Eating with chopsticks can be intimidating, especially for those who haven’t learned to use them from a young age. In this film we show you the basics of using chopsticks in the Chinese method.
Step 1: Holding the chopsticks
The important thing with chopsticks is that you find a method of holding them that allows you to eat easily and comfortably. Traditionally chopsticks are always held in the right hand, but this is not set in stone so you can adapt this method to suit your own requirements. If you’re using wooden chopsticks, start by rubbing them together to rub off any loose splinters. When learning to hold chopsticks, it is helpful to place them into your hand one at a time. Lay the first chopstick between the base of your thumb and the tip of your ring finger, with the narrow end pointing away from you. It should be able to lay there comfortably. Then take hold of the second chopstick between the tip of your thumb and index finger.
Practice a pinching movement with the chopsticks by moving the top chopstick down toward the bottom one. Although it customary to use the middle finger to grip the top chopstick, some people find it easier to use the middle finger on the bottom chopstick. When first learning to use chopsticks it may be easier to hold them towards the front, the narrow end, but as you become more confident you should hold them closer to the back at the broad ends. Also, as you become more experienced, you will be able to pick the chopsticks up and get them into position with one movement of your right hand, not involving the left hand at all. If you’ve picked up your chopsticks and the ends are uneven, you can tap them on the table to get them even.
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Step 2: Handling food
If you’re dishing food from a shared serving bowl into your own bowl, either use a pair of serving chopsticks, or use the wider end of your own chopsticks. Never take food from a shared bowl with the narrow end of chopsticks which have been in your mouth. Chinese food, whether it’s meat, fish or vegetables, is usually served in strips or cubes, so each piece can simply be picked up with the tips of the chopsticks and eaten whole.
Chinese rice is prepared so that it is sticky, and can easily be picked up in clumps with chopsticks. If you’re eating noodles, it is not considered rude to slurp noodles into your mouth, but if you feel more comfortable you can twist the noodles into a ball and eat it whole. At the end of the meal, or any time you need to lay your chopsticks down, lay them with narrow end on a chopstick stand. If you don’t have a stand, lay them against the edge of your bowl.
Step 3: Etiquette
There are a number of ways of using chopsticks which are considered bad table manners in Chinese dining. For instance, never stick your chopsticks standing upright in a bowl of food. This mimics a Chinese funeral ritual, so it is seen as a symbol of death. Also, never stab food with the point of a chopstick – the chopsticks are designed for pinching not stabbing.
Also, when dishing up from a shared serving bowl, it is considered rude to dig around for the choicest pieces, so always take the food nearest to you. It’s also seen as an insult to your host if you don’t finish all the food that you are given. If you are struggling to pick up the last pieces of rice in your bowl with your chopsticks, you can lift the bowl to your mouth and shovel the rice in with your chopsticks. It is considered polite to eat every last grain of rice. Enjoy!