A significant portion of the world’s population eats with chopsticks every day for every meal. Those who have grown up using different utensils, however, will have to learn how to use chopsticks properly. It’s not always intuitive for fork-and-knife-wielders to pick up chopsticks and successfully guide those long noodles from bowl to mouth, but a few easy techniques can keep the food on course and the tablecloth (and dignity) unblemished.
Types of Chopsticks
Disposable Wooden Chopsticks
When ordering takeout, or sometimes even for those eating in, people might find themselves presented with disposable wooden chopsticks. These are designed for a single use, and are usually attached at the base. To prepare to enjoy a feast, users should pull them apart as gently as possible so that they separate neatly. Ideally, the user should avoid leaving the dreaded chunky double-base that occurs when snapping one stick off at the joint. Once diners have separated the sticks, give them a few brisk brushes against each other to knock loose any dust or splinters. The cheaper and more flimsy the set, the more brushing will be needed to prepare the wood for splinter-free eating.
Reusable Wooden Chopsticks
Traditional chopsticks are usually made of bamboo or another type of wood native to Asia. Highly desirable ornate sets are easy to find, and examining a finely crafted pair can be one of the true pleasures of dining with this type of utensil. Users should be careful not to rub more upscale wooden chopsticks together, however, especially if they are a guest in someone’s home, it’s unnecessary and unmannerly and implies that the guest assumes the host’s chopsticks are cheap.
Most Asian restaurants provide long plastic chopsticks for diners. Apart from being the most common type, plastic chopsticks are generally easiest to master because they are light, long, and sturdy. They aren’t often much to look at, but they’re certainly functional and effective.
Korean food is usually consumed with metal chopsticks. These are the trickiest for new users to master because they are heavier, shorter, and more slender. Using metal chopsticks often requires an altered grip and a slightly different position along the sticks’ length. Some diners experience greater precision with metal chopsticks once they’ve mastered them.
How to Hold and Manipulate Chopsticks
Although all pairs of chopsticks should be pretty much identical, it helps to think of them operationally as the anchor chopstick and the mobile chopstick. To grip the anchor chopstick, users can lodge it firmly between the lower half of the thumb’s pad (toward the crease of the first thumb knuckle) and the middle or ring finger, depending on personal preference. This stick shouldn’t move as users grab their food. The mobile chopstick should be gripped with the tip of the thumb’s pad and the centre of the index and middle fingertips, or just the index fingertip for those using the single-finger method.
Gripping Food With Chopsticks
The thumb, placed across both chopsticks, acts as the fulcrum of the snack lever, and the other fingertips act as the counterweights that let eaters squeeze whichever dumpling or maki their heart desires. Diners should be careful not to apply too much pressure with any part of the grip, lest they cross the sticks and drop their food. Users should allow the hand to slide up and down the length of the chopsticks as necessary by placing the tips against the interior of the plate or bowl, widening the distance between the tips to accommodate the morsel in question.
Proper Etiquette When Using Chopsticks
It’s common to share large plates or bowls of food in cultures that primarily use chopsticks as dining utensils, especially in China. Some restaurants or hosts will provide serving spoons or serving chopsticks for the purpose of moving food from the shared dish to each bowl or plate. If no shared serving utensil is available, the polite and hygienic convention is to flip chopsticks around and use the end which has not entered the mouth.
Apart from the standard, common-sense hygiene concerns when using chopsticks, there are several other conventions that diners might keep in mind:
Avoid pointing with chopsticks.
Avoid jabbing chopsticks into a morsel of food. Stay patient and figure out how to grip the food more elegantly or break it into more manageable pieces.
Avoid crossing chopsticks when they are at rest. Again, just like with a fork, knife, or spoon, chopsticks should rest neatly side-by-side across a plate or bowl, and avoid contact between the mouth end and the table.
How to Buy Chopsticks on eBay
eBay hosts a wide variety of chopstick types, from bulk supplies of disposable wooden sticks, to plastic restaurant-style sticks, to Korean-style metal sticks. Fancy and utilitarian sets are all available. Shoppers can simply decide which type of chopsticks are preferred and contact the seller whose wares matches their needs. Once in a buyer’s grip, he is ready to eat.