How To Use Chopsticks | Right & Left Handed | Eating Rice & Noodles
One of the most important things when eating at Asian restaurants is knowing how to use chopsticks. Whether eating Korean barbecue, sushi, or dim sum, chopsticks are an important part of eating Asian cuisine. You could eat with a fork, but there runs the risk of ruining the dish and eating a disassembled mess on your plate. Here is how you can start using chopsticks and eating your favorite foods the way they were meant to be eaten. Read on to learn how to use chopsticks for right & left handed people.
How To Use Chopsticks
Chopsticks can be trickier to use than they may appear. How can two simple sticks be so difficult to hold? While there is a learning curve to chopstick techniques, once you learn the proper method you will soon be able to pick up anything no matter the size or shape. For now, feel free to use both hands to assemble your chopsticks correctly. This technique is both for right and left handed people.
A quick run-down of the easiest way to hold chopsticks:
- Hold one chopstick with your thumb and index finger with the middle finger resting on the bottom.
- Place the bottom chopstick in the groove of your hand where your thumb connects to your hand.
- Keep the bottom chopstick stick still with your ring and pinky finger with the middle finger resting on top.
- Keeping the bottom chopstick balanced, lift your middle finger slowly to pick up the top chopstick, your index finger and thumb should keep your top chopstick from moving around.
- If done correctly, the opening and closing of chopsticks should resemble the similar motion of a pair of scissors opening and closing.
For those new to chopsticks, pick up only one chopstick. Where you want to hold them is up to you. Chinese people tend to hold them closer to the back (about a third from the top) while Japanese people hold them closer to the bottom (about a third from the bottom). What matters most right now is where do you feel more comfortable. However, holding the chopstick closer to the back is easier. Once you have made this decision, treat the chopstick like a pencil. Don’t grip it, but hold it lightly with your thumb and index finger. This chopstick will go on top. Try exercising with it a little to grow more comfortable. Move it around, side to side, up and down, make it feel like an extension of your fingers.
The bottom chopstick is going to go where your thumb meets your hand. The middle finger here will rest lightly on top while your ring finger will go underneath. Use your pinky finger to help keep your ring finger nice and sturdy, not moving around awkwardly. Both front-ends of the chopsticks should be touching while the back ends should be apart.
The trick to holding chopsticks like a pro is balance. You want to hold them just enough so they are not slipping out of your hand, but not so tight that your hand goes numb within seconds of eating. If the ends aren’t even, then simply, with your hand holding the chopsticks, tap both ends on your plate to slide one down and even them out.
With the bottom chopstick balancing within that groove of your hand where your thumb meets your hand, use your middle finger to lift the top chopstick with your index finger and thumb keeping it steady. Both the back ends should meet with the front ends apart. Try practicing on larger and solid dishes for now, such as meat. When using chopsticks, it is important to have a delicate technique so when you eat more fragile dishes, like dumplings, you don’t slice through them.
How To Eat Rice with Chopsticks
Eating rice with chopsticks will cement you as a master of chopstick holding. While Korean people opt to use metal spoons for rice, Chinese and Japanese people eat their rice with chopsticks. Once you feel comfortable with your chopstick technique, you are now ready to move on to eating rice.
A quick run-down of using chopsticks to eat rice:
- Hold the open chopsticks at an angle.
- Bury both ends of the chopsticks underneath the rice you want.
- While closing the chopsticks, scoop up the rice.
- The rice is supposed to balance on top of the closed chopsticks.
So, what is the correct method for eating rice with chopsticks? Easy. With your hand holding the chopsticks, slightly turn your hand at an angle that you can balance food on top of it without it rolling off. Think of a bird swooping down to catch its prey on the ground. The bird does not dive straight down but comes in at an angle. This is the motion you want to replicate.
With your chopsticks in an open position, you’re going to come in on the rice at an angle. Then, bury your chopsticks beneath the portion of rice that you want. Close the chopsticks gingerly so you can hold some rice in between. If you apply too much pressure, your chopsticks will go right through the rice. For practice, it’s easier to aim for smaller groupings of rice instead of larger ones. Then slightly lift the front ends in a swooping motion, again, similar to the bird. This lift will prepare you for the next step of getting the rice into your mouth. Once the front ends of your chopsticks are beneath the rice, close them as you would as with any other food.
When you eat food with chopsticks, the food goes between both chopsticks. But, eating rice is a little bit different. The correct way to eat rice with chopsticks is to balance the rice on top of the chopsticks and the small portion of rice between the chopsticks. So now that your chopsticks are closed, lift them slowly upwards trying to balance the rice on top of your chopsticks.
If you are having problems, here is another secret to eating rice with chopsticks: it’s ok to lift the bowl of rice with your other hand. You can hold the bowl as close to your mouth as you want, as long as your face is not directly touching the bowl. When you get to the last few grains, pile them together with your chopsticks and continue using the method as above.
Steamed rice is easier to practice with when trying to learn how to eat rice with chopsticks. When rice is steamed, it tends to be stickier and much easier to hold as it clumps together. It also has the added effect of sticking to your chopsticks. Once you feel confident in eating steamed rice with chopsticks, try using your technique to eat fried rice or over-rice dishes.
How To Eat Noodles With Chopsticks
Eating noodles with chopsticks is one of the easiest things you can do. The technique doesn’t require the same precision as other food does. All you need to do is come in at that same angle you would as if you were eating rice. You can pinch a grouping of noodles between your chopsticks and lift, or you can pinch around the noodles and lift your hands at a downward angle with the noodles draping around the chopsticks like clothes on a wire.
The best way to eat noodles with chopsticks is to remember the saying “less is more.” Remember, noodles are long and tangled together. If you pick up a large portion, you’re bound to end up with a knotted mass of noodles larger than you ever intended to eat in one bite. Simply grab a few strands of noodles and tug them a little so you can separate them from the other noodles. Try to grab the ones on top or the ones at the edges of the bowl.
Now, it goes without saying that the noodles are probably really hot. Even if you blow on them, parts of the noodles you are about to eat are still in the broth. It seems impossible to not scald your mouth. There is only one solution: the slurping method.
When it comes to eating noodles, this is probably the trickiest part as you don’t want to slurp a rogue noodle down your throat and have a choking accident. This is where your chopstick skills are going to help you.
Place the bit of noodles pinched between your chopsticks in your mouth. Now, move the chopsticks along the strands of noodles so it’s around the portion of noodles right in the middle between your mouth and the bowl. You are going to want to slurp the noodles in while sucking in air between the noodles going in and your top teeth. For practice, try sucking in quick bursts of air between your lips with your teeth slightly agape.
Your chopsticks are going to stay steady along the noodles to keep them from thrashing around and splashing broth all over the place. You will also need to move them up and down so as to follow the noodles as they are being slurped to help control how many noodles go in at once. Again, it would be a shame to choke on your noodles, so control here is everything. As the ends of the last strands of noodles approach, lift them up with your chopsticks and bring them closer to your mouth as you continue slurping.
Getting your slurping in sync with your chopstick holding takes a lot of practice. So the best thing you can do is to go out there and eat as many noodles as you can using chopsticks only. For Asian food lovers, I’m sure you will enjoy the practice.