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What's the deal with chopsticks?

  • r

A question I've pondered for many years. Why do people insist on using chopsticks to eat Asian food, even in a setting like a corporate cafeteria? These are not people who grew up using them. Isn't it easier to use a knife, fork and spoon?

My theory is that this is an affectation to make one seem more sophisticated and "authentic" than the masses. Thoughts?

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  1. Sometimes it just FUN to eat with chopsticks b/c its not the normal fork and knife.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chv

      I am weird, I eat just about everything with chopsticks at home, I just got used to it and I prefer it, I don't feel that it makes me better than anyone.

    2. This reminds me of one part of Jerry Seinfeld's "I'm Telling You for the Last Time" standup routine:

      Jerry Seinfeld on chopsticks:

      "I'll tell you what I like about Chinese people. They're hanging in there with the chopsticks. You know they've seen the fork. They're staying with the sticks. I don't know how they missed it. Going out all day on the farm with a shovel. Come on. Shovel. Spoon. You're not plowing 50 acres with a couple of pool cues."

      Link: http://elmomonster.blogspot.com

      1. Funny post. Maybe it goes without thought - chopsticks and asian food just go together. Have you seen someone eat sushi with a fork and knife? I have and it makes me wince just thinking about it....

        3 Replies
        1. re: ha ha

          Not to start the whole sushi etiquette thing again, but I was once told by a Japanese person that sushi (the rolls, anyway) is a finger food.

          1. re: Ray

            I thought I read that both the rolls _and_ the nigiri were finger foods (hence the pre-meal towel) and that sashimi is eaten with chopsticks.

          2. re: ha ha

            Sushi is to be eaten with fingers, not chopsticks.

          3. I especially like it when people insist on using chopsticks in Thai restaurants.

            3 Replies
            1. re: FlyFish

              Chopsticks are used in Thailand. But only to eat Chinese food or Chinese/Thai food like noodles..

              1. re: FlyFish

                Actually chopsticks are used for noodle dishes in Thailand. Stir-fried food is eaten with a spoon (and pushed onto the spoon with a fork).

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  When we had our Indonesian banquest on Sunday, the table service was fork and large spoon. The only appearance of chopsticks was as serving utensils with the Bakmi Goreng Babah, stir fried noodles. They were longer and thicker than the usual sticks for eating.

              2. I was on the amtrak yesterday and bought a cup of noodles - and of course, they served it with a plastic fork. It was just plain weird. I stared at it, almost at a loss for what to do next... I don't know if I've ever before, in my whole life - extending over a half a century - eaten noodle soup with a fork. I actually mulled over using my Waterman ball point and Mont Blanc fountain pens and sticking the ends into the hot, salty, greasy mess... I did think better of that... But I do think that had I had access to a couple of cheap Bics, they would have been my choice for eating utensils at that moment. Chacon a son gout.

                1. not easier, nor not as enjoyable using knofe and fork..

                  1. m
                    Morton the Mousse

                    I appreciate the value in using a wood utensil. Plastic utensils make food taste strongly of plastic, metal utensils give food a subtle metallic taste. I find wood to have the least intrusive effect on flavor.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                      Tell that to the Koreans, who use metal chopsticks! Also, many Japanese chopsticks are lacquer-covered. Plain wood chopsticks are cheap, and are not used at home.

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        After spending much of my Naval career in Japan, i've amassed quite a nice collection of lacquered chopstick sets...beautiful inlay, colors...very nice!

                      2. re: Morton the Mousse

                        Serioulsy? No, really.

                        I only use chopsticks if I'm given them as an eating utensil. I don't seek them out.

                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                          I find wood has the strongest flavor, plstic flavorless

                          1. re: Morton the Mousse

                            Then why don't you find a wooden spoon and fork.

                          2. I actually eat quite a few things with chopsticks, even things that aren't really supposed to be eaten that way. I like chopsticks for the precision. I can pick up a few strands of sauerkraut (which I eat plain from a bowl when I am having cravings) or just one noodle at a time from my soup. I also like, for noodle soups, the ability to pick up one noodle, drop it into my spoon and then sop up some of the broth.
                            This almost all happens at home as I try to be a little less obviously compulsive when eating out :) so I can say it isn't to try to make anyone feel inferior.
                            Some foods, to me, are easier to eat with chopstick than with a fork, however, some food supposed to be eaten with chopsticks if one was staying within cultural norms are not. Fried rice is much easier for me to eat with a fork and more enjoyable, so I do. But I pick the chopsticks back up for the long beans, because they are easier and neater that way. So really, I am the crazy girl with the fork, knife, and chopsticks all going at the same time trying to maximize the flavor and my experience.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Meredith

                              As posted not very long ago, I've noticed (careful) that Asian people in the US tend to use chopsticks for eating from bowls, forks when eating from plates. Practicality and comfort should and usually do override most considerations of what is "correct". It seems easier to use chopsticks to pick up pieces of food, than a fork. Forks are great for holding stuff down while sawing away at it with a knife. I can get by without a fork, but not without a knife, spoon, and chopsticks.

                              1. re: Meredith

                                When eating popcorn at home, I prefer using chopsticks. Keeps my fingers from getting greasy!

                                1. re: Caroline1


                                  My first job was in a movie theatre. I have definitely seen people pull chopsticks out of their purses to eat popcorn. It keeps your hands clean, and slows down the eating process (the popcorn might make it through the previews). And no one can see you in the dark!

                                  1. re: miss_bennet

                                    After I wrote that I just had to have a bag of popcorn and discovered I don't like disposable wooden chopsticks for popcorn, but only the pointed black lacquer "Japanese" kind. But I don't think I'd be comfortable whipping out a pair in a movie theater. As scrunched as today's cineplex seating is, I'd be afraid of poking someone in the eye!

                                    1. re: miss_bennet

                                      I am not very adept with chopsticks, so lately, when eating in private, I've been using them as a diet aid, since they force you to eat more slowly. (If you eat slowly, you feel full with less food). Of course, not everything is suitable for chopsticks. So I use a teaspoon instead of a soup spoon, and a spork or lobster/crab fork instead of a fork.

                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        My hubby and I got into this discussion today at lunch. While eating at a Thai restaurant, I noticed how much more adept with chopsticks we were now! We both seek them out when at Asian restaurants, even for take out, as a way to enjoy the food a bit more by savoring each bite and not rushing through the meal. I haven't noticed a weight-reducing aspect, but that is more on a lack of will-power when it comes to food.

                                2. assuming appropriate application i don't find chopsticks any easier or more difficult to use than silverware. they can be fun, just like skipping utensils altogether (even when not really appropriate) can be fun.

                                  1. I raised this very issue about 2 years back and got some very heated responses. People get nutty about this. It’s almost a religious issue, a battle to the death between the faithful and the infidels.

                                    Full disclosure - I’ve eaten with chopsticks for 20 years. I have no problem pickup up individual grains of rice although it’s not my favorite thing to do. I even taught my kids to use chopsticks by the time they were 8. Expertise is not an issue for me, but given a choice I prefer not to use them.

                                    Lets start with the obvious – the food tastes exactly the same whether you eat it with chopsticks or regular tableware. Isn’t it about the food? Or is this some sort of Renaissance festival where we all dress up and pretend we’re medieval peasants?

                                    And on a rational level the fork just works better – you can spear or shovel. It’s far more effective. Add in a knife and you can tackle any dish with ease.

                                    Chopsticks work fine for food in medium size pieces but fail miserably for finely diced foods or large pieces which are too big to be swallowed in a single go. You’re forced to hold the piece up to you mouth, bite off a portion like a shark, and then repeat the process. Of course if you had a knife you’d cut those large pieces in two, but no – you have two sticks.

                                    Eating rice with chopsticks? Yes, it can be done, in the same way that you could use a hammer as a broom.

                                    Chopstick zealots will say the damnedest things.

                                    “It shows respect for the cuisine.” Really? The Kung Pao chicken doesn’t care. Neither does the Double Cooked Pork. I asked them.

                                    “If you demonstrate expertise with chopsticks the waiter will give you the spicy stuff.” Sure. The waiter runs into the kitchen and tells the cook that the Caucasian at table 4 is really great with chopsticks so spice it up for him. It might happen, but it’s far more likely that if you obviously are enjoying your food they’ll respond by serving you the real stuff and not dumbed down versions of authentic dishes.

                                    So, you would think that I always ask for a knife and fork in a Chinese restaurant. Wrong. If the chopsticks are there I always use them. It’s almost a macho thing – I’ve got to prove that I can do it.

                                    As I said, it’s not a rational decision.

                                    21 Replies
                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                      >>Lets start with the obvious – the food tastes exactly the same whether you eat it with chopsticks or regular tableware.>>

                                      Oh, wow, I don't think so. In addition to wood vs. metal (vs. plastic) there's the amount you pick up at a time, whether it's clumped together and all sort of factors to do with how you pick up the food that can affect the taste.

                                      1. re: bibi rose

                                        And how much of that spicy stuff falls back off the food onto the plate/platter. Which is why I sometimes go directly to the spoon. ;-)

                                        1. re: Aromatherapy

                                          I'm sure the question of whether or not food tastes different with different utensils has been written about many times. Here's a short take on the topic:


                                          The real question for me, here, is why would you *not* want to use the utensils designed for a particular kind of food? If it's difficult or inconvenient or whatever, fine, but the appeal of using as many aspects of any given cuisine as you can seems pretty common-sense.

                                      2. re: Bob Martinez

                                        "Or is this some sort of Renaissance festival where we all dress up and pretend we’re medieval peasants?"

                                        "Of course if you had a knife you’d cut those large pieces in two, but no – you have two sticks."

                                        "Sure. The waiter runs into the kitchen and tells the cook that the Caucasian at table 4 is really great with chopsticks so spice it up for him."

                                        Thanks for a chuckle on a Friday afternoon!

                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                          "Chopsticks work fine for food in medium size pieces but fail miserably for finely diced foods or large pieces which are too big to be swallowed in a single go"

                                          If the food is prepared properly, this isn't an issue.

                                          "Eating rice with chopsticks? Yes, it can be done, in the same way that you could use a hammer as a broom"

                                          Chinese people actually bring the rice bowls to their mouths and push the rice into their mouths so yes, eating rice with chopsticks makes perfect sense.

