 4,894 people (31.46 percent) said they do it depending on the situation, making the practice common with over half of the respondents.

▼ Some diners don’t feel so bad mixing wasabi with soy sauce when eating takeaway sushi in the privacy of their own homes.

News of wasabi joyu being a breach of etiquette caused a stir online in Japan, with people leaving comments like:

“Really? I didn’t know about this rule!”
“I think mixing is becoming more common. Etiquette should change with the times to reflect current trends.”
“Good sushi restaurants put wasabi inside the sushi if it’s necessary so you shouldn’t have to add any more yourself.”
“Most people go to cheap sushi conveyor belt chain restaurants these days so they just eat whatever way they like.”
“This is just an extension of the belief that it’s considered taboo to mix things while eating.”

It’s true that mixing one’s dishes, by eating rice and side dishes together, is frowned upon in polite circles. However, there is one place where wasabi joyu isn’t just accepted but encouraged — when eating kaisendon (seafood bowls). Seafood bowl specialists like Don in Osaka and Kotetsu in Ishikawa’s Omicho Market advise that wasabi should be placed on a small plate, mixed with soy sauce and then poured over the bowl before eating.

▼ Kaisendon

So next time you’re eating sushi under the eye of a watchful chef in Japan, be sure to keep your wasabi and your soy sauce separate. If you’re dining out at a casual conveyor belt sushi restaurant on your own, however, it’s likely that nobody will bat an eyelid if you choose to sully your condiments. Because when they have sushi tacos on the menu, it’s safe to say all traditional rules have been thrown out the window.

Source: J-Cast via Jin 
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2, 3)
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