How to Use Chopsticks
Chopsticks are the primary eating utensil throughout much of Asia. Most Americans only encounter them when eating at an Asian restaurant, and their use can prove to be a bit challenging for those who do not have practice. While most restaurants are happy to provide forks to their patrons, it’s still a good idea to learn how to use chopsticks appropriately.
There are several reasons to eat with chopsticks. First, they provide a more authentic dining experience and help food to be eaten in the way it was meant to be enjoyed. Using chopsticks while eating Asian cuisine also shows respect for the cultural heritage of the food. Finally, chopsticks require you to slow down and eat more deliberately, which aids in digestion and gives you more time to enjoy your meal.
The History of Chopsticks
Compared to forks, chopsticks are ancient utensils. It’s estimated that the earliest chopsticks originated in China around 1200 BCE. These early utensils were made of bronze and were used during cooking rather than eating.
Chopsticks began to be used for eating around 400 CE, and by 500 CE had become commonplace throughout Asia. The shift in utensil use coincides with a change in meal preparation. In ancient times, food was often served in large pieces that could be eaten with the hands. As recipes began to change and incorporate smaller pieces of ingredients, the pincer-like chopstick became an ideal tool for grabbing and eating food.
Throughout the centuries, chopsticks have been made from a variety of materials including ivory, brass, silver and jade. The most common materials today are wood and bamboo. The disposable chopsticks provided in Asian restaurants were invented in the 1870s by the Japanese and have grown in popularity since.
How to Use Chopsticks
Eating with chopsticks can be a bit of a challenge for people who are not familiar with these utensils or do not use them often. Here are some tips for eating with chopsticks:
– Hold the bottom chopstick with your thumb, bracing it against your middle finger. This chopstick should not move during use; it remains still for stability.
– Hold the top chopstick between the tip of your thumb and your forefinger, the way you would hold a pencil. The movement of your forefinger will cause the chopstick to move, allowing you to grip things.
– The further back on the chopstick you hold it, the more grip strength you will have. Avoid holding the chopsticks too closely to the tip.
– When eating rice, it is customary to use the chopsticks as a shovel. Eat with the bowl close to your face and burrow the chopsticks under the rice, piling it on top, rather than trying to grasp the rice.
If you need time to practice using chopsticks, you can use a set of “trainer” or beginner chopsticks, which Asian children use when they’re beginning to eat. You can buy a pair of beginner’s chopsticks at an Asian market or make your own pair.
To turn disposable chopsticks into a training set, use a rubber band to connect the chopsticks together at the wide end or top. Next, roll up the chopstick wrapper. Insert this roll of paper between the chopsticks where you’ve put the rubber band. This will create a tweezer-like fulcrum that enables you to grab food easily without struggling.