                                          Choosing to use chopsticks is just a matter of etiquette. I mean do we really need to use multiple knives, forks, and spoons at higher end restaurants? No. We do it because it is accepted practice in that environment. So in this regard, it does show respect for the culture if not the cuisine.

                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                            I think the big part of this discussion that you're missing is the cultural aspect. My girlfriend is from Taiwan, so I know I thing or two about this. Chinese people generally eat much slower than Americans. She's always telling me to slow down when I eat, and when she goes home to see her parents, her parents tell her that now she's eating too fast also!

                                            It's important to realize that while American food (and our culture in general) is more about efficiency, time management, cost:value ratio, etc... most other cultures in the world do not measure quality by such means. In Taiwan, meals are not about efficiency, or your food to time ratio, and I for one welcome the opportunity to slow things down a bit and actually enjoy and savor my food more, instead of shoveling it down. (Of course, I've become pretty quick with chopsticks now anyway...!)

                                            Mr. Taster

                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                              Well, I'll throw in a different argument. It's actually more efficient to eat with chopsticks in a family-style chinese dinner. The food is already cooked in bite-sized pieces, so the knife isn't an issue. Every person has a rice bowl, not a plate, and the rice bowl is held in one hand, the chopsticks in the other, so picking up rice grain by grain is not an issue.

                                              Now, here are some important distinction in a family-style chinese meal and a family-style american meal: in the former, you pick up the entrees bite by bite. You never using a serving utensil to serve yourself a portion. The food is stationary, you don't ask others to pass you food. Thus, the chopsticks are more efficient because you get greater reach (important for reaching those dishes farthest from you), and you can easily and accurately pick up exactly which morsel you want without bumping other food in the dish. Also, you can pick up a morsel of food from a center plate, pass it by your bowl to get some rice to eat in the same bite, and into your mouth in one fluid motion by rotating your wrist. With a fork, the stabbing motion is easier tines down, while the scooping motion is easier tines up, thus requiring you to shift the implement.

                                              I agree that in American-style eating, chopsticks aren't well suited. Eating fluffy american style rice off a plate? I don't bother, I go with a fork. Even in chinese restaurants, especially when I'm eating with caucasians, I go with the fork because most of the time we'll use serving utensils to serve ourselves a portion and eating off plates instead of bowls. But eating family-style chinese is much easier than with a fork.

                                              1. re: Jujubee

                                                I think you make good points here, but one of my problems is that in many American Chinese and Japanese restaurants, no, the food is NOT cut into bite-sized pieces, and I end up making a doofus out of myself trying to either shove the whole monster in or bite off a piece.

                                              2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                "Isn’t it about the food? Or is this some sort of Renaissance festival where we all dress up and pretend we’re medieval peasants?"

                                                Well considering that forks predate the 11th century and were once considered a scandalous affectation, what kind of pretense is suggested by the use of forks and knives?

                                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                  Chopsticks are far more precise than a fork. Of course, a fork and knife would be more practical if a steak and potato is set in front of you, but Asian meals are about variety. Many dishes are set family style in the middle of the table and you get a little of everything. Even if only 2 people are eating at a Korean restaurant, there may be 10 different little dishes on the table. You pick and choose and chopsticks are more advantageous in this light. You can pick up a few threads of bean sprouts rather than take the whole dish with you by stabbing at it with a fork. It's all about being noncommittal.

                                                  There's also a lot of assembly in some Asian foods (Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese). It's easier to pile on condiments and daikon and beef on a lettuce leaf with chopsticks than with a fork which you'd have to take an extra step for manually removing the food.

                                                  I think it all depends on what you're eating--not even distinguishing between Eastern and Western but focusing specifically on what it is. Combination Chinese plates from the mall are sometimes better eaten with a fork, while I find that it's really hard to stab away at those last few peas with a fork, but voila! with chopsticks, you can eat them one by one if you so choose.

                                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                    In addition the reasons mentioned below, chopsticks are also far more superior for eating delicate dumplings such as jiao zi, xiao long bao, and pot stickers. If a fork is used to eat any of the above dumplings, the fork would puncture the dumpling wrapper and all the juices (the essence of the dumpling) would run out. A spoon just simply does not offer the precision that chopsticks offer and trying to get the dumpling onto the spoon may also break the wrapper. Of course, this is assuming that one has mastered one's chopstick skills and could pick up small cubes of soft (or silken) tofu with chopsticks without breaking it. If one cannot then perhaps one has over-estimated one's chopstick skills. Furthermore, anyone who has mastered the art of using chopsticks knows that one does not use chopsticks to eat rice by picking up each individual grain. Rather, the chopsticks are used more a like shovel, with the bowl to the lips, to push *lumps* of rice into the mouth. And yes, chopsticks can also be used like a knife, too. This just depends one's skills and creativity.

                                                    1. re: stix

                                                      "If one cannot then perhaps one has over-estimated one's chopstick skills."

                                                      Three "ones" in a single sentence. Golly.

                                                      And to respond to this -

                                                      "Furthermore, anyone who has mastered the art of using chopsticks knows that one does not use chopsticks to eat rice by picking up each individual grain."

                                                      I mentioned the individual grain point in an attempt to head off the routine response by chopsticks True Believers to any question as to their usefulness, i.e. "The reason you don't like them is because you can't use them."

                                                      Yes, I can use them. Pretty well. The individual grain of rice comment was intended to confirm that I can pick up small objects, nothing more. Really, it's not that hard.

                                                      "Rather, the chopsticks are used more a like shovel, with the bowl to the lips, to push *lumps* of rice into the mouth."

                                                      I've been doing that for 20 years. But thanks. I know that you were trying to be really helpful and not condescending.

                                                      As I mentioned in another part of this thread, I don't see this as a "right or wrong" issue, only a matter of personal choice. Rational people ought to be able to discuss this without getting angry.

                                                      1. re: stix

                                                        " the chopsticks are used more a like shovel, with the bowl to the lips, to push *lumps* of rice into the mouth."

                                                        do you know what works as an even better rice shovel? a spoon.

                                                      2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                        "Isn’t it about the food?... And on a rational level the fork just works better – you can spear or shovel. It’s far more effective."

                                                        Yes, it's about the food, and thus efficiency and "shovelling" it aren't my highest priority. Using chopsticks forces you to take smaller bites, which makes it easier to enjoy the food, instead of just shovelling and swallowing as "effectively" as possible. I addition I disagree with the premise that forks are always as effective or more effective than chopsticks. Some things (pho, for example, or if you want a cross-cultural example, peas) are much easier to eat with chopsticks.

                                                        Actually, I'm a little puzzled why the original poster is so concerned with other people's choice of eating implements that he actually attributes negative character traits to people who use chopsticks.

                                                        Why does he care so much, and why the hostility?

                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          "Actually, I'm a little puzzled why the original poster is so concerned with other people's choice of eating implements that he actually attributes negative character traits to people who use chopsticks.

                                                          Why does he care so much, and why the hostility?"

                                                          I can't speak for the original poster but if you read the full thread you'll find that most of the hostility is coming from the people who use them. I've seen that before and was hoping that this time we could have a relaxed discussion about this. (I'm not referring to your post Ruth.)

                                                          I'm beginning to think that chopsticks are one of those hot button issues like children in restaurants which seem to bring out people's emotions.

                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                            I haven't seen that much hostility, and much of it was probably evoked by the original poster theorizing that people use chopsticks not for any legitimate (they find it easier or more appropriate), or even silly but benign (because it's fun), reason but because they are affected and have pretensions to "authenticity."

                                                            Like me, other posters probaby read that "theory" as an attack on their character and a challenge to defend themselves. And I resent feeling defensive about using chopsticks because someone else has decided that the reason I do so must be that I'm affected.

                                                            Again, I ask: why does it matter so much to him what other people choose to eat with?

                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                              >>I haven't seen that much hostility, and much of it was probably evoked by the original poster theorizing that people use chopsticks not for any legitimate (they find it easier or more appropriate), or even silly but benign (because it's fun), reason but because they are affected and have pretensions to "authenticity."

                                                              Like me, other posters probaby read that "theory" as an attack on their character and a challenge to defend themselves. And I resent feeling defensive about using chopsticks because someone else has decided that the reason I do so must be that I'm affected.>>

                                                              I refuse to feel defensive!

                                                              I think there's an interesting question in here somewhere, about the effect utensils have on the experience of eating. It's hard to get to it, though, through the suppositions. (People use chopsticks to make an impression; foods taste the same whichever utensils you use, etc.)

                                                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                            "I eat my peas with honey.
                                                            I've done it all my life.
                                                            I know the taste is funny,
                                                            but it keeps them on my knife."

                                                          3. re: Bob Martinez

                                                            It's the big stuff that foxes me, the pieces of food I'd normally cut up before eating anyway.

                                                            1. re: Doug Weller

                                                              I always carry a decent-sized folding knife, and if the food is served on ceramics, I have no hesitation about cutting stuff up to make it easier to eat. If the food is served on something damageable, like lacquered ware, I just go along with the program, which seems to involve picking up the whole piece and biting off hunks. Never mastered the Inuit style of grasping food with teeth and cutting off bite-sized chunk.

                                                            2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                              Interesting ideas, Bob, but as I've stated above, I eat popcorn with chopsticks and they are perfect. For popcorn, spoons or forks suck!

                                                            3. Another thing to throw out there:

                                                              I find that when I use chopsticks, I eat more slowly. With a fork, it's too easy to continuously shovel food into your mouth until you are beyond full before you realize it. Hey! Maybe that's why them asian folks are so skinny ; )

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: MM

                                                                I've read this as a diet tip before in women's magazines and, as someone who grew up using chopsticks and can eat just as quickly with them as with a fork, I find it hilarious. These people have obviously never seen my dad eat with chopsticks. He grew up in a Chinese family with 10 kids, and believe me when I say it is more than possible to shovel food using chopsticks.

                                                                1. re: Jujubee

                                                                  HAHA...OK, I believe you

                                                              2. To me, if I'm using chopsticks, I've got to have a rice bowl in my other hand. This is if I'm in a Chinese restaurant.

                                                                In an authentic Thai restaurant, it is customary to use a spoon in the right hand, and a fork on the left. The fork is used to help guide food into the spoon, the spoon then goes into your mouth. Ask for chopsticks if you like, but you'll soon see that you're the only one in the restaurant using one. The same goes for Malaysian, Vietnamese (if you're eating a rice dish), or Indonesian.

