'Shiro Says': Words to Use at the Sushi Counter

Seattle's first sushi chef, Shiro, whose new memoir we excerpted in our December issue, offers several helpful tips in the book for consuming sushi like a pro.

Over the years, the sushi bar has developed its own special jargon, including its very own way of counting, which allows the chef to bark out the total for a meal to the cashier without appearing rude. Here are a few of the words used by those in the know:

AGARI: Say “agari” at the end of the meal, and you’ll be served a cup of green tea. The word signals that your meal is over, which is the traditional time for a hot cup of green tea to be served.

GARI: At some point long ago, sushi patrons stopped calling ginger shoga, the word used in Japan, and started calling it gari.

HIKARIMONO: Used to indicate the shiny fish such as mackerel or smelt.

MURASAKI: Those in the know may call soy sauce shoyu, but how many people know that the sushi-bar term for soy sauce is murasaki, which means “purple” and is used because of soy sauce’s deep purple color?

OAISO: Check please!

SHAR: This is the word for sushi rice. Normally it is called sushimeshi.

Originally published in Shiro: Wit, Wisdom & Recipes from a Sushi Pioneer (Chin Music Press, 2011), a beautifully designed book that would make a great gift for any sushi lover in your life.