RISMEDIA, Oct. 4, 2007-Do you love Asian food, but want the full experience by eating it as it was meant to be eaten – with chopsticks? Watching others using chopsticks can make it look so easy, but when you try it, you end up asking for a fork. Here’s how to say goodbye to that fork for good and put those chopsticks to work!
Pick up the first chopstick with the middle finger and thumb. Stiffen your hand for a firm grip. Have the broad end of the chopstick lay on the part where your thumb and index finger connect. Rest the narrow end on the tip of your ring finger, and hold it in place with the tip of your middle finger. (Hint: try holding it the way you hold a pen to write. It might rest on your ring finger or your middle finger, held in place by your index finger. Place the chopstick then lift your index finger so it can hold the second chopstick.)
Grip the second chopstick with your index finger. Place your thumb over the second chopstick. Adjust your grip to a more comfortable position. Make sure the narrow tips of the chopsticks are even with each other to help prevent them from crossing or being unable to “pinch” the food.
Hold it steady. This chopstick should not move when you attempt to pick up food. Alternatively, hold the first chopstick steady and move the second (top) chopstick by moving the tip of your index finger up and down while the thumb remains relatively steady, acting like a pivot point. The top chopstick remains pressed to the index finger from the tip through the first joint. The movement comes from flexing the joint closest to the knuckle. Straightening your index finger opens the chopsticks and bending it closes them, with perhaps a slight flexing of the thumb to keep the chopsticks lined up with each other.
Practice opening and closing the chopsticks. Make sure the broad ends of the chopsticks do not make an “X” as this will make it difficult to pick up food.
Pick up food at a good angle (try roughly 45 degrees from the plate); slightly lift it up. If it feels unstable, put it down and try again.
While it may seem easier at first to hold the chopsticks near their tips, holding them further back means that they are closer to parallel, which helps to scoop food (like rice) from below. You’ll also be able to pick up larger pieces of food (see photo #3 above). There is no “correct” way to hold the chopsticks. As long as you can comfortably pick up the food and bring it to your mouth, you are using the chopsticks correctly.
Alternatively, you can grip the lower stick with the tip of the ring finger but resting on the pinky nail bed. Then your thumb will lock this stick into place. The upper stick will move up and down to grip the food.
Another alternative is to grip the two chopsticks together like a pencil, then use the top fingers to push the sticks into a criss-cross position (and back again) to pick up your food.
Apply a firm but gentle pressure on the food, just enough to keep the food from falling from the chopsticks. Too much pressure is more likely to cause your chopsticks to cross at the narrow ends unless they’re perfectly aligned and could launch your food across the table. Be patient as it takes a while to learn to use them correctly. It is perfectly permissible to ask for a fork or spoon if you get too frustrated.
Wood or bamboo chopsticks are the easiest to use because of the gripping texture at the tip. Plastic ones will be harder to use. Metal chopsticks, as favored by the Koreans, are the hardest of all. Master one, and move up to the next. The next time you go out, your hosts will be impressed!
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