You’re enjoying dinner at a Chinese or Japanese restaurant but you’re the only person at the table not using chopsticks.
You might feel embarrassed or wish you knew how to eat with them.
Is it difficult to use chopsticks?
While it’s not difficult to eat with chopsticks, you need to take a bit of time to learn the proper way to hold and use them.
Don’t worry – we’ll show you exactly what you need to do so that you feel confident about using chopsticks. We’ve also included some important chopstick etiquette rules so that you never offend anyone when using chopsticks at dinner.
Why Do People Eat With Chopsticks?
People in China have been using chopsticks since around 1200 BC. By AD 500, chopsticks became popular around the Asian continent, such as in Japan and Vietnam. Interestingly, in China chopsticks were first used as cooking utensils before they were used for eating – that happened in AD 400!
A population increase in China was reducing the amount of available food resources, which forced people to cook smaller pieces of food, and these were perfect for use with chopsticks. Soon, this convenient bite-sized food made knives an obsolete utensil.
Throughout history, chopsticks and rice have been a good match because of how the rice made in Asia is of the short- or medium-grain variety. The starches in the rice make it a bit clumpy in texture, which makes it easier to use chopsticks with it.
Step-By-Step Guide On Using Chopsticks
While chopsticks might seem intimidating, they don’t have to be. With a bit of practice and the correct technique, you can learn how to use chopsticks like a pro.
Step 1: Hold The Chopsticks Correctly
Take the first chopstick. Put it in the dip between your pointer finger and thumb, and use your ring finger to balance it. You don’t want to get into the habit of holding the chopsticks too hard as that can cause your food to get thrown around when you try to pick it off your plate.
The second chopstick should also be placed in the dip between your thumb and pointer finger but it should rest on your middle finger. It should be above the first chopstick. You should try to hold the second chopstick in the same way that you would hold a pencil.
Step 2: Hold The Second Chopstick Tighter
Now that you’re holding both chopsticks, you should use your thumb, pointer, and middle fingers to hold the second chopstick a bit tighter than the first chopstick.
Make sure that both chopsticks have their tips and ends aligned, and that they’re pointed in the same direction. They should always move in sync with each other!
Step 3: Engage Your Thumb
The top of your thumb should be used as a prop for the top chopstick.
It will provide enough pressure so that the chopstick can rotate.
Step 4: Move The Chopsticks
Note that the first chopstick (which should be on the bottom) will remain still. Your index and middle fingers should do the work with the second chopstick.
Try using your index and middle fingers to move your top chopstick up and down, and then try to open the chopsticks.
Step 5: Close The Chopsticks
Once you’ve opened the chopsticks, try to close them. You can also practice trying to pick up a small item. Keep your hand loose without losing control of the chopsticks.
Step 6: Raise The Chopsticks
When you raise the chopsticks to your mouth, try to press down a bit on the top chopstick. This will ensure that you can keep the food secure between the chopsticks.
Step 7: Use Chopsticks To Tear Your Food
If you’re using chopsticks instead of a knife and fork, you should be able to use the chopsticks to tear the food into smaller pieces so you can eat it.
To do this, bring the tips of the chopsticks together and stick them into the food. Carefully but firmly pull the chopsticks apart so that you’re pulling and tearing the food.
Note, however, that traditional Asian dishes usually contain vegetables and meat that have been cut into practical sizes so that you can pick them up with chopsticks. If you’re eating in a casual setting, it’s usually fine for you to bite larger pieces of food instead of cutting them first.
Other Tips For Mastering Chopsticks
Make sure you practice using your chopsticks quietly. If they make noises because they bump into each other, this can be seen as rude in formal settings.
If you’re battling to pick up food with your chopsticks, move your grip a bit so that the pad of your middle finger is bracing the bottom chopstick on the opposite side of your thumb.
Get into the habit of using both chopsticks together. This will take some practice, but it’s important because you should never use the chopsticks separately. They have to move around together.
Chopstick Etiquette For Different Cuisines
Chopstick rules and etiquette vary in different regions of the world. Here are some things to know.
You can lift your food bowl and put food in your mouth with your chopsticks.
At the table, your chopsticks should rest above your plate so that they’re parallel to the table and their tips are positioned to the left.
Never rest your chopsticks in a crossed position as this is a symbol of death.
Never rub disposable chopsticks together. This is said to imply that you think the restaurant has provided cheap chopsticks.
You can raise your bowl closer to your mouth and nudge food into your mouth with your chopsticks.
Never place your chopsticks on the table so that they’re pointed at anyone at the table.
Bear in mind elders need to be served first and they should be the first to start eating.
You can use chopsticks to cut soft food into smaller pieces for children.
You’re also allowed to raise your bowl of food and use chopsticks to move the food into your mouth.
You’ll usually find that a spoon is provided with chopsticks. This is used for liquids, but you can also use a spoon if you’re eating rice.
You should never lift a bowl of food closer to your mouth. You have to lift food to your mouth from the bowl that’s on the table.
You must place your chopsticks to the right of the spoon, as this is considered etiquette at the table. They’re placed on the left of the spoon if you’re at a funeral.
You can raise a bowl and use chopsticks to move food into your mouth.
Never place your chopsticks in a “V” shape when put down on the table as this is considered to be a bad omen.
General Mistakes To Avoid When Eating With Chopsticks
Don’t assume that chopsticks are a staple in all Asian countries. This is a common misconception. The countries in which people use chopsticks are China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. In the Philippines, you won’t find chopsticks as most meals are eaten with spoons and forks.
You might not realize that there isn’t just one type of chopsticks. The right chopsticks you should use depend on the type of cuisine you’re eating. Chopsticks’ shape and material varies in different countries.
For example, Japanese chopsticks will have pointier tips as a result of the rice being sticky and the food delicate, whereas in China chopsticks have blunt ends that make it easier to scoop up rice and enjoy larger pieces of food with them.
You might be placing your chopsticks incorrectly when you’ve finished eating. The best way is to put your chopsticks across the bowl. However, it’s considered rude to do this if there is still food on your plate.
Should you buy plastic or bamboo chopsticks?
Bamboo is better than plastic, as a result of how it’s not slippery. Wooden or bamboo chopsticks provide a better grip so they’re also ideal for beginners.
How should you rest your chopsticks during your meal?
If you need to put your chopsticks down at any time during your meal, you’ll probably have a chopstick rest next to you that’s been provided by the restaurant. Remember that in formal settings, putting down your chopsticks means you’re not hungry or have finished eating.
If you’ve never held or used chopsticks before, you might assume it’s difficult to eat with them.
But it doesn’t have to be. In this article, we’ve featured what you need to know to learn how to use chopsticks and tips related to chopstick etiquette.
Nicole Dowdy is an avid foodie and successful restaurateur. [He/she] has dedicated nearly all her life to learning popular recipes from across the globe as well as developing new ones. Using Food Migration, Nicole Dowdy shares the very best recipes for just about every home cook looking to try something new in the kitchen. Pro chefs can also learn a few tricks on the website.Looking to improve your kitchen? You will also find awesome and high-quality kitchen utensil recommendations as well as buying guides on this website.