                                                                The next time you are in truly authentic Chinese restaurant (and I mean where 90% of the clientele is indeed Chinese) look around you. You will notice that when they eat, they have their rice bowls up to their lips and use their chopsticks to push the food ever so daintily into their mouths. You'll also notice that they're not picking up individual rice grains from their bowls or plates. Who would do that anyway?

                                                                I do find that it looks awfully cumbersome when non-Chinese diners try to just pick up food directly from a plate with chopsticks. And they're doing this throughout the meal, without even picking up the rice bowl that I talked about. All the while there's this balancing act of trying not to drop the food before the chopsticks reaches their mouths. I'd be frustrated too if I had to do this everytime I ate with chopsticks. It's enough to make me walk over and offer them a fork.

                                                                In any case, as far as I'm concerned, I don't care how people are eating their food, just as long as they are enjoying themselves.

                                                                Image: http://www.fotosearch.com/comp/CORBIS...

                                                                9 Replies
                                                                1. re: donburi

                                                                  Exactly. Well said.

                                                                  1. re: donburi

                                                                    As someone else said: plate with fork, chopsticks with bowl! Plate/bowl refers to your individual portion, not the serving medium.

                                                                    Watching someone eat rice off of a plate with chopsticks pushes me over the edge. What are they trying to prove? Skills, yes. Ignorance, also yes.

                                                                    My Vietnamese friends can assure you their families use chopsticks to eat rice in bowls. Dunno about forks in that cuisine.

                                                                    1. re: Rat

                                                                      If the main course is served with the rice on the same plate, then it is customary to use the spoon and fork combo. This is a single serving meal.

                                                                      But if the main course is served family style, like in Chinese restaurants, then it is customary to eat with a rice bowl in one hand and a chopstick in another.

                                                                      This, for example, is a meal you would eat with a spoon and fork.

                                                                      Image: http://noodlepie.typepad.com/blog/ima...

                                                                    2. re: donburi

                                                                      We have a lot of authentic chinese restaurants here (some with great dim sum) but I think that I rarely see any rice bowls, mainly plates. This goes for the Asian customers as well. I'll have to notice next time to see if folks are employing the bowl method. If they serve plates, would it be appropriate to ask for a small bowl? The bowl idea makes so much more sense.

                                                                      1. re: LizR

                                                                        Absolutely. I think if you ask for a rice bowl, they would probably be impressed that you are familiar with their culture.

                                                                        1. re: donburi

                                                                          If you're quick, you can hang on to the individual soup bowl, and load your rice into that. Of course, then you have to ask for chopsticks...

                                                                          1. re: Shep

                                                                            Went out to a Chinese restaurant Sunday and, sure enough, there was a small bowl as well as a plate. I had fun using the bowl "correctly" for once, and I did notice others holding it close to their lips as well. Thanks for the advice! I guess I just never noticed before- although I usually pay attention to stuff like that.

                                                                            1. re: LizR

                                                                              Cool! Thanks for posting your update!

                                                                        2. re: LizR

                                                                          Most of my chinese friends (and I) use the individual soup bowl after the soup is eaten.

                                                                      2. It's nice not to taste the fork, that's all.

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: MidtownCoog

                                                                          You're the 2nd or 3rd person on this thread who said that.

                                                                          If you can "taste the fork" does that mean that you prefer to eat all your meals with wooden tableware?

                                                                          I don't mean to be confrontational because I don't believe this is a right or wrong issue. I'm genuinely curious.

                                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                            I think it has more to do with the flavors of Asian food.

                                                                            Plus, so much of their food is tiny and bite size, you really don't need a fork and a knife.

                                                                            1. re: MidtownCoog

                                                                              I've heard as well that Asian cultures adopted chopsticks in part because the idea of butchering your food at the table seemed uncivilized.

                                                                              Mr. Taster

                                                                          2. re: MidtownCoog

                                                                            As is the case with chopsticks, you shouldn't be sticking the fork far enough "into" your mouth to taste it! I guess people raised on chopsticks lose the finer points of Western-utensil etiquette as much as the reverse....

                                                                            1. re: MikeG

                                                                              Nice bit of info about Vietnamese eating modalities, but to say "Non-VN SE Asians traditionally use their fingers (they eat mostly sticky rice.)" is, to me, a native SE Asian, a rather inaccurate generalisation on two fronts.

                                                                              Eating with the fingers would be traditional for Malays, Indonesians, Peranakans (people of Chinese descent who've incorporated Malay food and customs into their culture, found mainly in Singapore, Penang and Malaysia), and people of Indian descent living in SE Asia. Otherwise, a fork and spoon for rice plates is what's used (or a spoon alone, as you've noted). Chopsticks would be used mainly by SE Asians of Chinese descent, when eating rice from a bowl, or noodles, whether served in a bowl or plate. (Malays and Indonesians use a fork and spoon for noodles, which are more often than not served in a plate, but that would be the topic for another thread).

                                                                              Second, sticky rice is eaten, with savoury dishes, mainly by northern Thais and Laotians. The other SE Asian countries (Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand, etc - see link below) would use 'sticky' (glutinous) rice in desserts, and eat jasmine rice (or similar non-sticky rice) with their main meal.

                                                                              Personally, as a Chinese Singaporean, I'm most comfortable eating rice off a plate with fork and spoon. It's definitely not a PITA. That most Asians you've seen in restaurants wouldn't may be because they hail from China (which is NOT part of SE Asia), where rice is usually served in a bowl and therefore would be eaten with chopsticks.

                                                                              Link: http://www.aseansec.org/home.htm

                                                                              1. re: ju

                                                                                Yes, good point out about non-Indochinese Asians, that's probably just my age showing - since the Vietnam (or to them, American) War is such a major geographical/historical focus for me, I guess I tend to be Indochinese-centric in that part of the world. Culturally, I guess I would call Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. as being broadly, Indonesian, in the cultural sense. Although I know where it is geographically, I tend to think of Singapore, in cultural terms, as being in a category unto itself because of its fairly unique confluence of different cultures, including of course, British.

                                                                                I was under the impression that sticky aka glutinous rice as the staple was traditional for Cambodians too, as well as Thais generally, but I bow to greater knowledge. (And also note that by "traditional", I mean pre-early/mid 20th century. Was Jasmine rice the basic staple in Thailand before then?)

                                                                                As for eating rice off a plate. I thought it was clear that I meant "eating rice off a plate with chopsticks" but I guess I wasn't clear enough about that. Yes, of course, one can eat rice off a plate easily with a knife and fork. People of European descent, as well presumably as others for varying time periods, have been doing it for a bit more than a couple of centuries. (And at least some among the upper classes, probably longer than that. It took a while for forks to filter down from the upper classes in Europe, too. ;) )

                                                                          3. I always use a fork. I am an American who was raised using a fork, and I don't feel that I should have to change this fact for anyone. I love all types of food, and have the greatest respect for other cultures, however I am not giving up my fork.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Bobby

                                                                              Lots of Americans are raised using chopsticks too. Who's forcing you to give up your fork? Use whatever you like.

                                                                            2. On a Frugal Gourmet TV show, an elderly Chinese gourmet declared that the Chinese a couple of thousand years ago ate with a fork, but gave it up in favor of chopsticks. Another item: one time I had dinner with a Chinese-American friend in an SF Chinese restaurant when we were served a platter of prawns in their shells. While I had to pick mine up in my fingers, he shelled his using only his chopsticks. I think the final answer is: whatever works.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Hardric

                                                                                "he shelled his using only his chopsticks." - I'm still trying to figure out how to do this after > 4 decades of using chopsticks :-(

                                                                                1. re: klyeoh

                                                                                  I surmise the friend simply put the entire shrimp in his mouth and bit down on the shrimp....releasing it from the shell..

                                                                                  Outside of that possibility, you could insert a single chopstick down the vein/intestine....and pull up releasing the flesh from the shell.

                                                                                  1. re: fourunder

                                                                                    Chopsticks *and* teeth to de-shell a shrimp - oh, that's going to get messy :-)

                                                                                    Interestingly, I initially thought that the "elderly Chinese gourmet" cited in the post above was exaggerating when he said that the Chinese did use the fork *before* they switched over to chopsticks. But archaeologists did find forks in Chinese tombs dating back to the Bronze Age!

                                                                                    I sometimes wondered - what *if* the Chinese never invented chopsticks?

                                                                                    1. re: klyeoh

                                                                                      If the shells have been fried, or pan fried, rather than steamed....I usually just eat them myself.

                                                                                      : 0 )

                                                                              2. Oh yeah, forgot the fun factor. Doing stuff with chopsticks, like sharing out a whole fish one-handed, has kind of a gratuitous whoopee value, like doing tricks with a balisong or rolling a number one-handed. Or so I've heard.

                                                                                1. For most Asian food, chopsticks are at least as easy as a fork, if you are used to both. Some things are a lot EASIER with chopsticks (e.g. the noodles in noodle soup; dumplings; tofu.....probably other stuff)

                                                                                  I have also heard that kids in Asian countries start using chopsticks well earlier than kids here start using forks well.

                                                                                  1. One piece of Chinese tableware I swear by is the flat-bottomed porcelain soup spoon. I have a cheap set and almost always set it out when serving soup, because they are far more useful and pleasant that metal Western soup spoons.

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Karl S.

                                                                                      I agree. I love soup so the flat bottomed spoon is by far one of my favorite untensils to eat with. Besides when I bring mine to work it amuses the security person as it goes through the x-ray machine.

                                                                                      1. re: Tracy L.

                                                                                        My mother called me once and told me she found some great looking "salsa spoons" in an online catalogue. I went and looked and sure enough they were pho spoons, being sold for $5.95 each.

                                                                                        I asked her how many she wanted, walked up to the Asian market, bought a dozen for $3, and shipped them to her.

                                                                                      2. re: Karl S.

                                                                                        TGhose spoons rock for cereal!

                                                                                        1. re: Karl S.

                                                                                          I agree about the flat-bottomed spoon. I bought a great set of blue and white dishes at a hardware store in Japantown, San Francisco. Lots of the spoons. Separate pieces. Bowls with lids, different beautiful patterns. Condiment bowls. The whole set was very inexpensive and I love it!

