When you dine at a restaurant that specializes in Asian cuisine, do you use the chopsticks to eat the plate of rice with General Tso’s chicken or to twirl those lo-mein noodles with? Or do you opt out of it because you don’t want to look silly attempting to use them correctly and end up resorting to using a fork?
Whichever scenario you relate to most—we left out the one that entails using the chopstick as a spear to latch onto that piece of sweet and sour chicken—it’s time to learn how to use chopsticks correctly so that you can eat the entirety of your meal without having to rely on a fork or spoon.
We called on executive sous chef Steven Aung at China Poblano by José Andrés to provide us with step-by-step instructions on how to hold and use chopsticks correctly. But first, we wanted to uncover more about when to use chopsticks and the right and wrong ways to use them.
What dishes in Asian cuisine do you typically use chopsticks for?
“Everything, including soups and congee,” says the chef.
Congee is rice porridge or rice that has been broken down with water or broth. If you’ve never tried congee, perhaps you’ve seen the timeless Disney movie Mulan—she eats a bowl of congee that has a smiley face made of b***n and sunny side up eggs on it in her tent before her first day of boot camp. You may remember that she too used chopsticks to eat this dish!
What are some examples of wrong ways to use chopsticks?
Chef Aung lends insight on ways you may be using chopsticks incorrectly that not only delay your meal but also disrespect Chinese culture.
- Trying to move both chopsticks at the same time to pick up food.
- Holding chopsticks in a fist. This is seen as disrespectful in Chinese culture.
- Sticking chopsticks straight up into a bowl of rice. This is done when making an offering to the deceased and is inappropriate to do during a meal.
What is the correct way to hold and use chopsticks?
Employ these steps so that not even a single ramen noodle or piece of rice ever slips between your chopsticks again.
- Hold one of the chopsticks with your thumb, index, and middle finger.
- The second chopstick should be placed on the ring finger and half of your thumb.
- Move the first chopstick to pick up food.
- The second chopstick should be held still.
“My grandma once told me that the higher you hold your chopsticks, the further the distance you will travel to find your spouse,” Aung added. Well, keep those chopsticks as close to the bowl or plate as physically possible single friends.