Chopsticks Etiquette for Asian Cuisine

Have you ever wondered what the table etiquette is for chopsticks ? Well, it depends on which country you are dining in. For non-Asian countries, the universal approach of what not to do consists of the following: One should not play with the chopsticks, use them to stab food, leave them in the rice bowl standing straight up (except at funerals) or use them to move bowls or plates.

China invented the chopsticks during the Shang Dynasty. Up until its invention people were using their hands to eat. These little sticks have proven the test of time and are admired by many around the world. When eating in China, you should never tap your bowl or plate, for it emulates the noise the beggars make on the street. Also, one should always pass the food to the elderly first as a sign of respect. Never use chopsticks to spear food, never point the resting chopsticks at others seated at the table and never hold the chopsticks improperly as this is a reflection of your parents’ teaching.

When eating Japanese cuisine , you should not rub the chopsticks after breaking them apart. This can offend the host, giving them the impression that you think the chopsticks are cheap. They should not be crossed on the table for this symbolizes death. They should not be used to transfer food from one person’s chopsticks to another, or be set horizontally on top of the plate. All chopsticks, whether you’re at home or in a restaurant, should be set on a chopstick rest. Those unfamiliar with the rest will find that they can be made of wood, porcelain, clay or stone and they prevent the chopstick tips from contamination. If you find yourself with the paper sleeve type of chopsticks and no rest is available, don’t worry. You can take the leftover sleeve and fold it into a paper rest.

In Vietnam, as in China, you are allowed to lift the rice bowl to your mouth and push the rice in. However, you should never pick up the food from the serving plate and put it directly in your mouth. The food must always rest on your plate first, prior to eating. Also, you should never put the chopsticks in your mouth while deciding on your next selection. When resting the chopsticks, avoid placing them in a V-shape. The Vietnamese believe this is a bad omen.

Now for the proper holding technique: You should hold them in between the thumb and forefinger of one hand (usually the right hand, even for lefties) and use them like tongs to pick up small pieces of food. It takes a lot of practice to develop the proper technique, and before you know it, you will master them like a pro. What a great excuse to eat more sushi !