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Updated on November 29, 2016

Chopsticks is the English name for eating utensils (Chinese, k'uai-tzu) that have been used in China since at least the 4th century B.C. and later in the other countries of East Asia. The word "chop" is a corruption of k'uai, which means means "quick" or "speedy." Chopsticks are pairs of narrow sticks approximately 8 inches (20 cm) long, although the size varies. The upper half of the stick is squared, making it easier for it to be grasped securely. The lower half is rounded. Often, in Japan, the sticks are shorter and the lower ends come to a blunt point. Japanese restaurants sometimes use prepackaged pairs whose upper ends have to be separated before use.

Chopsticks are usually made of bamboo, although modern ones may be of plastic. More elaborate pairs are made of enameled wood, ivory, or bone, and in Korea, of brass or silver. They also may be inscribed with poetry or may be decorated.

Chopsticks are held in one hand. The first, or lower, stick is held stationary between the base of the thumb and the fourth finger. The second, or upper, one is held by the thumb and the second and third fingers, and it is this stick that is manipulated, pinching the food against the stationary chopstick. Because the food is cut into small pieces before being served, knives are not needed and therefore are not set on the table as in the West.


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