How to properly use chopsticks

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Intro > Blog > How to properly use chopsticks

How to properly use chopsticks

Chopsticks are a traditional eating utensil of East Asia, originating in China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea and partially Thailand (where they are used to eat noodle soup).

They are usually made of wood, bamboo, metal, bones and nowadays also from plastic. Silver chopsticks were apparently used in China to reveal poisoned food. If poison was present in the food, the chopsticks would turn black due to a chemical reaction.

Asian restaurants and bistros in Slovakia have become very popular, however they usually offer western cutlery to eat with. Many people say that eating the food with authentic Chinese chopsticks gives it a different feel and taste. However, this can be a difficult task.


Japanese and Chinese chopsticks and etiquette

Chinese and Japanese chopsticks are different in their length and sizes. Japanese chopsticks are smaller and shorter, while Chinese chopsticks are longer and bigger.

The technique involved in eating with both of these types is the same however, the sticks are both held in one hand to create a makeshift tongs, which is used to hold and insert food into the mouth.

The bottom chopstick is held firmly, while the top chopstick is used to move, grab hold of things by pressing them against the bottom one, and then released. The bottom chopstick is held in place by grabbing it between the thumb and index finger, held against the lower part of the thumb joint and held firmly by the ring finger.

The moving chopstick is held similarly to a pencil, with the index and middle finger, held against the thumb.

Interesting facts:

  • Chopsticks were sometimes used as a testing method for hiring workers into the electronics and manufacturing businesses. The tests were based on the ability of the worker to sort things using chopsticks, use them to push thread through a needle, separate parts.
  • Some martial arts used chopsticks as improvised weapons. Thrown chopsticks have an unexpected penetrative strength due to their shape.
  • Eating using chopsticks is healthier. The size of every bite is smaller which helps prevent choking and better chewing of food.

Japanese etiquette:

The usage of chopsticks in Japan is subject to several limitations, much like the usage of cutlery in Europe. The basic principles are the following:

  • Chopsticks are not to be tapped against the table, dishes, or one against another.
  • When using them to dip food into sauce, the food has to be pulled out before the chopsticks touch the sauce. Only the food is to touch the sauce.
  • Chopsticks are not to be used to mix food or stir food.
  • Food is to be picked up from the top, and anything that the chopsticks touch has to be taken onto the plate.
  • Do not lick the chopsticks, this is considered unhygienic.
  • Chopsticks are not to be used to point around at things or people.
  • The chopsticks are not meant to touch any dishes or plates, only the food on them. Do not use the chopsticks to move dishes and plates around.
  • Holding chopsticks in your fist is taken as a rude or threatening gesture.
  • Do not stick the chopsticks into rice, rest them against the plate or on top of the bowl. Pushing the chopsticks into rice is how rice is sacrificed to the dearly deceased.
  • Moving food from one’s plate to another’s is also taboo, as this gesture is reserved for giving bones to the family after someone’s cremation.

Chinese etiquette:

  • The tips of the chopsticks must always be facing downwards.
  • The chopsticks must be held in such a way that the palms are facing downwards. Showing your palm while using chopsticks is considered rude.
  • It is allowed (and a nice gesture) helping somebody to pick up food for someone who is having difficulty picking it up themselves.
  • After eating, the chopsticks are to be laid on the bowl together, tips facing left.