Basic Chopstick Etiquette You Probably Don't Know
Eating with chopsticks has now become a fashionable thing among many of us in the Western countries. And we've learned to use this 5000-year old cutlery quite well. But while ably using chopsticks to eat the delicious Pad Thai, most of us are unknowingly sending table manners to hell.
How? It's because the majority of us didn't learn about the elaborate table manners, etiquette, customs and the rich history that goes when eating with these simple and elegant utensils.
So, let's see how we can get it right the next time we head off for a meal in China Town.
In the East, food and the practice of eating are as close to religion as it can get. So, be respectful towards your food and cutlery. Do not use chopsticks to wave at someone, push the bowl or plates or bang them like drumsticks, which many do while waiting for their food in restaurants.
One of the primary chopstick etiquette rules is to allow the eldest or highest ranked person at the table to pick up their chopsticks first before you touch yours. If you are the guest of honor, that person will be you, so don't keep them waiting.
Things You Must Not Do
It's wise not to poke food with the tips of your chopsticks as we do with forks. Stabbing food with chopsticks might be okay if you're dining in an informal manner but not recommended when meeting your future father-in-law for the first time.
Next, you should never stick chopsticks upright in your food, like in rice or noodles. It's unacceptable. This how a bowl of rice is offered to the spirit of a dead person.
Make sure not leave your chopsticks crossed anywhere – plate, bowl or table. You wouldn't do it with a knife and fork, so why with Asian cutlery? The sight of crossed chopsticks will make any Asian cringe.
DO NOT pass food directly from one chopstick to another. Again, this is reminiscent of the Buddhist funeral ritual and should not be brought to a dinner table.
Also, be careful not to use two pairs of chopsticks (used by two people) to pick up one piece of food.
Get to know your chopsticks and make sure you never use the 'serving chopsticks' for eating.
Things You Should Practice
When using chopsticks, try and make sure your palm is facing downwards towards the table (as much as possible) even at an angle. This is a Chinese etiquette and showing your palm is considered unrefined. Even if you can't do it properly, the effort will be appreciated.
Once finished eating, place your chopsticks neatly on the chopstick rest. If a rest is not available, you can try to make one using the paper that it came in. Or, you can also place them sideways across the bowl or plate.
It's a must that you place your chopsticks in a right-to-left direction with the tips pointing towards your left.
Always try and use both chopsticks at once even if you only need one for stirring.
New Environmental Etiquette
In China, an estimated 45 billion pairs of chopsticks are thrown away each year. That is equivalent to 25 million fully grown trees.
A growing awareness is seeing more Asian people using reusable chopsticks to support the 'green earth' movement.
Try and use reusable chopsticks that can stay in your kitchen for a longer time and help save the trees.