Five Things You're Doing Wrong with Japanese Food

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I'm just as guilty of butchering foreign word pronunciation as any American, but there are times when the media perpetuates mistakes that will make you look like a schmuck. This week--five things for you to avoid sounding like one in a Japanese restaurant.


5. Ordering Sushi When you Want Sashimi
gomoku chirashi sushi
Flickr user dizznbon
Chirashi sushi with not a fish part in sight


Sushi is a vinegared rice dish. It's not the fish. The rice can be prepared with non-fish ingredients like peas, or egg, and shaped in many ways and it's still called sushi.

Sashimi is the raw fish. If all you want is fresh raw fish, artfully presented, with no rice, you ask for sashimi.

4. Asking for Tonkatsu When you Want Tonkotsu

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ProfessorSalt.com
Tonkotsu = pork bone, as in the soup.


You're the sophisticated guy that takes your first-timer friends to experience the difference between the six-for-a-dollar instant noodle pack and the real-deal ramen soup. That soup? Boiled with a ton of meat, bones, vegetables, a little dried fish, a whole lot of large Japanese leeks. You know all that, then you go on Yelp and write how much you loved the tonkatsu soup and screw it up.

Tonkatsu (ton kah tsoo) is a breaded, fried pork chop. Tonkotsu (ton koh tsoo) means "pork bone," what yields the fatty marrow and thickness to the broth, and is the key ingredient in Kyushu-style ramen. Very few ramen specialists also offer the fried pork chop dish on their menus, but some do. You're going to look like an idiot if you try and dust off your sophomore-year Conversational Japanese skills and end up with a plate of Schweineschnitzel instead of the soup dish you were expecting.

3. Slurp vs. Not Slurp

Speaking of ramen gaffes, the Japanese way of eating noodles is to pick up a few noodles with your chopsticks,and slurp them quickly into your mouth so that some of that soup is carried with them. Same deal with soba and udon noodles. Don't slurp in a Chinese restaurant, or Vietnamese, but in a Japanese restaurant? It's expected.

You may remember the reverse of this etiquette played out in Tampopo.



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16 comments
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Zazen
Zazen

I would suggest the writer of this article get over themselves. No, really. Americans are gonna get it wrong, no matter which nationality of cuisine you choose. Relax; while I notify you that mistakes in pronunciation are a matter of course, especially when people are trying out something new.

Sadly, this article merely seems advance notification that people will likely face ridicule when they go out for something different from their normal fare. What a nice introduction to Japanese culture. ::pats your back::

Now, were you to develop a sudden interest in Greek or Czech food, you can rest assured I will not return the favor and be an ass over your bumbling pronunciation of your chosen dinner items.

In short, welcome to the melting pot, sweetcheeks.

Ryan K
Ryan K

isnt it true that when its sashimi rested on rice, you dont dip it in soy sauce? ive also heard you are supposed to flip it over and dip the fish in and not the rice.

also, when its a piece wrapped in seaweed, you eat it in one bite. also when wrapped in seaweed, you dont use chop sticks. but you do use chop sticks when its sashimi.

but what do i know, im a dumb american and put katchup on my sushi...

Tom
Tom

I don't know anyone who does any of the things you listed.  I've never heard anyone mispronounce santoku, and when I order tonkatsu, it's because I want tonkatsu, not tonkotsu.   Most people nowadays know the difference between sushi and sashimi.  Sushi and Japanese culture have pervaded the US' dining palate for decades now.  Was this article written in like, the mid-80s?  Early 90s?  

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

...and Mexican food has been around since the turn of the 20th century, yet people still make mistakes with the cuisine—so what's your point?

antimatter
antimatter

I love the gaijin picture :-D  Article made me laugh so hard

Pink Frankenstein
Pink Frankenstein

One of the most common errors is people dipping their sushi rice side into the soy sauce. You should dip fish side AND also eat sushi fish side on the tongue. 

guest
guest

you can eat it however the fuck you want

Joe
Joe

One thing that I recall driving me nuts is the old Isuzu car commercials.  The idiot actor pronounced it "Ee-Zoo-Soo" every time without fail!

Gary
Gary

Gotta love that Chinese soup spoon in the picture.

Simsalaseo
Simsalaseo

Thank you for sharing.It is always a delight to feel what I believe – that information is inspiration

Briansays
Briansays

true story and a classic at my sushi placeordering by phone 40 california rolls to gothen showing up and sayingno, i only wanted 40 pieces

fortunately early evening on a friday night

925
925

Sounds like your fault for not clarifying such a large order on the phone.  Still a funny story, with you being the jackass...

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