                                                                                        2. When I was I was in Tokyo I went to a restaurant that served western style food. Knives, spoons and forks were the utensils set on the tables. When I observed Japanese people eating, many of them would lift the plates or bowls of food and used the forks to push the food into their mouths, just like they would with chopsticks!

                                                                                          1. I think some people actually find chopsticks to be a more precise eating utensil than forks, knives, and spoons. My mother (who admittedly grew up in Taiwan, though she has lived in the States since she was 16) uses chopsticks to eat EVERyTHING, including salads. She actually carries a pair in her purse and uses them at restaurants. I also prefer chopsticks to forks etc. because they slow you down as you eat.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: chopsticky

                                                                                              I always thought it would be more civilized to eat salad with chopsticks rather than a fork. Especially cherry tomatoes and carrot slices - anything treacherous or difficult to spear.

                                                                                            2. a
                                                                                              Amin (London Foodie ''OrientRice@aol.com'')

                                                                                              There has already been a healthy debate on the use or
                                                                                              non-use of chopsticks, some of which is serious, non-
                                                                                              serious, and in some instances, quite funny as well.

                                                                                              When in Rome do as the Romans do,so if eating Chinese/
                                                                                              far eastern food where chopsticks are desirable or
                                                                                              recommended as the norm, one should use the right
                                                                                              implement. Just as you would use your hands when
                                                                                              eating a curry with a chapatti or naan bread in a
                                                                                              restaurant (try using a fork or a spoon). or you would
                                                                                              use your fingers for finger food, or your hand to hold
                                                                                              a sandwich , in similar vein, chopsticks IMO are ideal
                                                                                              for the food it was intended to be used for

                                                                                              I feel that food generally tastes far better and
                                                                                              evokes far greater authenticity (even if in reality it
                                                                                              may have been dumbed down to Western tastes) when
                                                                                              eaten according to the customs of its origin.

                                                                                              1. I grew up using knife, fork, and spoon, but if the food was prepared to be eaten with chopsticks I'd rather use them. It took me a while to learn how to eat with them properly, but once I did I found I end up dropping and/or wearing less of my meal this way. Precision? Smaller bites? I have no idea, but somehow I find they help compensate for my profound lack of gross motor skills.

                                                                                                Here's a comparison: do you prefer to use a spatula or tongs on the barbecue grill?

                                                                                                1. Ha! This thread cracks me up.

                                                                                                  I'm Korean and was raised on chopsticks, but even as an adult, unfortunately, would have to rate my chopstick skills at a beginner level at best(when tired, I'll resort to the scissors method--embarassing, I know, and will sometime just reach for the fork).

                                                                                                  Lately, though, I've discovered how perfect chopsticks are for eating salad and fresh fruit. I like being able to pick up or gently fold pieces without having to stab fragile lettuce or cherry tomato. Also if you want several ingredients in one bite, you don't stab things sequentially onto a fork or balance a precarious stack on the tines, but gently wrap items together using lettuce. Try it--it will enhance your salad experience. Or maybe not.


                                                                                                  1. As an Asian-American who grew up using chopsticks to eat Asian food, it wouldn't even occur to me to switch to a fork and knife to eat Asian food, regardless of the setting. Asian food is traditionally prepared to be eaten with chopsticks so it is generally already in bite-sized pieces. Can you imagine eating sushi with a knife and fork? (though sushi in the US can be ridiculously large)
                                                                                                    Some western foods are easier to eat with chopsticks, I find. Try eating a salad with them - it's a lot easier to pick up a lettuce leaf w/chopsticks, then to stab it with a fork.
                                                                                                    I once saw an elderly Chinese couple in a NY movie theater eating their box of popcorn with chopsticks. I thought it was charming, and doubt it was pretentious at all.

                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: chowmeow

                                                                                                      "Asian food is traditionally prepared to be eaten with chopsticks so it is generally already in bite-sized pieces."

                                                                                                      Except for Thai food, which is cut into bite sized pieces, cooked in woks, and then eaten by the locals with metal forks and spoons.

                                                                                                      Perhaps this isn't a matter of Darwinian selection but just a question of personal choice?

                                                                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                        My bad, I should have specified E. Asian, although I'm not sure if the Vietnamese tradtionally use chopsticks.
                                                                                                        I'm not clear on your point on Darwin...

                                                                                                        1. re: chowmeow
                                                                                                          Bob Martinez

                                                                                                          Darwin said that animals evolved specific characteristics to fill environmental niches. Giraffes developed long necks to graze on the upper branches of trees.

                                                                                                          You said "Asian food is traditionally prepared to be eaten with chopsticks so it is generally already in bite-sized pieces."

                                                                                                          I made the point that Thai food would fit your definition of "bite sized pieces" yet the Thais eat it with forks and spoons. In other words it is not an automatic outcome but a more a matter of personal choice.

                                                                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                            Didn't somebody already mention on this thread that Thai food was originally eaten with the fingers pre-colonialization? Or was that somewhere else?

                                                                                                        2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                          i might be getting parts of this wrong but Thais historically do not use chopsticks. my old boss at the Thai restaurant i worked at in college told me so b/c it was the only Asian country that was not invaded by China. Indonesians use a fork and a spoon and not chopsticks as a result from a Dutch colonization.

                                                                                                          1. re: trolley

                                                                                                            A lot of countries in SE Asia use a fork and spoon for rice on a plate. But there's quite a bit of versatility since many of the countries are multicultural, and may change the utensil depending on the food.

                                                                                                      2. I'm late entering into this thread, but the assertion that no Chinese would ever eat rice off a plate with chopsticks is untrue. I've seen Hong Kong street vendors who sell rice plates that people eat with chopsticks. Looks awkward at the end to get those last bits, but people do it.

                                                                                                        As for eating with a bowl, I have been scolded by elderly natives for scooping - acceptable at home, but considered coarse and unrefined in public. Gather some food together, bound by rice, and lift out of the bowl into the mouth.

                                                                                                        I have known about the Thai way of eating with a spoon (getting puzzled responses from my gringo dining companions), but how do other SE Asians (Cambodia, Lao, Burma) eat?

                                                                                                        In the end, authenticity can be difficult. I still haven't gathered the nerve to eat southern Indian food off a banana leaf with my fingers!

                                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: mty

                                                                                                          Non-VN SE Asians traditionally use their fingers (they eat mostly sticky rice.) I don't know what's happening these as they slowly become "modernized" - in the country, I imagine things are probably still pretty traditional for the time being.

                                                                                                          I've read that the Vietnamese historically also ate with their fingers, but after 900 years of domination by the Chinese, chopsticks became the norm. Thais used to use fingers as well, until the push for Westernization in the early 20th century when forks and spoons became de rigueur among the upper classes and filtered downward, though the forks never quite fully took. For noodle soups, which are a Chinese-culture influence, chopsticks are the norm.

                                                                                                          Yes, you CAN eat rice off a plate, but it's a PITA and most of the Asians I've known and see in restaurants, given choice, won't. In NYC anyway, most of the street carts and cheap takeout places give forks, which local Chinese workers are perfectly happy to use. (They do tend to shovel, but then refined manners aren't a typical working-class trait in any culture.)

                                                                                                          Personally, I find it hilarious when I'm in a neighborhood restaurant with both sorts of utensils in a container on the table, and most of the people in the place using chopsticks are not Asian. That's second only to the Thai business which appears to have been mentioned elsewhere already.

                                                                                                          I have to say, the utensil has no bearing on my "eating experience." Some things would be absurd - like trying to wrap Ethiopian food up in injera with utensils - but beyond that, it's irrelevant to me. I do find it strange, and often highly entertaining, when people who can barely manage to get food to their mouths with chopsticks find that "enhancing," but hey, whatever floats their boat...

                                                                                                          1. re: mty

                                                                                                            Lao people love using our hands when eating Lao sticky rice. Using chopsticks or forks/spoons with sticky rice would look terribly weird to us. This has nothing to do with being "modernized" because I'm sure 100 years from now we will still use our hands when eating sticky rice because Lao cuisine has a lot of dipping sauces for us to dip our sticky rice into. We enjoy eating this way because it just makes everything taste better to us. There's something about eating with your hands that cannot be duplicated when using forks/spoons, etc... With that said, we also use forks and spoons when eating regular steamed rice, whereas chopsticks are used for noodle dishes.

                                                                                                            So in summary, Lao people use our hands, chopsticks, forks, and spoons, etc...it all just depends on what we're eating. You don't have to be "Chinese" to use chopsticks. =)

                                                                                                            1. re: yummyrice

                                                                                                              Probably everyone who eats Lao sticky rice does so loving to use their hands - not something limited to Lao people.

                                                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                I definitely agree with you because it's fun to eat with our hands. It's not because we don't have forks, spoons and/or chopsticks! LOL!

                                                                                                                1. re: yummyrice

                                                                                                                  Well, one other thing that I love is using a small ball of sticky rice to clean my hands (or right, eating hand) after dinner. A bit of khao niyao gets your hand cleaner than anything else in the world and and is done discreetly at the table as people finish up.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                    it is always such a great surprise and treat to come across one of sam's postings that I had somehow missed before. sadly those moments are now few and far between.

                                                                                                          2. People eat Asian food with chopsticks because chopsticks are provided at Asian restaurants.

                                                                                                            I'm a militant chopstick agnostic -- I don't know and you don't either!

                                                                                                            Some food is much neater to eat with chopsticks -- pho, for example, and Korean barbecue. Some food is much neater to eat with fork and knife -- potatoes, for example, and grilled vegetables.

                                                                                                            Some food is terrible with chopsticks -- have you ever tried to eat silken tofu with chopsticks? -- and some food is terrible with fork and knife, such as soup dumplings.

                                                                                                            I prefer to eat with chopsticks when in a place where others are eating with chopsticks because it makes me stick out less like a sore thumb. It goes to the old "when in Rome" argument, like the guidelines toward eating noodles -- acceptable to bite them off and let them fall in a Vietnamese restaurant and taboo in an Italian place. Acceptable to twine noodles around your fork in the Italian place, piggish in a Vietnamese place.

                                                                                                            I carry a set of plastic chopsticks in my briefcase -- I travel often for business and have been stranded in airports far too often where they've run out of forks or they didn't put a fork in my takeaway sack and I didn't discover it until too late. Why chopsticks, you ask? Forks make our friends at the U.S. Transportation Security Administration nervous, which results in the dreaded time-wasting ritual called "Male Secondary, Please".

