There are four common methods you should know about when dining out in Japan.  

The vast majority of Japanese conveyor belt sushi chain restaurants don’t add any wasabi to their sushi these days, instead providing diners with sachets at their tables so they can add as much or as little of the spicy paste to their sushi selections.

Previously, a lot of chains had sushi both with and without wasabi on the conveyor belt, but back in 2016 the main chains switched over to the sachet system, saying it was more suitable for customers, many of which are families with young children.

▼ This sign alerting people to the switch to “wasabi nuki” (“without wasabi”) sushi says it allows diners to add spiciness to their liking.

This new freedom to add wasabi as you please to whatever you please left diners to devise their own methods for adding the condiment to their dishes, which leads us to wonder…

How should you add wasabi to your sushi?

It’s a simple question that our Japanese-language reporter Anji Tabata has been looking into for some time now. After countless visits to conveyor belt chains with her friends, she found there were four methods commonly used by diners in Japan.

The four methods are:

1. Mix wasabi into your soy sauce on a plate and then dip the sushi into the mixture as you eat.

This is a very common style that’s convenient for diners who like the taste of both soy sauce and wasabi with their fish. However, it should be noted that mixing wasabi with soy sauce — known as “wasabi joyu“, an amalgamation of the words “wasabi” and “shoyu” the Japanese word for soy sauce —  is frowned upon by purists, who see it as a violation of etiquetteas the two should always be enjoyed separately.

While you’ll want to avoid mixing wasabi with your soy sauce while under the gaze of a chef at a sushi restaurant, it’s less frowned upon when you’re eating alone or with friends or family in the more casual dining environment of a conveyor belt restaurant.

2. Place a dollop of wasabi on top of the fish portion of the sushi 

This is the method that will earn more approving looks when dining with colleagues or superiors, as it shows you don’t like to sully your soy sauce and prefer to treat your condiments with respect.

However, this style comes with its own risks, as there’s a danger that the wasabi may fall off the sushi before it reaches your mouth, which could lead to embarrassment, not to mention the waste of a perfectly good condiment. Also, you’ll want to remember that by putting it on top, the wasabi will come into direct contact with your mouth, causing your eyes to water as you get the full brunt of the heat. But then again, if you like the heat of wasabi, this could be exactly what you’re after.

▼ Number one method for lovers of soy and wasabi (top left) and the number two method (top right) for wasabi thrill-seekers.

3. Place the wasabi on the rice, beneath the fish portion of the sushi

This is the method that most will approve of, as it’s where the wasabi is traditionally placed, both at high-end restaurants and at conveyor belt chains, back when they did sell sushi with wasabi already included.

The benefits of this method are threefold. Not only will it protect the wasabi from falling off your sushi, it will protect your palette from coming into direct contact with the hot paste as well, and it’ll keep the wasabi separate from the soy sauce, should you wish to add it. If you do want to add soy sauce to your sushi, though, don’t forget to add it only to the fish topping, according to the rules of Japanese sushi-eating etiquette.

4. Don’t add wasabi

Of course, the final option with the wasabi is to not add it at all. In that case, the nation’s top sushi restaurant chains have you covered, as you can tuck into your favourite sushi right away. However, wasabi enthusiasts might argue that a sushi without wasabi is like…a hot dog without mustard.

So, how do you like your wasabi? Let us know in the comments below, and if you’re on the fence about the benefits of wasabi, remember — wasabi promotes hair growth three times faster than minoxidil.

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