To fully enjoy eating a fragrant, flavorful and healthy Chinese, Japanese, Korean of other East Asian meal, it seems essential to use chopsticks. Most cultural historians today agree that chopsticks most likely originated in China over 3,000 years ago, during the Shang Dynasty. Legends credit Confucius with stating that knives were too closely associated with acts of aggression and violence for use at the dinner table.
In many Chinese communities today, all knives are put away after food preparation for the Chinese New Year. This practice is due to the belief that the good luck of the new year will be cut away if knives are used during the early days of the year. Chopsticks are still the customary utensils for eating food throughout East Asia today and in many restaurants worldwide that serve Chinese, Japanese and other East Asian cuisine.¹
Tips for Mastering the Art and Pleasure of Eating with Chopsticks
Gaining the skill of eating foods with chopsticks is easier than it appears to many people. By practicing a few steps regularly, you will soon manage your chopsticks during meals like a true pro. Especially since Chinese, Japanese, Korean and other foods of East Asia are often served in bite-size pieces, they become easy to pick up and eat with chopsticks.
Main tips for practicing and mastering the art and true enjoyment of eating foods of East Asia with chopsticks include the following steps:
1. Holding Your Chopsticks
• Hold one chopstick (the lower one) between your ring finger and middle finger, using your dominant hand. This chopstick will stay steady, in a stationary position. Your thumb will help to keep it in place as you pick up food.
• Place the other chopstick (the upper one) between your thumb and index finger. By moving your index finger up and down to open and close your chopsticks, you can pick up items of food. You can wedge the bottom chopstick and pinch the top one to secure food while eating, if helpful. Remember to keep the ends of your chopsticks even.
2. Picking Up Food Securely
• While your thumb holds the chopsticks steady, the middle finger pivots to join the tips of both sticks for grasping an item of food. Keeping the lower chopstick in place, press down with your forefinger (pointer finger) to move the upper chopstick downward for grasping foods securely.
• Later, after eating the food from your chopsticks, you can move the upper chopstick upward again as you relax your forefinger.
3. Moving Food Safely to Your Mouth
• Keeping your hand steady, move your chopsticks that are now carrying food upward to your mouth for eating.
• Do not squeeze your chopsticks together while moving food to your mouth. Squeezing the chopsticks may cause them to twist and turn inward while the food flies out and scatters on the table or floor below.
4. Eating Rice with Your Chopsticks
• Rice is eaten from a bowl, which you lift and hold close to your mouth as you eat.
• You need not worry about your style of eating rice too much. The goal is to move small amounts of rice to your mouth using a scooping motion as you control the size of each serving of rice with your chopsticks to avoid spilling any food.
Simple Rules of Etiquette for Eating with Chopsticks
Some simple dos and don’ts for eating meals with chopsticks include the following tips:
• Do not cross your chopsticks. In China, this would be viewed as a symbol of death. When placing chopsticks on the table, usually on a chopstick stand, always lay them side-by-side, never crossed.
• Do not stab at food. When picking up your food, never stab at pieces of food or attempt to spear them with your chopsticks since doing so is considered very poor manners.
• Do not point at people with your chopsticks. Pointing with your chopsticks is viewed as extremely rude table behavior and should always be avoided.
• Do cut foods with your chopsticks. It is perfectly acceptable to use your chopsticks for cutting or separating pieces of food into smaller sizes for eating. You can also accomplish this by squeezing a large piece of food between your chopsticks to split or divide it.
• Do choose bamboo or other wood chopsticks for practicing. Chopsticks made of wood are much easier to use than metal or plastic ones in the beginning. Plastic or metal chopsticks are slick, making it more difficult to grasp and pick up food steadily.
Expert Recommendations for Choosing Chopsticks Types
Professional chefs, cooks and experts in the foods of China, Japan, Korea and other East Asian countries recommend certain types of high quality chopsticks for use by beginners. Different chopstick brands, styles and materials make some types easier to learn to eat with than others. Three types that are highly recommended for first-time chopstick users are the following designs:
• Goldage Chopsticks. These lightweight fiberglass chopsticks are free of BPA, paint or any coating and are safe for users of any age. Their tips are textured to help you grip foods, and the other end is designed for easy holding. They will not conduct heat when used to hold and eat hot foods.
These chopsticks can be cleaned in the dishwasher. They will not slip in your hand, and they help beginners learn how to pick up and eat many different types of foods.
• finessCity Chopsticks. These chopsticks are made of pure titanium for maximum durability and are rounded in design for easy use. They are non-toxic and non-allergic and are safe for use by people of all ages. They are sold with an aluminum case for storing and easy packing when you travel, and they are dishwasher-proof.
The titanium content of this product is FDA-approved food grade. There are no coatings on these chopsticks that can chip or peel, and they will resist corrosion or discoloration. These lightweight eating utensils are available in five different colors and are temperature-resistant for use with very hot and cold foods.
• Hiware Chopsticks. This style of chopsticks is available in authentic bamboo and in stainless steel to satisfy different users’ preferences. Their blunt edge design combined with some rounded surface areas make eating foods like ramen and rice easier for beginners.
The “handle” ends of these chopsticks are designed for easy gripping while eating. Both the bamboo and metal styles are coated with a safe, durable finish that contains no PVC, BPA or phthalates, and they are easy to wash.
When you learn the art of eating with the chopsticks of your choice, you will enjoy dining on the highly creative, healthy and delicious cuisines of China, Japan, Korea and other East Asian countries and regions to the ultimate degree. Not only will these fabulous authentic foods seem more aromatic and flavorful than ever before, but you will savor and enjoy every item and bite of food to the fullest.