We’ve all been there: headed out for a healthy Japanese meal, ordered our favourite Katsu curry, only to find that we spend hours awkwardly trying to figure out how to use the chopsticks so that we can eat more than one grain of rice before our dinner goes cold. With Asian cuisine booming in the UK, the need to learn how to use chopsticks is making its way onto everyone’s priority list (especially in restaurants where cutlery is omitted and chopsticks are left in their place- eek!).
Although everyone has a different way of tackling chopstick etiquette, why not impress your friends or work colleagues by learning the authentic way to use them while finding out a little bit about Japanese culture along the way? Gripped? I thought so.
Contrary to general opinion, there are three distinct types of chopstick: Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Chinese chopsticks tend to be the longest and thickest versions. Korean chopsticks are typically made from stainless steel and have roughened edges to combat their tendency to slip. Japanese chopsticks are a popular (and our favourite) choice as they demonstrate the greatest diversity of size, material, colour and design.
In Japan, hashi (Japanese chopsticks) and hashioki (Japanese chopstick rests) are essential parts of an authentic Japanese meal. The Japanese adopted the use of chopsticks to eat their food over 1100 years ago and today use an incredible 24 billion disposable chopsticks a year! If you don’t already have a set of chopsticks, we have a great selection of beautifully decorated chopsticks available in store!
To keep you motivated in your quest to become a chopstick champion, we’ve lined up a little bit of music.
Mentally prepare yourself….Just kidding. First things first, take one of your chopsticks into your dominant hand with the thinner end pointing downwards.
Hold this chopstick as if you were holding a pen. If you have positioned your chopstick correctly, your middle finger should be supporting the underside of the chopstick, your thumb should be holding it in place by applying gentle pressure to its side and your index finger should be resting on the top. This is your top chopstick.
In this position, you should be able to move the chopstick up and down freely using your middle and index fingers while keeping your thumb stationary.
Place the second chopstick, thinner end pointing downwards, in between your thumb and your palm. Keep this chopstick in place by resting it on your third finger (ring finger). This is your bottom chopstick and it remains still while being used.
Adjust the chopsticks until the thinner ends are in line with each other.
Using your index and middle fingers, in a pincer-type movement, lower and raise your top chopstick so that it touches the end of your bottom chopstick. Repeat this motion when attempting to pick up food.
Breathe, you’re doing great. It’s important to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start by picking up large things like pieces of broccoli or chicken. Once you have mastered this, think about moving onto smaller foods such as rice.
- Stabbing or impaling your food with your chopsticks does not count. In fact, we wouldn’t advise placing your chopsticks upright in your food as this is regarded by some Asians as a symbol of making offerings to family members who have passed on.
- It is perfectly acceptable to hold your bowl to your mouth and shovel the rice in using your chopsticks. But, if you can pick up rice without using the ‘shoveling method’ we’ll be mightily impressed.
- Using your chopsticks as weapons when frustrated is not advised.
- If you’ve decided to take a break from eating when your chopsticks are not in use, their pointed ends should be placed onto a chopstick rest.
After all, it’s a great excuse, if you need another one, to eat lots of delicious Asian food.
When you become a chopstick master, why not share a video and show us your skills?