Asians use chopsticks and Westerners use knives and fork – for picking up food to eat. What utensils to use can be the difference between the two cultures when it comes to eating. Chopsticks are usually design to pick up small portion of food but does not means that large piece of meat like steak, fish and poultry are not possible at an Asian dinner table. Most dishes are therefore made up of mouth sized pieces which are taken up by chopsticks and transferred to the mouth. For example, rice shaped like an oval small piece is easy to pick up with chopsticks. Asian people were taught to use chopsticks as soon as they have learn to eat, long before spoons and forks were invented. Chopsticks were strongly advocated by the great Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC). Many Asian cuisines require greater delicacy when eaten with chopsticks because people were taught to eat smaller portions at a time and also more slowly, therefore savoring the food more completely.
Also, unlike the spoon, fork, and knife, chopsticks convey the hand a sense of tactile rapport with the food. Therefore, it’s very true to say that Asian dining experience involves all the senses! There are different styles of chopsticks. The Chinese variety is blunt on the eating end, while the Japanese prefer those with pointed tips. There are even short lengths for children for use. The most common chopsticks are made of wood or bamboo but there are chopsticks made from ivory, silver, plastic and even jade as well. For daily use, wood, bamboo, or ivory is mostly prefer.
- Never waive the chopsticks over food when having a meal because it is considered poor manners.
- Never spear or poke food with the tips of the chopsticks because it is bad manners. Certain things may be more difficult to pick up with chopsticks, but chopsticks are designed to pick up food, not to spear and stab it. Equally forbidden is using chopsticks to pull a dish forward. Use only hands.
- If you need to rest your chopsticks, leave them on the chopsticks rest or by the side of your bowl or plate. Do not stick them into a bowl of rice because it resembles ancestral offerings and is frowned upon.
- If the table settings include serving spoons or chopsticks, use them instead of your own set to get yourself food.
- Do not suck on the tip of the chopsticks.
“The honorable and upright man keeps well away from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen. And he allows no knives on his table.” – Confucius
How To Use Chopsticks
There are two important things to remember for effective use of chopsticks. One is that the two lower ends must be even, that is, one must not protrude over the other. The other condition is that the two chopsticks must be in the same plane.
Place the first (lower) chopstick in the base of the thumb and index finger and rest its lower end below on the ring finger as shown. This chopstick remains fixed.
Hold the other (upper) chopstick between the tips of the index and middle fingers, steady its upper half against the base of the index finger, and use the tips of the thumb to keep it in place.
To pick up food, move the upper chopstick with index and middle fingers.
With a little practice, you will be able to use chopsticks with ease. Practice makes perfect.