                                                                                                            In summary, who the @$#% cares what food-delivery implements you use as long as you're using them to deliver tasty, Chowhoundly food to your mouth?

                                                                                                            1. I use them sometimes when the only people around to impress are my cats. For what it's worth.

                                                                                                              1. My daughter did a science project and found out that with chopsticks you can pick up noodle more and faster than a fork. I wonder why?

                                                                                                                1. Haven't read through all responses, but chopsticks are just easier. Stabbing a piece of food and then yanking it off with one's mouth, or trying to maneuver pasta around with sauce splashing all over the fing place, or having a piece roll or drop off one's fork -- really? To me, it's more logic and common sense vs. trying to seem sophisticated. Remember, half the world uses chopsticks as a matter of course.

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. Some people do it because it helps them to feel superior (I know, I've met them), but everyone is going to have their own reasons. Hey, people should use what they want to use, for whatever reason makes them happy.

                                                                                                                    Personally I'm never a "can I please have some chopsticks!" kinda guy, and just go with the flow and use what's given to me (although if I'm offered a fork because of my pale complexion I'll turn it down). At home I almost never use chopsticks, but sometimes I do on a whim. Really I don't mind either way and I don't see why anyone else would either.

                                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                      >>it helps them to feel superior (I know, I've met them),

                                                                                                                      Oh my, seriously?

                                                                                                                      1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                        Well, its not as if they come right out and say, "I feel superior to the peasants because I always use chopsticks" :) But yes, I have met people who certainly are smug about it ... these are the sorts of people who are smug about anything and everything they can manage to feel smug about. Don't take my previous comment to imply that they're anything but a minority of chopstick users though, most folks I've come across use 'em because they happen to be there, because they find it fun, because they genuinely enjoy using chopsticks, because that's what they use where they're from, etc.

                                                                                                                        1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                          I know EXACTLY what type of people you're talking about. They think they're enlightened in some way. They want to distinguish themselves from the plebes out there. And, yes, it is indeed a minority of the chopstick users out there.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                            i knew this guy who was a total asiaphile guy at work and would use chopsticks to eat everything. he insisted he was more Asian than me but he was 100% white from Kansas. I'm 100% japanese. I remember going to a curry/spaghetti house with him and a couple other japanese people from work and he insisted on eating his curry rice from a plate with a chopstick and he could barely get the food to his mouth. we tried to tell him it's ok to use a spoon and none of us (who all happened to be from japan) would ever think of eating curry rice with chopsticks. he insisted we weren't "asian" enough and we didn't get it. it was really embarrassing for him and we sort of all chuckled at his tenacity. turns out he moved to japan a few yrs later.

                                                                                                                            1. re: trolley

                                                                                                                              Oh, I can just picture him in Japan now with everybody looking at him oddly while he painfully tries to get his curry rice in his mouth using chopsticks. Chopsticks can be helpful for certain things, but there are times you just need to use a damn spoon! Well, I hope he's happy that he's in Japan now.

                                                                                                                              I remember eating out at a Chinese restaurant with this tai chi master who recently came from China. Everybody expected this dude to use chopsticks. He asked for a fork and said, "Fork is easier."

                                                                                                                              Being in the field that I'm in (acupuncture and herbs), I've met quite a lot of Asiaphiles who insist on doing everything the Asian way (food, clothing, medicine, etc.) and love to denounce "American" things. It's funny because they tend to be more "Asian" than the people from Asia. The West has made a huge impact in Asia these days.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                west? when i fly to japan i fly west, so i guess japan is the west to me

                                                                                                                                more to the point - this is another version of the "authenticity" fetish which is much discussed here. there is this fetishization of some "pure" cultures which in reality never existed. The good old days were not better than it is now, not by a long shot

                                                                                                                            2. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                              I think there are probably more people who like to point out or correct people who are improperly using chopsticks than there are people who use them as an affectation. I just like using them. I'm not trying to be culturally correct -- although I will do my best to avoid doing something offensive if I know what it is.

                                                                                                                      2. I realize this is a very old thread, and I suspect some of these posters aren't even around. But I must say that I found the tone of this thread to be a bit odd.

                                                                                                                        I couldn't imagine starting a thread on an Asian website called "What's the deal with a knife and fork?" and using words like "insist", as in "Why do people insist on using chopsticks to eat Asian food..."

                                                                                                                        Use whatever you like and feel comfortable with. You do not have to be Asian to use chopsticks. Chopsticks do not discriminate.

                                                                                                                        Very odd thread.

                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: moh

                                                                                                                          Agreed 100%, use what you want to use. Don't let other people keep you down.

                                                                                                                          1. re: moh

                                                                                                                            Thanks for pointing this out. I was certainly a bit taken aback by it.

                                                                                                                            My wife and I eat with the utensils we like for the food we like. Everyone should.

                                                                                                                            1. re: moh

                                                                                                                              Yeah, it is an odd thread. I also wonder how it got bumped up. What was the person searching for to find this thread from so long ago?
                                                                                                                              Also, where are these people in corporate cafeteria's getting chopsticks? If the cafeteria is providing them, then why not use them? If not, is it a BYOC situation? That would also be odd ("It's Asian day for lunch, I better remember to BMOC."),

                                                                                                                            2. Dunno...guess I never really thought about it till now. I've always eaten with chopsticks when I've had Japanese food......not really ever with anything else. I learned how to use them when I was a kid when we went to the neighborhood place cause my mom would more often then not order a big combo thing we shared and if I hadn't learned how to use them quick I would have starved cause chopsticks were all they had. The place I go to now weekly just automatically gives them. They have forks, etc. if needed.

                                                                                                                              However, as I work with seniors, it does remind me of a time when I took a couple of Japanese residents out to dinner at a local place one night. I was sitting next to the eldest of the group, a 90-plus something lady that was usually very quiet. We were automatically given chopsticks and early in the meal given green salad with dressing. I carried on as usual and soon realized I was being "watched". I finished the salad and a few seconds later she leans over to me and says "you're very good with chopsticks". I smiled and thanked her. Does it make me more sophisticated and authentic-hell no. But far be it from me to turn down compliment from someone who's eaten with chopsticks a hell of a lot longer then me....just a great moment I'll never forget of a fantastic lady.

                                                                                                                              1. Well, perhaps I am anti-authentic, but I use chopsticks for sushi, Thai food, dumplings, Chinese food and anything else I want to eat when I don't have a clean fork in the house (I have more pairs of chopsticks than forks). I like chopsticks for sushi because it keeps my hands clean. I have often wanted to use chopsticks for Italian pastas, but have refrained for fear of being thought of as "affected." I do not eat rice off a plate with chopsticks, only out of a bowl. I always use the serving utensils for the individual dishes, though, as not everyone I eat with uses chopsticks. And if there's a teenaged boy at the table, I might use a fork; that way I might actually get some of the food.

                                                                                                                                Anyway, I think the "authentic" argument is a bit irrelevant. I mean, my local Chinese restaurants (all Cantonese, though they claim to serve Sichuan) serve Chicken Fried rice, Crispy Ginger Fried Beef, Chop Suey and other westernized interpretations of Chinese food. If the food has been westernized, can't the utensils?

                                                                                                                                1. Chopsticks were meant to be an extention of your hand. The Chinese already had invented the fork before it was found in Europe. It was suppose to be one tool that you can cut, poke and scoop, pick up things and drop things with one hand. It looks simple but you can do much more things with it.

                                                                                                                                  Other uses off topic:
                                                                                                                                  Bamboo chopsticks also act as thermometers. When a Chinese Chef is boiling oil for deep frying, some will poke their bamboo chopsticks to see if there are tiny bubbles forming.

                                                                                                                                  They are also used in a wok to turn the wok into a steamer.

                                                                                                                                  I'd rather eat a salad with chopsticks than with a fork.

                                                                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                                                    "The Chinese already had invented the fork before it was found in Europe." You're going to have to give me some serious citations before I'll believe that.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                      I think its better you research it yourself so you know the info won't be biased.

                                                                                                                                      But here is some material:

                                                                                                                                      In Science and Civilisation in China
                                                                                                                                      Joseph Needham(one of the West most reknown expert in Chinese studies) states on pg. 108 a list of the earliest used forks used in Ancient China.


                                                                                                                                      I don't know what he means by the Chhi-Cha Culture
                                                                                                                                      But the earlier Shang Period dates
                                                                                                                                      1600 BC - 1100 BC which is made of bone. So its before 1600 BC that the first fork is dated in China.
                                                                                                                                      Just to give you a reference Moses was living around 1300 BC.

                                                                                                                                      Wiki says the fork was in Western Europe 10th Century AD.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                                                        Thanks for the fascinating link -- I learned something today. Did all Chinese give up on forks do you know, or are there holdouts? Any info on why they stopped using forks?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                          They never stopped. We still use forks (e.g. eating lobster).

                                                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                              Its usually a two prong fork for lobster. I don't have a picture and you will probably get one if you order lobster or whelk at a Cantonese resturant. In a modern restaurant in China you can get anything like here. There isn't any difference these days in the modern world. Most forks you find here are manufactured in China not all, but they look the same as here. But in most cases you don't need a fork. With chopsticks you can pick things up and let things go pretty easy. Its not as easy to let things go with a fork as chopsticks. Its suppose to be an extention of your fingers/hand which is probably the most advanced.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                            I don't have an original source, but have been told that the cultural preference for chopsticks can be traced back to Confucius. Because knives and forks can be used as weapons and are used in slaughtering and butchering animals, he opined that their use at the table brought unnecessary violence to a meal.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                              Chopsticks have been used as weapons too. People have been skilled to throw them Its almost like darts.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                                                                And of course the famous Japanese swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, was known to be able to pick flies out of the air with his chopsticks.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                                                                  And I can do more damage with a sharp #2 pencil than with my tiny (1.25" blade) Swiss Army Knife. But the TSA must have a Confucian bent--they'll let me on a plane with the pencil, but not the pen knife. At least Confucius had a sense of humor.

                                                                                                                                                  Note to self: having lost yet one more pocketknife to airport security this week, it's time to buy another lot of TSA-confiscated cutlery on eBay.

                                                                                                                                      2. Except in rare cases where the chopsticks may work better (sushi comes to mind), using chopsticks is an affectation or an opportunity to show off among Western folks. For some reason, there's this sense that using chopsticks is some great accomplishment of dexterity. I can use them as I've lived in Japan a long time and sometimes that's all you get in a restaurant and it didn't take long to learn. However, I'll use forks and spoons first if they are provided.

                                                                                                                                        19 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Orchid64

                                                                                                                                          "Except in rare cases where the chopsticks may work better (sushi comes to mind), using chopsticks is an affectation or an opportunity to show off among Western folks."

                                                                                                                                          Ummm... Orchid64, I think this is rather a broad statement. I'd like to think that there might be other reasons to use chopsticks than to show off. Like how about ... eating? Isn't that what they are for?

                                                                                                                                          My non-Asian husband eats with chopsticks because that is what he is given. He finds chopsticks to be a highly efficient way to eat Asian food. He does not considering himself to be a performing dog, nor is he trying to show off. He is just trying to eat. He'll eat with whatever utensil you give him. He'll use chopsticks alone at home when there is no one to impress. Why do we have to presume that this is an affectation?

                                                                                                                                          Is it an affectation when I (an Asian) use a knife and fork? NO, I'm just trying to eat.

                                                                                                                                          What's the big deal with this issue? Can't we all just eat?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: moh

                                                                                                                                            We're talking about people in Western countries who are provided with other utensils, not about countries where chopsticks are the norm or the only thing that is provided.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Orchid64

                                                                                                                                              Moh lives in Canada, which is a western country.

                                                                                                                                              I prefer to use chopsticks over knife and fork for most meals, Asian or non Asian. Since I use chopsticks at home I don't do it to show off. Simply easier to use chopsticks.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: hannaone

                                                                                                                                                Thank you Hannaone!

                                                                                                                                                Yes, I do live in Canada.

                                                                                                                                                I have to admit, this thread is a real eye-opener. It had never occurred to me to think that non-Asians using chopsticks were doing so to show-off or as an affectation. I just presumed they were trying to eat. I think I'll go back to that way of thinking. I'll wait until there is definite evidence that they are trying to show off before I assume they are doing so. Like if they challenge me to a chopstick peanut speed-eating contest then yell "you are so going down, Korea Girl! I am so taking you down!!!!" Then yes, perhaps they are showing off.... (but they will have to beat me first!! I'm pretty good with peanuts)

                                                                                                                                                1. re: moh

                                                                                                                                                  I am non-Asian, but always eat Chinese and Japanese food with chopsticks. It has nothing to do with trying to show off (my experience is that many non-Asians who grew up in the SF area, as I did, are quite adept at using chopsticks). The reason I use chopsticks sounds so silly that I was going to post it on here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/531018 but I didn't because, well, it seemed TOO silly: I truly believe that Asian food tastes better when eaten with chopsticks. In fact, if I get takeout Chinese and somehow those cheap wooden chopsticks aren't included in the order I'm unhappy when I get home...because I just KNOW my food isn't going to taste good......

                                                                                                                                                  (Which is why I always keep spare sticks at home.....)

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                                                                    Janetofreno, my mother has always said that Korean food tastes better when eaten with chopsticks. So you are not alone in your thinking!

                                                                                                                                          2. re: Orchid64

                                                                                                                                            What if you're half Western and half Asian? Should you use one chopstick and a half a fork?

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                *Gasps* at awesomeness of this utensil. Does it have a name? Chork? Fopstick?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: small h

                                                                                                                                                  Here's the permalink.


                                                                                                                                                  Unfortunately, it's a pretty banal name -- chopstick-fork. I like your names better. : )

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                    Chork would be great (borrowing from the 'spork'). That's pretty funny.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                                                      I was just thinking that if the fork end were spooned, indeed it could be a true combination - a chopspork.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: applehome

                                                                                                                                                        Add a sharp edge to one of the sticks and you'd truly have the universal eating untensil!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: applehome

                                                                                                                                                          I would happily buy a whole set of Chopsporks! Think of the efficiency of eating...

                                                                                                                                              2. re: Orchid64

                                                                                                                                                What if you're eating alone at home?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                                                                  You're just practising so you look better when you exhibit your superior chopsticky skills to others, thus exhibiting your superiority as a human!

                                                                                                                                                2. re: Orchid64

                                                                                                                                                  then how come i use chopsticks sometimes when i'm home alone? who am i showing off to?

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                    "you talkin' to me?

                                                                                                                                                    you talkin' to me?"

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                      It's obvious. You're practising so you can display your chopstick prowess when you eat in public. Show-off! ;)

                                                                                                                                                  2. what a great thread, this one is really giving jfood a lot of laughs, thank you all.

                                                                                                                                                    The idea that someone is showing off by using chopsticks is precious. of all the things tp be proud of, picking up a piece of raw fish or soy-chicken now hits the list. What did it replace? eating a rib with one hand?

                                                                                                                                                    How about eating should be fun and enjoyable, not efficient and six-sigma. jfood loves to eat certain foods with chopsticks, it feels good, and it's fun. but to claim some social status or caste distinction is quite humorous.

                                                                                                                                                    thanks for the laughs guys.

                                                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                      Indeed. "I can use them as I've lived in Japan a long time..." I can use them, too, and I've never even BEEN to Japan!

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: small h

                                                                                                                                                        When I met my future in laws for the first time we went for Dim Sum. I had never eaten with chop sticks nor had dim sum before. (white girl from northern ontario, chinese guy from mississauga). I believe I was offered a fork by the waiter however my future mother said (i had translated later) "no, she needs to learn to use them". Well 13 yrs later and my only peeve with people using chopsticks is eating rice off of a plate with them. Doesn't work and looks silly.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: juliewong

                                                                                                                                                          Unless you shovel the rice into your mouth using the chopsticks. That's DH's method. Personally, I prefer a fork.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                            If I have a fork/spoon/something available I'll switch over towards the end of the rice when it really starts getting annoying.

                                                                                                                                                    2. It may be a way of slowing down and eating more consciously...

                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: lgss

                                                                                                                                                        wow, if you could see the amazing rate at which some people (like my brother) can shovel down food with chopsticks, you wouldn't say that! :)

                                                                                                                                                      2. I lived in Japan for years and got use to eating with them. I find it easier to eat certain foods with ohashi than with a fork. Ever tried shabu-shabu or udon, etc.,with a fork? Can't be done.

                                                                                                                                                        If someone wants to think I'm pretentious because I choose to use the utensils that match the cuisine, and which I and millions of others find best suited, that's their problem.

                                                                                                                                                        1. I read somewhere that using chopsticks for almost everything can help a diet plan because it forces you to slow down and take smaller bites.

                                                                                                                                                          And I agree, the use of chopsticks isn't a snobbery thing, it's just another utencil.

                                                                                                                                                          1. What a thread! I use Japanese chopsticks for Japanese food, Chinese for Chinese food, Korean for Korean; use a fork and tablespoon in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia; use a knife, fork, and spoon for American (including Latin America) or European food; use my right hand in parts of Asia and Africa; and so on.

                                                                                                                                                            Chopsticks are a must for eating whole fish; but not good for steaks; hands are best for chicken, most forms of BBQ, and for sushi. Lifting the bowl is fine for soups in Asia; frowned on in the UK. Using your hands for soup is not so good. Eating an Argentinian whole-roasted animal BBQ is done with a knife. Using tortillas, naan, roti, or bread as implements can be good. Eating meat skewered on a stick is almost always good. Burgers, fries, and dogs are best by hand. Yakity-yakity-yak...

                                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka


                                                                                                                                                              This sounds like something you would see in an airplane magazine. The first column is foods and the second column is utensils. Then you need to draw a line from the food to the proper utensil to use.

                                                                                                                                                              If you get them all correctly, your luggage is first off the plane and undamaged.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard or for so long because of a CH post. Maybe it’s because it’s 2:30am here, but there was some definite snorting.

                                                                                                                                                                I was studying Sam’s lists because honestly, I have no clue. Today, I ate a delicious bowl of shrimp dumpling soup noodles in Paris at a Chinese restaurant and couldn’t figure out which of the Japanese traditions ingrained in me were acceptable. Am I allowed to slurp? Is it alright that I’m drinking the soup directly from the bowl? One hands or two? What’s right for the Japanese may not be right for the Chinese may not be right for the French. What’s most likely is that I way over thought a delicious meal, but I like to know.

                                                                                                                                                                The bottom line is I use chopsticks when they are served to me, and ususually, these are cases when they’re most convenient. With the soup noodles today or the Korean bbq I enjoyed a few days earlier, it’s just plain easier with chop sticks. It’s a funny image I have of myself trying to slurp up noodles or turn over a piece of beef on the grill with a fork.

                                                                                                                                                                And thanks for the video, mexivilla. I think I was losing it when they started describing karaoke at the end.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                I like eating whole fish with my fingers (only do this at home). Pulling the meat off the bones is somehow very sensuous. (And it also allows you to check for bones.)

                                                                                                                                                              3. What's really annoying is when people don't know a top chopstick from a bottom chopstick.


                                                                                                                                                                1. Wow...this is a long thread! I (obviously) haven't read all of the responses...

                                                                                                                                                                  I eat asian food with chopsticks whenever they are available. I just enjoy it more. It took me a long time to master, and I am a little 'proud' I can use them effectively!

                                                                                                                                                                  Really though, I use them because I enjoy using them, not to seem more *anything*.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. This is funny thread. The only comment I have is on the "slows things down" idea-----

                                                                                                                                                                    You (generic) obviously haven't seen a bunch of hungry young Korean or Japanese students chowing down.

                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: hannaone

                                                                                                                                                                      Yeah, that's what I was thinking, too! The only way chopsticks will slow MY kids down is if they only had one chopstick each...

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mexivilla

                                                                                                                                                                          jfood has been looking for this for weeks. it is perfect and he has described to many of his friends and has not been able to locat til you posted. TY

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: mexivilla

                                                                                                                                                                            mexivilla, thanks for this link! I bust a gut laughing! Suddenly, it makes this odd thread all worth it!

                                                                                                                                                                          2. btw it's not "difficult" to eat rice with chopsticks off of a plate if you are eating korean or japanese rice.

                                                                                                                                                                            I always wondered why koreans never hold the rice bowl to their mouths when they eat, but the japanese do when we both eat pretty much the same rice.

                                                                                                                                                                            I find chopsticks very useful when I am eating a particularly greasy whole grilled mackerel or saury. I just pick up the bones with my korean chopsticks and then wipe them on a napkin. Chopsticks are also great when you are trying to eat a huge piece of kimchi with rice. you simply wrap the kimchi around a clump of rice with the chopsticks and then place in the mouth.

                                                                                                                                                                            mmmmmm I also like using chopsticks when frying bacon. Its much easier to flip the bacon over with them then using a spatula. Plus they are a lot easier to clean then tongs.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. Foodies use forks-chowhounds use "sticks"

                                                                                                                                                                              1. Wait a minute. Thai "hounds" use lacquered sticks, No, Korean foodies use cheap plain chopsticks. Some Americans use plastic. Wait. Are they the foodsnobs? Where do the snobs, foodies, chowhounds come down on this one? What about silver plate vs stainless steel? Lemme know.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. interesting. it would never occur to me to consider someone who uses chopsticks in a corporate cafeteria (and who didn't grow up using them) pretentious. utilitarian, perhaps. some foods really are much easier to eat with chopsticks -- salad, for instance, or noodle soup as someone else mentioned, or dumplings -- just as there are definitely foods where the knife and fork have the advantage (steaks), and those where fingers have the advantage (only barbarians eat dosa with utensils!).

                                                                                                                                                                                  i also don't think many people, at least around here where i live in nyc, think using chopsticks is particularly sophisticated. there are plenty of non-asians here who are far more adept as using them than i am.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. So, I just re-read the original post, and it occured to me: How can you tell if someone grew up using chopsticks or not?

                                                                                                                                                                                    My WASP family went out for Asian food a lot when I was a child. My mother (who works as a teacher) would not let us get forks until about halfway through the meal. As such, my sisters and I became quite profficient with the sticks. As we grew up. My blond, blue-eyed sisters and I.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Having grown up using chopsticks for Asian food, I find a fork and spoon quite awkward. I recently started to eat Thai food this way because that's what they set at the tables, but I'm terrible! I want the bloody sticks so I can eat the food while it's hot!

                                                                                                                                                                                    And as for the "affectation," as I mentioned earlier, the ability to use chopsticks is a clear indicator of the superiority of those people who can use them. Right?

                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                                                                                                                                      "the ability to use chopsticks is a clear indicator of the superiority of those people who can use them. Right?"

                                                                                                                                                                                      I've always thought so - because I can't use them. Never learned to use them, and whenever I tried I just spilled a lot of good food. So naturally I believe that those of you with the dexterity to actually eat with them are superior!

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Catskillgirl

                                                                                                                                                                                        You'll be happy to learn that chopstick users have a higher chance of getting arthritis when we get older... so you will have the last laugh when you come visit us at the old folks hmes with hands stuck in the claw position.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. thai pad kee mao (with good heavy-duty wok char) tastes better with chopsticks. i know, i know thais use forks.....

                                                                                                                                                                                      you can pick up and savor each individual pillowy fresh rice noodle of goodness.
                                                                                                                                                                                      are you hungry? don't look at this: http://d2.biggestmenu.com/00/00/42/28...

                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                        actually thais often use takeeyep (chopsticks) for noodles

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. For me, there are two things that just don't go with Asian food of any sort: ketchup and forks.

                                                                                                                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                          Don't go to the Philippines in that case.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                              No: filipinos will often serve rice shaped packed into a cup and inverted with a dab of tomato ketchup on top--and then eaten with a fork and table spoon.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                there's always the option of ketchup on omurice. sometimes the rice itself is sauteed with a dab of ketchup.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                            in thailand the use forks and spoons for most of the food. and they use ketchup too.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Asia is a big place.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                                                              Yeah.. Asia is a lttle too broad.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                              Not exactly true, ketchup with cucumbers is a standard side dish for mee goreng.

                                                                                                                                                                                            3. wow.. this thread is awesome!

                                                                                                                                                                                              i'm a chinese canadian...born in hk, but moved to toronto at a ripe age of 1.5 ... i can't recall whether i learnt to use a fork/spoon before chopsticks...but i believe i've only recently begun to "master" chopsticks... (20+ years)...

                                                                                                                                                                                              it is kind of odd to use a fork/spoon with "asian food"... but i recall clearly using the "big asian soup spoons" to down my fried rice at the end of those 10-dish meals...especially if it was amazing (scallops, shirmp, etc.) when i was youger....back then, it was just easier... i also remember getting frustrated at picking up greasy/slimy foods....like beef balls coated in a "slime"...no idea what it is...or other foods..and would resort to the one-chopstick spear....and poke it off the dish or something

                                                                                                                                                                                              but more recently, it's just natural to use certain utensils for certain foods...i think i've mastered the "slimy beef balls"....i use chopsticks to cook bacon too!!!.... i've never made it with anything else (maybe tongs)....but wooden (non-coated) chopsticks are awesome for cooking in general.... flipping any piece of meat on a pan... checking oil temperatures....cooking pasta....the dual-pronged attack is quite diverse!

                                                                                                                                                                                              ppl using chopsticks to make them seem more sophisticated? i highly doubt.....if anything, props to them for using them better (than i)....

                                                                                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: msprnt

                                                                                                                                                                                                One Chinese cookbook calls chopsticks "fireproof fingers."

                                                                                                                                                                                                Cooking with chopsticks will quickly teach you how to use them because they are so handy.


                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: msprnt

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Fork and table spoon are used in the Philippinies, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thaialand, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Burma, Laos, and elsewhere in Asia. In some of these countries, chopsticks and/or hands are also used.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                    You're well-traveled, Sam. It's nice having someone like you on this board. Anyway, I'd like to point out that just because someone prefers using a fork and spoon does not make him better or "more refined". LOL! What irks me more is when people chew with their mouth open or when someone burps during a meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    So my point is that every culture is different. Just because someone prefers using their hands does not mean that they are any less "refined" than another person. Even the rich families in Laos still eat sticky rice with their hands just like the poor families in the rural areas. It's called preserving our traditional way of eating sticky rice. However, when eating our noodle dishes or regular steamed rice, then this is when we'll use chopsticks for noodles and a fork and spoon for steamed rice and fried rice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    So if someone prefers using chopsticks rather than a fork and spoon, why does it matter? As long as they know how to use them, I don't really have a problem with it. =) Or if you prefer using your hands, then go for it as long as you enjoy your meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I feel more comfortable using chopsticks when eating a noodle dish, but using chopsticks when eating steamed rice or fried rice might seem a little foreign to me. For people like me and others who grew up using chopsticks in addition to other utensils, it's not that we're showing off when we use chopsticks, especially when chopsticks are pretty cheap, but because it just feels more comfortable to use for certain dishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: yummyrice

                                                                                                                                                                                                      No where do I say or imply that one method of eating is more or less "refined" than another.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Oh no, Sam. That wasn't directed at you. I didn't feel like creating another separate comment so I apologize for the misunderstanding. Someone had previously implied that modern countries no longer use their hands when eating foods or something to that effect and I just wanted to point out that whether the country is modern or more traditional, some people just prefer using our hands even though forks, spoons, and chopsticks are plentiful and readily available.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. What is even funnier is seeing a bunch of yuppie/hipster idiots trying to eat sashimi with the sticks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MattInNJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                    almost as funny as watching judgemental intolerant people trying it

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                                                                      That is quite enjoyable as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: MattInNJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                      is it their lack of skill, or are you implying sashimi is not eaten with chopsticks?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MattInNJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                        How in the world else does one eat sashimi???????

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                          that's what i was wondering..... so maybe the poster's point was making fun of ineptitude.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. I'm as affected as the next guy on Chowhound*, but for me using chopsticks is a practical thing: I tend to eat too fast, and (though I'm pretty adept), they slow me down a bit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Plus, as mentioned above, it's fun. Years ago, I went out with a woman for a while. It was pleasant while it lasted, but the only permanent effect was that she taught me to use the things. On the other hand, how many people come out of a relationship having learned a new** skill.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        * as if!
                                                                                                                                                                                                        ** minds out of the gutter, here

                                                                                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Muskrat

                                                                                                                                                                                                          The way to eat stuff rapidly with chopsticks is to put all the food on top of rice in the bowl, and then use the chopsticks to shove the food into your mouth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: limster

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Doesn't everyone do it this way?

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Most Chinese would do it that way, but I think the Japanese prefer to pick out lumps of rice with chopsticks, rather shove.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              However, to be more germane to the thred, Muskrat was saying that chopsticks were slowing him down. I was offering an option that wouldn't be slow.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Wow, I read the whole thread thinking someone else would have posted this; I grew up eating americanized "Chinese" food out of styrofoam containers from places where your choice was a flimy plastic fork or wooden chopsticks. Wooden chopsticks don't bend or break, and you can't spear a hole in the bottom of the container and get Kung Pao pants. Now, since we seek out more authentic restaurants, there are likely to be only chopsticks at the table.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Two reasons in my case -- maybe three if you count the fact that I learned how to use them from a former girlfriend -- how many relationshops do you (well, I) leave with a new skill as a souvenir?

