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Answer me something ... about chopsticks and Asian food?

  • i

Why is it that people insist on using chopsticks when eating anything remotely Asian, e.g. sushi, teriyaki bowls/plates, Chinese takeout, fried rice, chow mein?

This is especially curious to me when the eater in question is NOT proficient with chopsticks.

Having eaten the above items (e.g. teriyaki bowls, sushi, etc.) many times with both chopsticks and a fork, I can tell you that it does not taste any better, or different, with chopsticks.

Now, I can understand it if one is eating a bowl of noodles or ramen, where chopsticks are definitely more efficient, but if the meal in question is, say, for example fried rice, isn't it easier just to use a fork or spoon (or a spork!)?

Sometimes I'll be at my favorite lunch-plate joint and watch as some poor sap tries to eat every single pebble of rice with chopsticks and get so frustrated that he just ends up ripping up the styrofoam bowl and scoops up the rice directly from the bowl sans eating utensil. And this is after watching in a sort of voyeuristic bewilderment the person in question handle the chopsticks as if he were a blind puppeteer -- trying awkwardly to position the two sticks between the correct fingers and thumb, only to have either one or both sticks end up criss-crossing each other ...

Sorry, just something I had to get off my chest.

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  1. I agree, in fact I prefer fork and spoon even though I am proficient with chopsticks. There's a long thread on this topic, link below.

    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    1. I guess it gives you a feeling of enjoying anothers culture. Also, it slows down a meal for us and gives us lots of talk about, and somehow the food always tastes better. PLUS, how can you get proficient at using chopsticks if you don't practice?

      1. Ease up. We were all "poor saps" at one time with chopsticks. Practice makes perfect.

        Now I am an expert.

        Also, don't be such a lookey-loo. It's not polite to stare.

        1. "This is especially curious to me when the eater in question is NOT proficient with chopsticks. "

          Everyone has to start somewhere...

          1 Reply
          1. re: nja

            you know what's funny... i'm first generation canadian born chinese and guess where i learned how to use chopsticks from? the back of a chopstick wrapper!

            oddly enough i actually use them just as well as very proficient family members now.

            i actually really like eating with chopsticks... and after some consideration i think it's because i don't like having metal in my mouth and that often times spoons and forks are sized inappropriately for me to feel comfortable putting it completely in my mouth. whenever i eat with a fork all my food is at the tip of the tines to pluck off.... with chopsticks i get quite a bit of control in this area.

            Link: http://tongueandcheek.ca

          2. It is the "placebo effect" in the realm of eating. The food DOES taste better, if you believe it. It doesn't for your because you don't want it to.

            And it's more fun. Just like it's more fun to eat BBQ with your hands.

            Efficiency is not something to worry about when enjoying a meal.

            1. In the beginning, it's like they've thrown down the Gauntlet. By picking them up we've accepted the challenge and are determined to see it through no matter what.

              1. For 10 years I had a boss who is Chinese. Periodically we'd go out for dim sum, or just order in. Every time I'd start off with chopsticks and eventually switch to a fork. My hand always cramps and no matter how much practice I had, I could never master the technique.

                Now my philosophy is, the fork expedites the delivery of the food to my mouth, and does not diminish the taste at all. Anyone who looks down on someone using a fork needs to get over themself.

                1. I swear I have read this EXACT post you made before, why do you care honestly? maybe people are just having fun, were you proficient when you first picked up a pair?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Donna

                    In addition to other posts complaining about other people's attitudes about [x], which seems to be a running theme.

                    Anyway, a lot of people want to practice, and fried rice is more challenging that boiled rice because it's less sticky, so it's a great way to practice.

                    The main advantage to chopsticks over western flatware is that they don't conduct heat.

                  2. One thing that is true of chopsticks - they're bad for the environment (at least, the disposable kind are). So, if people *did* start using non-disposable forks or spoons to eat their Asian food, fewer trees would be killed. Or, we could carry around our own non-disposable pairs of chopsticks in case any Asian foods happened to cross our paths.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Petit Pois

                      The Chinese government just announced that it wants to start taxing wooden chopsticks, for this very reason.

                      1. re: Chorus Girl

                        In Korea, restaurants usually had stainless steel chop sticks. They are quite a bit thinner than wooden and took some getting used to. Rice is generally eaten with a spoon.

                        It would be nice to see this option in more Asian places, I wouldn't feel as bad about the trees. The plastic ones are too thick usually. IMO.

                      2. re: Petit Pois

                        Most chopsticks are made from bamboo and not trees. Bamboo is grass and regrows. It grows extremely fast. but yes to toss sticks every meal is wasteful. Use metal ones and wash them

                      3. This sounds awfully like the "don't you just hate" thread that the CH Team is trying to discourage.

                        1. I *rarely* eat Asian food consequently I have no adeptness with chopsticks. When I have gone to CH dinners at Asian restaurants, because I feel no need to conform, I just ask for a fork.

                          My goal is to taste and enjoy every morsel of food, and using a fork allows for that. Perhaps certain people look down on my lack of conforming. Perhaps I should care, but I don't.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Funwithfood

                            Good for you.

                            I think this was really the point of my post - i.e., that people shouldn't feel the need to conform when enjoying a foodie experience, or just plain eating.

                            If a person really enjoys using chopsticks to eat, then that person should use chopsticks for all things edible, e.g. pizza, snickers bar, ice cream, hamburgers, burritos, fried chicken ...


