Chopsticks, the most commonly used cutlery in the world, originated in China and from there spread to the Korean Peninsula, Japan, south to Vietnam and other Asian countries.
Chopsticks have been made of almost every material known to man from bamboo, bone, and wood to plastic, porcelain and metal. Chopsticks are synonymous with Chinese culture, and I don’t think there is anyone who would think of Chinese food without chopsticks emerging in their mind.
So, today I’m going to go through the different kinds of chopsticks and their pros and cons, and how to use them correctly.
The Different Kinds of Chopsticks
Traditional Wooden Chopsticks
Traditional chopsticks are usually brightly decorated, but it is now known that painted eating utensils are not good for us, and can even be poisonous. The paint often contains lead and organic solvents such as benzene and other carcinogenic substances, which are harmful to the human body.
For this reason, they should not be used. Some families like to give children bright colored painted chopsticks to use, but don’t be tempted.
Ordinary plastic chopsticks are brittle and break easily. They can also melt and deform when hot resulting in harmful substances entering the human body.
The texture of bone chopsticks is good, but bone discolors easily and is more expensive.
Silver, stainless-steel, and other metal chopsticks are too heavy for balancing in your hands and will heat up posing a risk of burning your mouth.
They must also be food grade stainless-steel; inferior stainless-steel cutlery or improper use of stainless steel tableware is not good for your health.
Titanium chopsticks are a good alternative. Titanium is non-toxic and not harmful to the human body. They are also easy to clean.
Bamboo chopsticks are the first choice. Bamboo is non-toxic and harmless, environmentally friendly, and comes in a variety of colors.
However, due to its porous nature, bamboo is not easy to clean and absorbs water, making a good environment for microbes to multiply.
Regular disinfecting is needed to avoid mold forming. The other downside to bamboo chopsticks is their tendency to split and form ‘long hairs’ so they should be replaced regularly.
Ceramic chopsticks are not only easy to use and practical but also healthy and environmentally friendly. Ceramic chopsticks are safer, healthier and more durable making them a good choice.
How to Use Chopsticks Correctly
Contrary to common Western belief, chopsticks are not difficult to use. Today the skill of using chopsticks will be demystified!
There are seven essentials to mastering the use of chopsticks:
1. The two chopsticks must be aligned in your hand.
2. Only move the upper chopstick while keeping the lower one still.
3. Hold the chopsticks using only three fingers: your thumb, index finger and middle finger.
4. Position the thumb next to the index fingernail.
5. The ring finger nail pad should sit under or below the lower chopstick.
6. Hold the chopsticks between the middle of the thumb and index finger.
7. The chopsticks should be about 1 cm apart.
The Seven Most Common Errors Made When Holding Chopsticks
Error No. 1: The most common error is holding the chopsticks with the thumb and index finger placed on top of the chopsticks with the middle finger and ring finger hanging below and the little finger next to the ring finger.
Error No. 2: All five fingers are separated with the chopsticks propped on the center of the ring finger, causing the chopsticks to cross over.
Error No. 3: The little finger is suspended, the way the English hold their teacups, and using the thumb to hold and balance the chopsticks. The index finger and ring finger are each placed each of the chopsticks not allowing free movement.
Error No. 4: Fist-style, that is, holding both chopsticks enclosed by all fingers formed into a fist.
Error No. 5: The Pen Grip with the thumb and index finger above the chopsticks, like holding a pen, again, causing the chopsticks to cross over.
Error No. 6: The index finger is tilted with the chopsticks placed in the middle of the thumb and index finger.
Error No. 7: The fingers close together like a claw with the thumb and middle finger holding the chopsticks.
1. After the food is picked up, the dish should not be put back but held for the time you are eating from it.
2. Do not use chopsticks while facing people or use them to point to anyone.
3. Do not place your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice.
4. Do not try to pick up food another person is intending to pick up.
5. At a banquet, you should not start before the master moves his chopsticks.
6. In some countries, diners will wait until guests (or the oldest person) begin to eat before proceeding.
7. During the meal, if you are undecided about what to pick up with your chopsticks, do not wave them around ‘looking’ for something. Decide on what you want and then pick it up with your chopsticks.
8. Do not wave your chopsticks around when talking. Each time you finish using the chopsticks place them down gently and quietly.
9. Do not lick the chopsticks or put them in your mouth without food on them, or use them to push the bowl, plate or cup.
Now that you know all about chopsticks and how to use them, it’s time to have a go! In my guide What Are The Best Chopsticks I let you know a few more things that will help you buy the best pair of chopsticks for you, so you can start practicing.