The critical issue of whether or not to mix wasabi into your soy sauce

It’s 4:30 on the morning and I can’t sleep. I’m reading a food board and see that it’s all wrong to mix wasabi into the soy sauce. What??? How do I explain this to my wife? We’ve been doing that for 20 years. Oh boy. I wish I could remember if the habit began before or after I learned to eat sushi on my many business trips to Japan it’s been years. :roll_eyes:

So… please help put this in perspective. Fact? Fiction? Debatable? Flexible? Try to separate documentable evidence from opinion if you can. Thanks.

Wasabi should be put on sushi before touching the soy sauce for premium sushi, when fish are very fresh, and ingredient are excellent. First, in good sushi place, the wasabi is already added to sushi by the chef, a dip of sauce is enough. (Most of the time soy sauce is too already added.) Secondly, if the wasabi is freshly ground, the taste will get lost with the sauce. Thirdly, the wasabi soy sauce tends to overwhelm the delicate taste of the fish and seafood. It’s a bit like with a plate, one adds salt and pepper without considering and tasting the seasoning done by the chef.

I do mix wasabi (from a tube) into soy sauce when fish is of mediocre quality, and when that extra seasoning is needed. (I used to do this a lot because I like soy sauce! But it’s a waste on good sushi and I can eat this with plain rice!)

If you’re spending $100 on sushi, the bigger issue would be the overwhelming effect of dipping the rice of a sushi roll into soy or the soy wasabi mix rather than dabbing it onto the fish itself.

But if you’re talking about something like a California roll or shrinkwrapped sushi, which is probably underseasoned anyway, why not do what tastes best?

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This was my understanding as well - and I would add, put on by the sushi chef.

So my answer would be “it depends”. In a high end place I would expect the roll/nigiri to have the wasabi inside and need very little if any seasoning. In a lower end place I do mix them and dip (especially since they likely would not have included the wasabi and certainly won’t have fresh real wasabi).

The aha moment for me here seems to be that it’s not thought that all Nigiri sushi is prepared with a touch of wasabi on the rice. Ive always thought it was. Since we don’t find that our method (mixing some wasabi in the soy) obscures the taste this would seem to be down to the more subtle question of whether doing this is in any way insulting to the chef. That’s never been something we’ve thought about.

I don’t consider the places we go to be “high end”. The two of us can usually have a couple of rolls, 2-4 Nigiri, and a small sake for around $50… so that’s probably ‘low end’. But I’m not sure that test is foolproof for knowing if the chef ‘pre-wasabi’s’. And I don’t know that it’s a wasabi quality test either.

I get that it could be like salting food can be an afront to the chef though. More input necessary on the etiquette, but I don’t see my wife buying not using wasabi in her soy just because I tell her there’s already some on the rice. More of an issue for me.

http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-tokyo-sushi-chef-proper-way-eat-sushi-20140828-story.html

If you think it’s difficult to persuade. maybe a more subtle way is to watch the film “Jiro’s dream of sushi” with her, after she can decide whether or not she wants to do it. Bear in mind that there are Japanese mixing wasabi into soy sauce after all. Be care if you show her the high end world, once you introduce this, maybe there is a no turning back :wink:.

For the lower end or certain mid range sushi, no wasabi is put in the preparation.

For the higher end sushi, even the fact that you dip the sushi in the soy sauce is an insult to chef, not to say the wasabi mix.

Is this akin to putting ketchup on a well done steak?

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This whole thing (especially considering the Yasuda video) begs the question of why sushi restaurants put a small mound of wasabi on each presentation plate or at your place. Is one to assume they’re not preparing WITH wasabi, or just catering to those who want more?

My wife and I once had sushi at Ichimura at Brushstroke. There were about 12 seats at the sushi bar, and Ichimura San handed you each piece of sushi personally. Each piece was perfectly constructed, and it was unthinkable to tinker with it in any way. But the meal did start with some sashimi, and for that part of the meal we, the diners, were allowed to season to our taste. This is, apparently, the rule for high-end sushi. For the more usual stuff, that most of us eat most of the time, I don’t think that anyone is insulted if the diner adds wasabi to the sauce.

The green paste is usually not wasabi, it is usually colored horseradish.

The wasabi mound would be available for the diner to season sashimi. The dish of soy would be available for seasoning sashimi or sushi.

All I can say is after 20 years if this is your largest dilemma of how to explain something to your wife, I admire you sir.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold