When most Westerners think of “eating utensils” they think of spoons, forks, knives, and, maybe, sporks. What if there was a better option?
Enter chopsticks. Chopsticks are a fantastic and healthy tool used by billions of people worldwide for eating. When used correctly, chopsticks are much neater than regular forks and knives. They also only require you to use one hand to eat, leaving the other free to read a book or browse your Instagram. There are even studies suggesting that eating with chopsticks can help you make healthier choices and lose weight. There really is no downside!
What are Chopsticks?
Chopsticks look like two narrow sticks with a thicker end and a narrower end. They were traditionally made of bamboo or wood, but modern ones are also made of plastic and fiberglass.
You can eat with chopsticks by balancing one on the space between your thumb and index finger and your ring finger. You will then hold the second one with your forefinger and middle finger, keeping it in place with your thumb. You can then move the top stick to grab your food by pinching it.
Types and Styles of Chopsticks
Each country and culture has its own traditional kinds of chopsticks. It would be impossible to detail every variation, but the two most common ones are Japanese and Chinese chopsticks, followed closely by Korean style chopsticks.
Japanese chopsticks are usually round and very thin with a pointed end. They often have grooves near the pointed end to help grip food. Japanese chopsticks tend to be shorter than Chinese chopsticks. Traditionally, women also had shorter chopsticks than men.
Traditional Chinese chopsticks are square instead of round, and they have blunter ends than Japanese chopsticks. They also do not have grip grooves because the rectangular shape helps to keep food in place. The extra length on Chinese chopsticks is useful because Chinese tables tend to be larger than ones from other parts of Asia.
Korean chopsticks are of a medium length. They taper on one end, but not as much as Japanese chopsticks. The thinner end is generally a somewhat flattened, rectangular shape. Korean chopsticks are also much more likely to be made of metal.
Best Overall High Quality Chopstick
Our favorite chopstick set on the market is the Goldage Fiberglass Chopsticks. It has all of the advantages of both traditional Chinese and Japanese style chopsticks combined with modern technology. Since the chopstick is made of fiberglass, it is dishwasher safe and will not break or wear out even after years of use. Goldage is so sure that your product will last that it comes with a full two year warranty.
These chopsticks are long and square like traditional Chinese chopsticks, but they do taper more than most Chinese chopsticks. This shape, combined with a higher friction surface at the tip, means it will be very easy even for first-time chopstick users to pick up food.
The Goldage Fiberglass Chopsticks are a classic black color with a tasteful, minimalistic flower pattern on the blunt end. They will match any type of bowl and work well for both casual and formal occasions.
History of Chopsticks
Like many eating utensils, chopsticks originated as cooking utensils. Traditional East Asian cooking involves the use of deep pots and woks filled with hot water and oil. Long cooking sticks were perfect for reaching into these boiling liquids and removing food.
Despite a long history than spans more than 3000 years, chopsticks have only been used for eating meals for about the last 1600 years. Around 400 AD, many cooks began chopping food into smaller pieces to conserve oil and cook them more quickly. This rendered the previously preferred knife relatively useless during mealtime. Confucius also believed that knives conveyed a sense violence that ruined the atmosphere of dinner, and the spread of his teachings consequently helped with the rise of mealtime chopsticks.
“The honorable and upright man
keeps well away from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen.
And he allows no knives on his table.”
The Shape of Chopsticks
In general, chopsticks look like, well, sticks. They are typically 7-9 inches in length, and have either a round or square shape around. They tend to be thinner at the end used for eating, and this end may or may not have grooves to help grip food. These qualities all depend on which culture the chopsticks are from.
Chopsticks can also be decorated in many ways. Although unadorned, disposable wooden chopsticks from takeout restaurants are perhaps what most Westerners are familiar with, many reusable and decorative chopsticks feature elaborate designs and colors.
What are Chopsticks Made Out Of
Disposable chopsticks are typically made out of wood, while sturdier, reusable chopsticks are made of more durable materials such as bamboo, fiberglass, plastic, and stainless steel. High-end or decorative chopsticks can be made of precious materials such as gold, silver, ivory, jade, or porcelain. Most people prefer materials such as fiberglass because they are eco-friendly, durable, and easy to clean.
Different Countries that Use Chopsticks and Their Etiquettes
China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Singapore all have traditionally preferred chopsticks over other utensils. Some combine the use of chopsticks and spoons at mealtimes depending on traditional foods and local customs.
Every country and every region that uses chopsticks has its own rules and customs, but, in general, always remember the following:
- Do not ever stick your chopsticks into your food. Spearing food instead of pinching it is considered rude, while leaving chopsticks stuck in a bowl of rice is a symbol of death.
- Keep chopsticks together and do not cross them over each other.
- Only use matching chopsticks.
- Do not hold chopsticks in your mouth when passing food plates, waving at passersby, etc.
- Do not rinse chopsticks off in a bowl or drinking glass.
- Do not use chopsticks as a shovel for food. You should pinch each bite of food in between the two sticks.
- Use serving chopsticks instead of your own when transferring food from a communal dish to your plate. Do not eat off of these serving chopsticks.
- Do not use your chopsticks to point at people or things.
If you are thinking that it would be impossible to use chopsticks neatly, remember that not all Western rules apply when using chopsticks! For example, it is completely acceptable to lift a bowl of noodles to your mouth in most countries that use chopsticks. Small amounts of noodle slurping is also acceptable.
What Meals Would You Use Chopsticks For
You can use chopsticks for any meal — breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
You don’t have to be eating a specifically Asian dish to use chopsticks either. They work perfectly well for things like scrambled eggs or rigatoni.
Meals that work best with chopsticks involve solid food that is cut into small, bite-sized pieces. It would not make sense to use chopsticks for things like soup or things that do not hold together like thin oatmeal. It also doesn’t make sense to use chopsticks for hand-held foods like sandwiches and pizza. Most other foods, however, are fair game!
Chopsticks work especially well with cooked meats, vegetables, and sushi.
Benefits of Using Chopsticks, Especially if they are Reusable
There are a lot of benefits to using chopsticks, including their ease of cleaning, single hand use, opportunity for learning about other foods and cultures, health, and coordination-enhancing ability.
Chopsticks are a lot easier to clean than regular utensils because there is only a small food contact surface. Even washing chopsticks by hands is relatively simple and quick because of their shape.
• Single Hand Use
Using chopsticks only requires one hand, leaving the other free. You can easily read a book or scroll through an important email while eating. Alternatively, you can use your other hand to lift the bowl to your mouth without it being considered taboo!
• Learning About Other Cultures
If you want a great opportunity to use your chopstick wielding skills, you can go to an East Asian restaurants. It is the perfect excuse to try that new Thai place or that Korean restaurant your boss keeps telling you about.
On the other hand, you can try making some new foods for yourself. If you get a Chinese or Japanese cookbook, you can get a lot of ideas!
You can also really impress your friends if they join you! In any case, using chopsticks presents you with many opportunities to learn about other cultures’ cuisines.
The best reason to use chopsticks instead of forks and knives? It may be healthier! Research has shown that, because of the way you have to eat when using chopsticks, you tend to choose healthier foods and eat more slowly.
You will choose and eat healthier foods when you eat with chopsticks because healthy, whole foods are easily eaten with chopsticks. Braised meats and stir-fried vegetables, for example, are great choices for health and chopsticks!
People also eat less when they eat with chopsticks. It takes your stomach some time to send satiety signals to the brain. Since you eat smaller bites and eat them more slowly when you use chopsticks, your brain will register that you are full when you have eaten less food. This means you will eat less than you would have if you had shoveled your dinner into your mouth with a fork.
Both of these factors result in people choosing foods with an overall lower glycemic index and can help with weight loss. As an added bonus, smaller bites also reduce the risk of choking.
• Motor Skills
Using chopsticks can also improve coordination and fine motor skills, especially in children. Using chopsticks is sometimes a form of rehabilitation therapy for people with injuries, nerve damage, or burns on their hands. If you think chopsticks might aid in your injury recovery, it may be worth it to talk with your physical or occupational therapist. After all, using chopsticks requires more than 30 muscles to work together!
How to Clean Chopsticks
For best results, treat reusable chopsticks like any high-quality cookware or utensil. You should wash them immediately after use in warm water. Even if they are dishwasher safe, they will last longer if you wash them by hand. Dry off the chopsticks and store them in a dry place. You will also want to keep your chopsticks together since it is considered rude in some cultures to use chopsticks that do not match. A storage bag may help with that.
How to Hold and Use Chopsticks
Learning to use chopsticks can seem daunting, but it is actually not that difficult! Follow these easy steps, and you will be eating chopsticks like a pro in no time!
- Place one of the chopsticks in your dominant hand and let it rest horizontally on the space between your thumb and index finger and the top joint of your ring finger. The pointed tip should be pointing towards your other hand.
- Rest the other chopstick so that the tip touches the tip of the first and it also goes between the tips of your index and middle fingers. Hold it in place on the side with your thumb.
- Move the top chopstick up and down to grab food while keeping the bottom chopstick in place. You should be able to move the top chopstick up and down by moving your thumb.
You are now ready to start eating! Practice with small pieces of food or small objects to get the hang of the motion. You’ll be ready to show off yours skills in no time. If you are really struggling, you can practice with a pair of kid’s chopsticks first.
Chopsticks for Kids
“Kids’ chopsticks” is a bit of a misnomer as these unique pairs of chopsticks can be used by anyone who is just learning how to use chopsticks. For this reason, “kids’ chopsticks” are sometimes called training chopsticks.
The most common type of children’s or training chopsticks consist of four parts — two chopsticks, a piece that holds them together, and a hand positioner. The piece that holds the chopsticks together prevents new learners from dropping the chopsticks and prevents kids from losing one half of their set. The hand positioner features knobs and loops that assist new learners in getting the muscle memory needed to hold and use chopsticks without thinking.
Kids’ chopsticks themselves are usually shorter and more colorful than regular chopsticks. The piece that holds the two chopsticks together may also feature an animal or cartoon character.
The hand positioner and the top piece that holds the chopsticks together can be removed as the person using the training chopsticks becomes more familiar with how to use them. In some cases, smaller adults may actually prefer to use shorter children’s chopsticks at regular meals.
If you want to use chopsticks regularly, you should also consider investing a few high-quality accessories.
In formal situations, it is not polite to set your chopsticks directly on the table when you put them down. Instead, you should set them on chopstick holders. These are available in many different styles, and there is sure to be one to suit you! For formal occasions, we like these stainless steel ones. If you want to show your fun side, consider traditional painted porcelain holders. You also don’t want to miss out on character and animal chopsticks holders, such as these panda ones, cat ones, or these owls.
If you want to carry your chopsticks around or keep them from getting scratched or damaged in your silverware drawer, you will want to make sure you have a chopstick bag. Like chopstick holders, there is a wide variety available! We like this set because it includes many different patterns for a reasonable price. These bags can also be used for things like reusable straws.
Although we don’t recommend using a dishwasher regularly to clean your chopsticks, there is still a way to do it properly! If you put your chopsticks in a normal silverware holder, they might slide through. Instead, insert a dishwasher chopstick and straw holder into your bottom rack. This will prevent sliding and ensure your chopsticks are squeaky clean when they come out.
If you are going to be using chopsticks regularly, considering getting a chopsticks bowl. These bowls have notches for setting down your chopsticks and are the perfect shape for many Eastern-style noodle dishes. They come in a wide variety of beautifully painted colors and patterns.
Chopsticks are great for pinching small pieces of food, but you will need to buy a spoon or commit to drinking from a bowl if you want to have a side of miso or egg drop soup! These spoons have a boat like shape that allows you to pick up more liquid. They also have an aesthetic to match your favorite pair of chopsticks.
The Downside to Using Chopsticks
Using chopsticks can improve your hand-eye coordination and overall health. There are actually very few downsides to using chopsticks.
In general, the only cons are that:
- There are some foods that are difficult to eat with chopsticks, especially very round or slippery foods like mac and cheese or soup. You may want to keep a spoon handy for these.
- If you set out chopsticks for use at a meal you are hosting, some of your guests may be unfamiliar with them.
- They are more difficult to use for people with arthritis or finger injuries who have not started rehabilitation.
Things You Didn’t Know About Chopsticks
- Sticking two chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice is usually a symbol of death.
- Chopsticks are not hair ornaments. The hair sticks are called kanzashi and look a bit different.
- It was believed that poison would turn silver black, making silver the material of choice for ancient East Asian royalty.
- It is possible to have a fear of chopsticks! This is called “consecotoleophobia.”
- Approximately the same number of people use chopsticks as their default utensil as use forks and knives.
Where to Find Chopsticks
Chopsticks can be found anywhere silverware is sold. We recommend reading reviews from trusted websites before making a final purchase though. Don’t just buy the first pair you see!
Our recommendation, the classy Goldage Fiberglass Chopsticks, can be found on Amazon. Soon, you will be able to by the best pair on the market right here on ComproGear’s website!