How To Eat With Chopsticks
For many Asian cultures, the use of chopsticks is something you are taught from before you can remember. It means using them as natural as picking up a ball. If you grew up with a fork and knife as your standard cutlery, then the first time you use chopsticks can seem like trying to solve a complicated puzzle. Fortunately, Asian cuisine is found globally and many of us are able to use chopsticks like a pro. For many of us, getting the chopstick technique right is still just out of reach.
At oneHOWTO, we show you how to eat with chopsticks. We provide a diagram to see where your finger placement should go, we show you different types of chopsticks and provide more tips to make you look like a natural.
How to use traditional chopsticks
Knowing how to grasp chopsticks is the key to using them correctly. Follow these recommendations to use chopsticks properly:
- Take one chopstick and hold it towards the thickest end, not the middle. It should be about 2/3 up the stick. Rest this thick end in the thenar space, i.e. the space between your thumb and forefinger. This will be the lower chopstick.
- Keep the lower chopstick in place by securing it with the joint of your thumb. This lower chopstick should stay rigid and not move.
- Take the upper chopstick and hold it with the tip of your thumb against your index finger. Keep it parallel to the lower stick.
- Use your thumb and index finger to move the upper chopstick only and grasp food between the two narrowest points of the chopstick in a pincer motion.
- With time and practice, you will learn how to put more pressure on the upper chopstick and to keep the lower one firm. This way you can grab the food and not drop it.
Many traditional Chinese dishes use the chopstick for eating. Noodles are one of the most common, but can be tricky for the novice chopstick operator. If you want to see how some of these recipes are made, check out how to make a chicken noodle stir-fry.
Tricks for using chopsticks
Are you a beginner in using chopsticks? At oneHOWTO are here to help by providing the following tricks to using a chopstick to eat. They mainly focus on how to keep the chopstick in your hand comfortably and how to pincer the food easily.
- Clothespin spring: if you are starting to ride a bike, you may use stabilizers to keep you upright. Think of this as the stabilizers for a chopstick. Take the spring from a clothespin and insert the chopsticks into it to create a fulcrum. This way, the pressure of the spring will help you to keep the food in between the chopsticks.
- Rubber band: something as simple as a rubber band can be used in the same way to keep the chopsticks together. You will need to loop the band around the ends just tight enough to keep them together.
- Bottle cap: taking a plastic bottle cap, you can pierce two holes close to each other, just large enough to insert the chopsticks. You will still be able to move the chopsticks in a pincer movement, but the bottle cap will mean they won't fall away completely.
If eating Asian cuisine, you will often eat rice dishes. Here we share some tricks to help if you accidentally add too much salt to the pot when cooking rice.
What can you eat with chopsticks?
Chopsticks are used to eat various different Asian dishes. The best known is white rice or special fried rice, but there are an almost limitless amount of variations. Here are some examples of dishes traditionally eaten with chopsticks:
- Asian soups with noodles (often also using a Chinese spoon).
- Ramen: Japanese noodle dish with a deep broth. Contains a variety of vegetables, pork, chives, seaweed and soy sauce.
- All kinds of sushi.
- Spring rolls with sweet and sour sauce.
- White rice and special fried rice.
Of course, people who use chopsticks don't have to only use them for Asian food. If you are good enough at using chopsticks, you can eat practically any solid food with them.
What you should never do with chopsticks
If you want to respect the tradition of using chopsticks, there are some things you need to bear in mind. Some of these are very important if you are in an Asian country as they related to manners, respect and tradition.
Asian chopsticks are not a toy, so you shouldn't use them to play at the table. Just as western cutlery is not used for playing, neither is eastern cutlery. In addition, it is very important that you do not cross them, since in Asian tradition it is considered bad luck.
It should be noted that the chopsticks rest on a small bowl called hashioki, designed specifically for this cutlery. Do not leave them in a dish on the table. For example, leaving your chopsticks in rice in Japan is not only rude, it is considered bad luck.
Finally, do not pierce food with the chopstick like a fork. If you have trouble, as your hosts or your serve for advice.
Different types of chopsticks
After knowing how to eat with chopsticks, it is important to clarify that not all are the same. There are different varieties of chopsticks depending on their origin and use. Here are some examples of chopstick types:
- Chinese chopsticks: they are usually made of wood, long and with a round and narrow tip. They are often a little longer than other styles and can also be made of porcelain.
- Korean chopsticks: they are short and made of stainless steel, although some are also made of wood. They taper at one of the blunt ends.
- Japanese chopsticks: made of wood and long, narrowed at one end in a pointed shape.
- Vietnamese chopsticks: they are medium in size and flat, narrowed by a blunt end. Vietnamese sticks have traditionally been made of palmwood, but today they are also made of plastic.
- Saibashi chopsticks: they are specific for cooking and serving food. They are much longer than the chopsticks we use to eat with.
- Đũa cả: it is a large, flat chopstick used to serve the rice from the pot. From Vietnam.
Respecting the Asian tradition on the use of chopsticks and applying the tricks recommended by oneHOWTO, you can eat with them at home and in any restaurant.
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