Thanks to their simplicity and versatility, chopsticks, or chopsticks, have been the most used cutlery in East Asia for thousands of years. If you are used to using a fork and knife when handling food, it can be difficult to get used to using them at first. By learning the right way to handle them, however, mastering this technique becomes much easier. Begin by resting the first chopstick on the inside edge of the index finger and the webbing of the thumb of the dominant hand. Place the second chopstick between your index and middle fingers and thumb as if you were holding a pencil. This will allow you to move the upper freely while keeping the lower one in place.
Method 1 of 3: Positioning Chopsticks Correctly
Step 1. Pick up chopsticks with your dominant hand
Use the one you're most coordinated with to pick them up on the table, with the back of your hand facing you. Place your non-dominant hand under the end of the chopsticks and gently squeeze them. This helps to align them, making them perfectly parallel to each other.
- In a standard table setup, the chopsticks will be together in front of you, horizontally.
- It is usually easiest to pick them up using your first two or three fingers in conjunction with your thumb.
- Be careful not to bump them together when you pick them up. This noise can be considered rude in quiet restaurants and more formal environments.
Step 2. Place your hand on the top third of the chopsticks
Use your non-dominant hand to align them while adjusting the position of the dominant hand. Hold them together on the webbing between your thumb and index finger until you are ready to start eating.
- If you don't know exactly where to place your hand, align the broad base of the chopsticks to the tip of your thumb. Then rotate your hand, holding the narrow end near the base of the thumb.
- Keeping your hand too high or too low will make chopsticks difficult to handle.
always hold them with the wide end facing outward and the narrow end facing inward.
Step 3. Rest the bottom chopstick along the base of the thumb and ring finger
Arrange the first one with its upper portion nestled in the space between the thumb and index finger, supporting its middle portion over the inner portion of the ring finger. When it is in the desired place, avoid moving or adjusting it.
- Some native users prefer to place the lower chopstick a little higher in the hand, near the base of the index finger.
- When used correctly, the lower chopstick will remain fixed, letting the upper chopstick do all the work.
Step 4. Take the upper chopstick between your index and middle fingers and thumb
Now take the second chopstick and place it between the first upper knuckles of your index and middle fingers. Grasp the inner edge with the pad of your thumb.
- Both should be pointed in the same direction, with the tips and bases aligned with each other.
- This manual position will be similar to what most people use when holding a pencil.
Step 5. Avoid moving your thumb as much as possible
Use the top of the thumb as the axis of rotation for the upper chopstick, using just enough pressure to be able to rotate it - the base should serve to support the lower chopstick and nothing else. Including your thumb in the movements will only increase your likelihood of getting confused.
- It's also crucial to keep your thumb straight, without bending it at any point.
- Keeping your thumb still may seem complicated, but it really eliminates a worry and allows you to focus on opening and closing the chopsticks.
Method 2 of 3: Controlling Hashi
Step 1. Open and close the chopsticks using the first two fingers
To open them, lift your index and middle fingers simultaneously. To close them, just press them again. You will feel that the chopsticks are an extension of both fingers.
- If you are having difficulty picking up food this way, make slight adjustments to the firmness so that the pad of the middle finger is resting on the bottom stick opposite the thumb.
- Only the tips of the chopsticks should move. The bases should stay where they are or move slightly closer together without any touch.
For a better grip on the chopsticks opening and closing action, it can be helpful to imagine that you are making air quotes with your fingers.
Step 2. Keep both chopsticks steady to prevent them from moving
If necessary, pause for a moment and use your non-dominant hand to return them to the starting position, remembering to rest the bottom chopstick on the ring finger and base of the thumb and keep the top chopstick in pencil position. The more they slide up or down, the harder it will be to use them.
- Hold the chopsticks firmly, but do not squeeze them. This only wears out your hand and further deteriorates your technique.
- Bamboo and wood-based chopsticks are usually better for beginners, as they have better grip on the hands and each other.
Step 3. Keep gentle pressure on the top chopstick to hold the food
Open them and use them to pinch a portion of what you want to eat. As you lift it toward your mouth, concentrate on keeping light pressure on the upper chopstick. This will keep the food between them, ensuring it doesn't escape.
- Like everything else in life, getting used to chopsticks takes practice. Try moving foods of varying sizes, shapes, and textures slowly from bowl to bowl. This fun exercise will help you conquer the basics.
