How to Eat with Chopsticks
Whether you want to eat your Asian cuisine more authentically, or are travelling abroad, there are many reasons to want to learn how to use chopsticks.
1. Pick up the first chopstick and place it between your middle finger and the base of your thumb.
This one is your anchor -- it should not move. Stiffen your hand for a firm grip. Have the broad end of the chopstick lay in the crook of your hand, where your thumb and pointer finger connect. Rest the narrow end between the base of your thumb and the side of your index finger. It should be virtually immobile. It's similar to how you hold a pen, but a bit lower.
Some may prefer to hold the chopstick on the side of their ring finger, with the tip of their ring finger holding it in place. This frees the middle finger to hold the other chopstick more securely and provides that one with more control. It is a more formal approach.
2. Grip the second chopstick with your index finger and thumb.
This is the stick that moves. Place your thumb over the side of the second chopstick, so it rests above the first. Adjust your grip to a more comfortable position. Make sure the narrow tips of the chopsticks are even with each other to help prevent them from crossing or being unable to "pinch" the food.
- To get them even, you can tap them on the table. Uneven chopsticks will be very difficult to use.
3. Practice opening and closing the chopsticks.
Make sure the broad ends of the chopsticks do not make an "X" as this will make it difficult to pick up food. Is only the top one moving? Great!
- If it helps, move your hand up and down the chopsticks, but maintaining the same position, experimenting with levels of grip. Some find it easier to maneuver closer to the base, others further up.
4. Start picking up food!
Working from a 45° angle may be easiest right now. Once you have it steady, lift 'er up. If it feels unstable, put it down and try again.
- Once you get good at one type of food, move onto different sizes and textures. When you start feeling really confident, practice with noodles!
1. Know the rules when sharing food.
Often at Asian dining tables (whether at home or at a restaurant) means sharing large plates of food. It's not proper to dive in to the communal meal with chopsticks that have just been in your mouth! You have two options:
- Use a public pair of serving chopsticks that never touch your own (or anybody else's) bowl of rice/food
- Pick with the other (non-eating) end of your chopsticks. That's the broad end that hopefully you're not chewing on!
2. Know what to do with them when not eating.
The rules of chopsticking don't end once you have the food in your mouth, unfortunately. Each society has slightly different rules, but in general:
- Don't stick your chopsticks upright in your food. It's looked at as a bad omen and is reminiscent of incense at funerals.
- Don't spear your food with the ends of your chopsticks. If all else fails, it may seem like a good alternative, but it's viewed as impolite.
- Don't pass food from chopstick to chopstick. Also funeral protocol and viewed as bad (or even ominous) table behavior.
- Don't cross your chopsticks. If you're done eating, lay them to the side of your dish on the left.
- Don't point at people with your chopsticks. Pointing in general is a no-no in Asian cultures and same goes with chopsticks.
- This page would be far too long if all the rules were listed. These are the basics.
3. When eating rice be willing to dig in.
If a bowl of rice is placed in front of you and all you have are two small bamboo rods, you may feel like you're up a creek without a paddle. But it's perfectly acceptable (normal, rather) to lift the bowl of rice close to your mouth and work from there. You won't look foolish, you'll look seasoned!
- You may feel a little like the Beast during his dinner with Belle, but rest assured, this is how it's done. Don't shovel the rice into your mouth like a caveman, but do lift up the bowl near to you to prevent rice drippings from accumulating around your eating area.
- Japan has slightly stricter rules regarding this. If you're in China or Vietnam, for example, you may be able to shovel away.