The Sushi Rule You Should Never Break, According To Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain may best be known for his Emmy-Award winning show "Parts Unknown" and his omnipresence on The Travel Channel, but he was also the author of a 2017 comic book called "Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi" (via Food & Wine) that was loosely inspired by an incident that occurred while Bourdain was training under sushi master Naomichi Yasuda at the New York City restaurant Sushi Yasuda. 

"One day I was sitting [there] and two meatheads came in. They put all of their wasabi into a cup of soy sauce, essentially made a wasabi slurry and started dunking in their fish," Bourdain recounted to Food & Wine. "I saw the look on my friend's face. I knew he could kill them with his bare hands. And I thought, in a perfect world, he would kill them. And in a perfect world, everyone would understand." And hence the graphic book was born.

Though Bourdain admitted he wrote the book as "a satirical extension of foodie over-seriousness," he also made sure to get the point across that mixing wasabi and soy sauce is bad sushi etiquette. In both the fictional universe he created and in real life, masking every bite of sushi with a "wasabi slurry" essentially undoes all the hard work that went into the sushi's preparation, he opined.

Why mixing wasabi and soy sauce is in poor taste

Though Bourdain would have it differently in his world, there won't always be a sword-wielding sushi chef to keep you in check every time you eat at a Japanese restaurant. But, you should know before you go that mixing wasabi and soy sauce is really that much of a cardinal sin in his eyes. "If you immediately plop a big wad of wasabi into your dish of soy sauce [and] mix it around with your chopsticks? Your sushi chef loses all respect for you," Bourdain told Inside Hook. "Dip your nigiri into it, rice side down? He hates you now. You may as well spit in his face." 

Considering sushi masters train for years, it's safe to say they know what they're doing in terms of both technique and taste. Therefore, as Bourdain explained to Food & Wine, a wasabi slurry is hardly a necessary flavor addition. Bourdain stressed that the proper way to eat sushi is either exactly how it comes, or using the soy sauce and wasabi correctly, i.e. without mixing or dipping it rice side down. If you want to get the most out of your sushi experience, added Bourdain, the key is to respect Japanese cuisine — through the etiquette as much as the food itself.