- Remember that the bottom chopstick is only there to provide support from underneath. The upper chopstick, in turn, will be used for all the effort.
Step 4. Reverse the opening and closing motion to break the food into smaller pieces
Bring the ends of the chopsticks together and use them to pinch the larger portion of the food together. Then pull them apart hard enough to separate it into two pieces. Keep in mind that this alternative "cutting" method will only work on softer food variations.
- Typical Asian dishes often contain meats, vegetables and grains that have already been reduced to sizes appropriate for use in chopsticks. Certain foods, such as tempura and whole fish, will have to be broken up to make them easier to handle.
- In more casual situations, it is usually acceptable to bite into pieces rather than chopsticks.
Method 3 of 3: Adopting the Proper Hash Label
Step 1. Never stick chopsticks vertically into a rice bowl
This may seem like a harmless way to keep them steady, but it's a prime sin when it comes to using hashi in Japan and many other cultures. The reason is that, in Japanese funeral ceremonies, it is customary for the deceased's family to place a pair of sticks vertically held in the bowl of rice, leaving it as an offering to the spirit of the deceased loved one.
- Likewise, crossing them in an "X" shape is a representation of death in Chinese culture.
- Since these behaviors that remind hosts and those around them of death are considered to bring bad luck, it is likely that committing them will make the atmosphere of the meal much more tense.
Step 2. Always use both chopsticks at the same time
Resist the urge to push the food or stab at the most stubborn pieces with the tips of chopsticks, no matter how difficult it is to eat them. They come in pairs for a reason, they should be used to pick up food and nothing else.
In some countries, even separating chopsticks with different hands is considered a primary error
a good rule of thumb is to play chopsticks only with your dominant hand, unless you're picking them up or making adjustments.
Step 3. Avoid resting them along the plate or bowl unless you've finished
This is a sign that you don't want to eat anymore. Many restaurants offer chopstick holders for when they are not being used. If there are no supports nearby, rest them on the cover they came from or place them along the left edge of the plate.
Likewise, leaving them crossed on the plate or in the bowl demonstrates a lack of respect for customs. This also makes them more likely to fall off the plate or even the table
Step 4. Try not to gesture with chopsticks or point them at other people
If you tend to talk with your hands or feel the need to act on what you're saying, remember to support your chopsticks before proceeding. Imagine how you would feel if someone were about to thrust a fork in your direction while talking about something.
It goes without saying, but it is obviously a very serious failure to use chopsticks to play an imaginary drum on the table, conduct an invisible orchestra, imitate a sea lion or pretend to be swords in combat. Remember: they are tools, not toys
Step 5. Do not eat or take food from the main course with your personal chopsticks
Pass the food with chopsticks used for serving or other cutlery offered by the establishment - only then use your own to eat on your plate. This way, you avoid touching everyone's food with the cutlery that was in your mouth.
- Another mistake to avoid is digging through your food in search of the best piece or your favorite ingredients. This attitude is considered selfish.
- Sticking your chopsticks into a communal dish is unhygienic as it increases the risk of contamination - and it can even be considered a form of disrespect if the people eating with you don't know you haven't learned this rule yet.
Step 6. Move plates with your hands, not chopsticks
When you need to rearrange dishes, bowls, or other utensils, use your free hand instead of dragging items around the table with your chopsticks. Otherwise, you run the risk of insulting your hosts by using the tools for something beyond their purpose.
- If you need to pass or reposition an especially large or heavy plate, opt for safety and rest the chopsticks in order to use both hands.
- In China and other Asian countries, tapping chopsticks into bowls is associated with beggars, indicating that you will ultimately affect your own dignity.
- To define the most suitable size for your hands, measure the distance between your outstretched thumb and index finger in centimeters and multiply this value by 1.5 - the result obtained indicates which will be the ideal chopstick length for you, which will facilitate the your practice.
- If you really can't hold them at all, it's okay to swallow your pride and grab a pair of training sticks, which are held together at the base by a plastic connection. Eating a few meals this way will give you a sense of the movement the upper chopstick should make.
- In Japan, it is customary to hold chopsticks in your right hand even if you are a left-handed person.
- If you're planning to visit a place where chopsticks are common, it's a good idea to get used to other points of etiquette and taboos associated with such use to avoid offending your hosts and others around you.
- Smooth, rounded chopsticks, like those made of plastic or metal, are especially easy to roll, slide or cross over – be careful.