                                                                                                                                                                                                            First: It's fun.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Second: I tend to gobble things up, and that's more difficult with chopsticks, even to one fairly skilled in their use. For that reason, I'd use 'em on everything, except that most western food isn't prepared in a way that's chopstick-friendly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            It may be an affectation for some, though certainly nobody on Chowhound is in any way affected. In my own defense, I use 'em even when I'm eating alone, with nobody to impress but myself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Muskrat

                                                                                                                                                                                                              """though certainly nobody on Chowhound is in any way affected"""""

                                                                                                                                                                                                              muskrat, you made me laugh!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Muskrat

                                                                                                                                                                                                                >> I use 'em even when I'm eating alone, with nobody to impress but myself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yes. Some people just love to use chopsticks and this has nothing to do with showing off or impressing anyone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Muskrat

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Chopsticks, Shmopsticks. Fork, knife, spoon, garden trowel, whatevah. If it looks good, eat it, in the most expedient way possible. Hehe

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: southern_expat

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    hmmmm...garden trowel. that might be handy for some of my favo-rite foods!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    oooh, this one folds, so i can tuck it in my pocket and use it at a restaurant http://www.made-in-china.com/image/2f...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    i can also imagine some uses for the long handled one --- "*sharing*" food at the table. ;-) http://www.gardentoolsforallseasons.c...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "oh dear, you didn't want that paella, did you?"****

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    **** here is the antidote to the troweler across the table, though: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5355...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "plateguard" © "pocket-picket" © and "taster-taser" ©

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. My wife was laughing at me last night because I was eating my spaghetti with chopsticks. Hey, noodles are noodles. :^)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: plasticanimal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I believe that many Asians consider stuffing huge lumps of food in their mouths with a fork/spoon and bit rude. Chop sticks only allow a small portion of the dish to be consumed at a time. Therefore they can enjoy the flavor/aromas at a more relaxed pace aiding digestion. A longer time together with family/friends and the extra benefit is generally the more one chews and swallows the more saliva the easier the digestion and the fuller one feels thereby not eating so much. Nothing to me is nastier than seeing someone wolf down four pounds of food in four minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Fork & Spoon is the norm for Thais, Malaysians, Indonesians, many Indians (when using utensils) etc etc when using a plate for the local cuisine-type rice + accompaniments. Chopsticks frequently in SE Asia for "Chinese-derived" food when served with rice bowl + plates of accompaniments. Do you consider these folks "Asians"? I don't see why eating with fork & spoon *automatically* means that *everyone* who uses such *will* "wolf down four pounds of food in four minutes" as you seem to imply. I usually use fork & spoon myself for plates of rice+accompaniments and I can assure you I do not "wolf down four pounds of food in four minutes".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Did I say "automatically" or "everyone"? There are in fact 'many "Asians" in China. I "implied" nothing. Did I imply YOU wolf down your food? Did I say that everyone "will" wolf their food? You need to lighten up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Then consider not using "Asians" without clarifying what you mean. Ditto you might wish to consider the phrasing one uses and the meaning that is conveyed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'll 'phrase' my posts the way I want thanks. You are equally free to interpret them anyway you wish. Last post on the matter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        That might be the case in more upscale settings, but for everyday eating in Japan, at least, it's exactly the opposite of what you describe. And especially in the case of eating pasta with chopsticks (which is fairly standard), eating loudly in large clumps like one would with ramen, soba or udon is just about de rigueur. In Asia, if "stuffing huge lumps of food in their mouths with fork/spoon" is considered rude, it certainly isn't if one is using chopsticks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. people!!!!!!!!!!!!!! no one is saying that EVERY non asian person who uses chop sticks is a smug bastard. people are saying that SOME non asians use chop sticks in a smug way. i know plenty of them. i remember being at a "friends" house one night, we were all drinking. he made a bunch of rop ramen noodles to eat. he gave everyone chop sticks. (all of us are white guys from ohio. and none of us have been any where near asia.) i had never used chop sticks, so i asked for a fork and spoon. he told me i HAVE to eat it with chop sticks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      i can sort of use chop sticks now. but quite frankly, you will never see me use them in a restaurant. my food would be cold by the time a got any food to my mouth haha.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. I use them not to pretend anything, any more than thinking me tearing my bread and dipping it in the plate of olive oil/balsamic vinegar makes me feel more Italian. It's just part of the ritual of eating Asian.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Take hot dogs: depending on how many and/or how much you put on yours, it would, at some point, be "easier and make more sense" to eat it with a knife and fork, and even a spoon.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        But we don't. Eating a 'dog means pushing it into your mouth with your hand. Period. And when I do that, no one thinks I'm making a "pretense of authenticity" of eating American.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Rickie, I love to use chopsticks with most Asian food, even Thai food. I know the Thai people do not use them and they look at me like I'm an idiot when I ask for them. It is not an affectation at all. I like picking up the little bites with chopsticks! Every bite is different. I can't explain it, but the food tastes different to me when I use chopsticks. I like to pick up a single bamboo shoot or water chestnut with my chopsticks. Or a succulent piece of meat. A select group of grains of rice. LOL! Oh sometimes I settle for a fork. Sometimes I use a fork and spoon to get the broth. I haven't read any of the replies to this post yet and will be interested to see what others say. Now that I am in the prime of life, a little older shall we say, I usually don't care if people think that I am trying to impress anyone with my chopsticks. It bothers me at Thai restaurants that servers think I don't understand their culture when I ask for chopsticks -- and sometimes I forget about it for that reason. I'm not out to insult anyone. But I'm really not trying to impress either, and I don't know anyone who uses chopsticks as an affectation, to be honest.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Willa

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Heh. Go for it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Well, I had a past colleague (Caucasian) who thought quite highly of himself and who used to carry his own Japanese chopsticks around with him (the pointy-tipped shorter ones) and grandiloquently flourish them at a few meals we had as a work group. He would also [when not using his own] pick up those wooden or bamboo disposable chopsticks furnished by the establishment at other places and ostentatiously rub them together while proclaiming that that was what you did...whereas in reality it is INSULTING when you do!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My guess is that your past colleague was not particularly successful in his professional life. Am I right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                thats right, you rub them together discretely over your lap/under the table if you need to, but most chopsticks - even the cheap ones - rarely have splinters falling off the edges.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, that would be how you do it *if* you needed to. He, on the other hand, was doing it in mid-air over the table while giving his dissertation, without even looking at them to see if they needed a treatment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    oddly enough i've seen people do it with reusable (lacquered/plastic) chopsticks as well, perhaps misunderstanding why the cheap wooden ones are subjected to this treatment. I love the look on the waiters faces whens someone does this with reusable chopsticks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It was almost comical when this chap I relate about was doing his routine. I don't recall what the servers/waiters/waitresses (all Japanese) did. I remember I was just trying to look away and ignoring the lecture he was providing to the the rest of the table, almost wholly Caucasian.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  He was probably trying to make a fire.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Heh. Well, he was of a sizeable figure...does that count?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. I'm Caucasian and have lived in the US Pacific Northwest (PNW) for over ten years (Seattle and Portland). At just about any metropolitan Asian restaurant (Thai included) you will get chopsticks as a matter of course and Western silverware only if you ask. Omnipresent chopsticks in this area are probably 50% authenticity and 50% diner expectations at this point, since it's just taken for granted by anyone around here that is what you will find in an East Asian restaurant. I've become quite adept at chopsticks, although not graceful about it. I use chopsticks now out of habit; using chopsticks as opposed to silverware doesn't bother me since I have an expertise in using both flatware and chopsticks. I think it's much like going back and forth between languages you are fluent in depending on context-- you don't think about it. I don't find it pretentious or affected, but part of the regional culture here in this part of the US.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                After a long time away, I visited family in the Midwest several years ago and when we went to a family dinner at a Chinese restaurant, I was in regional culture shock to NOT get chopsticks automatically, only Western flatware. I had to ask the server for chopsticks because eating my Chinese food with a fork felt weird to me after years of using chopsticks. This request was not an affectation on my part but a sincere habit and preference built on years of everyday use. If I'd made an obnoxious scene about it or harangued my Midwest family for not using chopsticks, that would have been gross behavior. However, just because I've developed a preference for chopsticks with Chinese food and I'm Caucasian doesn't make it pretentious on my part; it's definitely part of my PNW culture.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. This is a fun thread.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sorry I missed it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Let allowance be total
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  when choosing the tool

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  to arrange pleasure
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  from plate to the gullet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. For certain foods, I find them to be the ideal utensils. While I am anything BUT proficient with them (more muscle, than technique), I do choose them, with many dishes.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    [Edit - 2005! Wow, had not seen that, but my reply still stands.]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Stuff and nonsense! FIRST, I use chopsticks when chopsticks are the best utensils---easiest,most efficient, most pleasurable--for _me_. No, it not easier to use a knife, fork and spoon. SECOND, I care not a fig for authenticity. If chopsticks are the best way _for_me_ to eat Thai food, I care not that actual Thais are clunking along with knife and fork--that is _their_ problem. THIRD, Asians do not 'shovel' rice into their mouths from a bowl (Where did this canard get started?) They (and I) are picking up clumps of rice and _placing_ the clumps in the mouth. And not dropping any either. The only way to _shovel_ food into your mouth is with a shovel shaped utensil---a 'spoon'. SHEEESH!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        <(Where did this canard get started?)>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Holding a rice bowl quite close to the mouth and using chopsticks to slightly poke/push the rice into the mouth is customary anywhere I've traveled in Southern China.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Happens all the time. If you think chopsticks are the best utensil to eat Thai food including all the noodle dishes, do you use them for spaghetti?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          One bit of advice about using chopsticks, don't ever stick them into your bowl of rice. I've seen people do that and older asians go apopletic. In some cultures, chopstick stuck upright in a bowl of rice is a symbol of death. Evokes the incense sticks from a funeral.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            You are mistaken.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • SE Asians (that includes Thais) and even S Asians (when they use utensils) often use a fork and SPOON. Knives are rarely used. This is when a plate is used, which is very common.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • It is normal for the Chinese and Vietnamese, and Chinese-origin and Chinese-affinity folks in SE Asia, to raise a rice bowl to their lips and use the chopsticks to push rice into their mouths. This is when Chinese-type food is served, with the rice in rice bowls (as opposed to being on plates). It is also acceptable to do so in Japan.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • It is in KOREA that raising the rice bowl to one's lips is not done – instead, a long-handled spoon is used, with the bowl never leaving the table surface. I suppose by your definition they are shoveling food into their mouths since they *are* using a spoon. I wonder what Koreans think about that.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • One could see where lifting the bowl to one's lips may not be universal at a formal banquet, but the aid of that ubiquitous flat-bottomed spoon (as distinct from that Korean metal long-handled round-bottomed spoon) may be invoked rather than just raising clumps of rice to one's mouth. The rice may not be sticky enough, for one, and if it was fried rice (or a non-sticky steamed rice) the rice grains may be quite loose. Picking up one grain at a time might be a little laborious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I have wondered about this myself, but it just feels right. I like it!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Actually you would be surprised how many of those you are assuming did not grow up using chopsticks actually did. I grew up a Navy kid with much exposure to various cultures, but mostly Asian cultures. I was learning to use chopsticks when I was also learning to use a fork and spoon. Using chopsticks are a natural to this Native American southern country boy as a knife and fork.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I always try to keep in mind that while my ancestors were eating with their fingers in Europe, Asians were the height of civility (and keeping their fingers clean) by using chop sticks.

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