                            1. re: ipse dixit

                              i guess like george you eat your snickers with a knife and fork.

                            2. What really cracks me up are the people that insist (with some self-righteousness) on using chopsticks to eat Thai noodles because it's more "culturally correct". If they were *so* interested in being authentic they would use a fork like the folks in Thailand.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: chococat

                                People in Thailand usually use chopsticks for noodles.

                                1. re: Rico Pan

                                  People in Thailand use forks and spoons for non-soup noodle dishes (like pad thai and pad si ew).

                                  1. re: thailander
                                    Donald Cragen

                                    This is correct: forks and spoons.

                                    Didn't see many chopsticks at the restaurants I visited in Thailand.

                                  2. re: Rico Pan

                                    Yes this is what my Peace Corps in-laws told me who lived in Thailand. As far as I understood it it's actually incredibly rude to put a fork in your mouth. You use the fork to push non-noodle dishes into your spoon.

                                2. You don't understand why people who aren't proficient in using chopsticks use them? I don't understand why people post asking why people who aren't proficient in using chopsticks use them.

                                  1. It’s part of the act. Kind of like why some Americans “Must” use a fork upside down in their left hand. They take a bite and then look off to the side with a “studied” expression on their face as they chew with a profound jaw movement.. You know, like Rachael Ray

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Like-Go-Eat?

                                      LGE, I would like to see Rachel Ray bob for french fries.

                                    2. Some have problems with those who "insist" on using chopsticks. Some with those who don't use chopsticks. And some just eat, enjoy, and don't worry whether or not other people use chopsticks, since they may or may not actually use chopsticks. Does this sum it all up?

                                      1. I think it's because they just think that's what you're supposed to be. I'm Chinese. My rules are if I get rice on a plate, I use a fork. If I get a bowl of rice, then I use chopsticks. I don't see the sense in using chopsticks when given a rick plate since it's quite difficult and not worth the effort.

                                        1. I'm surprised that no one in this thread has said this yet, but from everything I've read and heard, in Japan they use NEITHER chopsticks or forks for sushi. It is always picked up and eaten with hands. That would explain the origin of the steamed washcloths you get right after you're seated. It sanitizes your hands. And we all thought they were trying to give us that "warm fuzzy feeling" :)

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Chas

                                            "I'm surprised that no one in this thread has said this yet, but from everything I've read and heard, in Japan they use NEITHER chopsticks or forks for sushi. It is always picked up and eaten with hands."

                                            No. I've been to Japan three times on trips lasting a couple of weeks. Chopsticks were used in regular Japanese restaurants and forks and knives were available in Western style restaurants.

                                            1. re: Chas

                                              chopsticks are optional for nigiri only, and only when sitting at Sushi Bar.

                                            2. I also find rice deeply frustrating with chopsticks. With regards to other types of food typically eaten with chopsticks, I tend to enjoy using them. I think a lot of it is contextual - it's something I've always done in Chinese restaurants, etc. so it feels familiar. I'm proficient, but nothing like someone who grew up using chopsticks exclusively. I actually find this useful - it slows me down and makes me concentrate on my food, which makes me enjoy it more.

                                              In the kitchen, I actually prefer to cook scrambled eggs and omelettes with chopsticks. It started after I tried to recreate the omelette in that magical scene from 'Tampopo', and found chopsticks worked better, both at whipping the eggs in the pan, and manoevring them around. And then of course I can eat my eggs with chopsticks, which saves on fork washing. I saw special silicone chopsticks in a store the other day, just for cooking. But I don't need them - I actually have a favourite pair of disposable chopsticks that I handwash and have lasted for ages. The tips are a bit thicker than on elegant, long-use chopsticks. So there goes the argument that disposable chopsticks are bad for the environment - they're only disposable if you actually throw them away!!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Gooseberry

                                                I would never go to a Japanese restaurant and eat sushi or sashimi with a fork. Even though it is probably easier to eat with a fork, there is a certain enjoyment that would be missing if I ate sushi with a fork.

                                                However, I do use fork, spoon, and chopsticks in Chinese or Korean restaurants.

                                              2. Why?

                                                Well, an uncharitable person might call the compulsion to use chopsticks 'pretentious' or something similar.

                                                A more charitable person would acknowledge that the atmosphere, the total dining experience, extends to the utensils (or lack thereof). I would far prefer a knife and fork to eat a $25 steak, just as I would far prefer a nice decor and atmosphere and attentive service.

                                                As for an Asian meal, I find that chopsticks add something to the experience, and that "$25 steak atmosphere" doesn't (I'd prefer a place where I'm the only Anglo in there, and brightly lit enough to see the handwritten 'specials' placards on the wall).

                                                Similarly, I'd far prefer to eat a pizza with my hands - forget the knife and fork (yes I've seen it, no I don't understand it).

                                                That said, I miss the chopsticks even though I was never very good with them - after a stroke, my right hand doesn't work and my left hand is never gonna hold a pair of chopsticks. I never felt compelled to use them, but I'm still a bit embarrassed to try very hard to convince an Asian server that I really do want the food as spicy as he'd have his own, and then ask for a fork.

                                                  1. i like ChopSticks for the control they offer. want that particularly fatty pice of pork? got it, and just it. want to move that unidentifiable piece of whatnot off to the side? done.

                                                    it's the difference between a rifle and a shotgun.

                                                    as for rice, i always get a separate bowl for rice and lift it to my mouth then use the chopsticks to shovel away.