Regardless of where you happen to be enjoying Asian food in the world, knowing how to use chopsticks the right way will come in handy. Learning how to eat with chopsticks is quite easy and once you learn the right way to handle chopsticks, being aware of some simple rules of etiquette will make you that much more of a cultured pro.
Choosing the right Chopsticks
In case you are given the option of choice, wooden chopsticks are far less slippery for beginners than the plastic or metal versions.
How to eat with Chopsticks
The mechanics of using chopsticks are simple, it's only a matter of practice. The secret to eating right with chopsticks is simply to move only the top chopstick. The bottom stick is held stationary in your fingers, while the top stick (controlled by your first two fingers and thumb) is moved to pinch bites of food.
Fundamental Chopstick Etiquette
Once you can successfully bring food from your plate to your mouth by using chopsticks, knowing some basic etiquette will actually make you more of a pro. Regardless of the temptation to play with chopsticks, keep in mind that chopsticks are eating utensils, just like a knife or a fork.
When taking a break, always place your chopsticks in a tidy fashion to the right of your plate, preferably with the tips on the provided rest and without pointing them in anyone's immediate direction. Putting chopsticks on top of your bowl or plate indicates that you are finished and the staff may take it away.
What never to do with Chopsticks
- Do not rub chopsticks together to remove splinters or wooden strings.
- Do not tap chopsticks together in the air for practice or on a bowl to make noises.
- Do not leave chopsticks standing in a bowl vertically.
- Do not hold chopsticks in your hand with all five fingers as you would a weapon.
- Do not use chopsticks to gesture while talking or to point at people or dishes. A common newbie mistake is to use chopsticks to point at a particular dish you are recommending. Even worse, never use your chopsticks to gesticulate or point at food while grunting with your mouth full!
- Do not pass food to people with your chopsticks.
- Do not suck sauce off the ends of your chopsticks or nibble on the ends.
Tips for advanced Chopstick etiquette
To show utmost respect to Asian hosts in a more formal environment, or maybe just to demonstrate some cultural knowledge, you can follow these additional tips for chopstick etiquette:
- Especially when eating in Japan, allow elders or senior members at the table to lift their chopsticks first.
- Don't pick through dishes (communal or on your own plate) for specific pieces of meat or vegetables that happen to be your favorite.
- Make sure to avoid crossing your chopsticks because it symbolizes death in some cultures. Always keep them held in eating position or placed in a tidy, side-by-side configuration.
- In case disposable chopsticks were used, place them back inside of the paper wrapper at the end of your meal and leave them to the right of your plate.
- If a chopstick rest is not provided on the right side of your bowl, some Japanese prefer to fold their own out of the paper provided for the disposable chopsticks.
- Koreans use spoons to eat soups and even rice. At all times put your chopsticks to the right side of your spoon when resting on the table; the reverse is done at memorial dinners for deceased loved ones.
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