Learn How to Eat with Chopsticks: Great Tips for Foreigners
Eating with chopsticks can be quite a challenge when you are used to forks, knives, and spoons. The first few times you will wish someone had learned you how to eat with chopsticks properly! The food will drop on the plate - or next to it - and you hesitantly bring a piece of food to your mouth knowing that it might fall.
Asian people cannot always tell you how to use chopsticks because this skill is so ingrained in them that they can do it without thinking about it! In this article I'll share some practical tips about things that I noticed when learning how to use chopsticks. As with all new skills, practise makes perfect. Even though I can eat with chopsticks by now, I know I'll need to practise more to be able to grab absolutely anything!
- Try to use chopsticks but ask for fork and knife if you really cannot do it yet. There is no shame in asking for a fork and knife because you don't want your meal to get cold while you're still trying to eat a starter. However, you must try it a few times because some meals are easier than others with chopsticks. It might be that you have picked a meal that is still a bit too difficult for beginners that try to learn how to use chopsticks.
- Hold the chopsticks properly. One chopstick rests on your middle finger and it does not move while grabbing food. The other part rests between your thumb and your index finger. Put your thumb around it and make sure it is in a fixed position. The idea is that you can now grab food by creating a gripper using the other chopstick.
The other chopstick is located above it and you hold it with you thumb, index and middle finger. if you hold them correctly you should be able to snap the outer ends together without missing. A common beginner's mistake is that they start to form an X at the end because they do not touch each other when you try to close them. As an ultimate test, when you can consistently hit and release the outer ends of the chopsticks then you're doing very well.
- "Reset" the chopsticks when necessary. Sometimes you are fiddling around with the chopsticks and they have formed an X shape at the outer end. When that happens, do not continue but "reset" the chopsticks by pushing the outer ends of the chopsticks together on your plate. The chopsticks are now aligned with each other and you can try again.
- Practise first with medium-sized pieces of food. I have found the medium-sized pieces of food to be the easiest in the beginning. When a piece of food is too large then the chopsticks need to be moved too far apart and that is difficult when you're trying to learn how to eat with chopsticks. It is just difficult to tightly grab the food when you're having difficulty handling the chopsticks in the first place. When the piece of food is very small, like one grain of rice, then it requires decent mastery of the chopsticks as well. Medium-sized pieces of food work the best when you are still learning. What are those medium-sized pieces? I'd say those that require a grab with the chopsticks being at most one centimeter apart.
As a foreigner I knew I had to learn this skill when I decided to live in a city with a significant Asian community. In the beginning it is tricky and it is no shame to ask for a fork and a knife but I still wanted to learn how to eat with chopsticks.
It took me a few times when eating out with friends to get better at learning how to use chopsticks. I'm still having some difficulty with slippery food, like pasta in a sauce, but at least I can enjoy my food when they present me with only two shiny chopsticks after ordering.
Once you know how to use chopsticks you'll be a be able to eat with a diverse range of cutlery - both western and eastern cutlery - all around the world! Enjoy your meal while eating with chopsticks!
More advice on chopsticks
- Eating With Chopsticks
Once you know how to hold chopsticks, you can easily learn to eat with them! Read about chopstick etiquette and try folding your own chopstick rest.
- How to Hold Chopsticks
Growing up, we had a family rule when eating at any restaurant where chopsticks were available: no forks! So, I learned how to use chopsticks at a very early age. For a long time, however, I did not know how...