So I was watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain because I want to be him, obviously, and he mentioned something that I used to hold near and dear, but then just let go. And that’s proper chopstick etiquette. When people first learn to use them, you’re kinda just told to get the food however you can manage. But as time goes on and you’re a little better, there’s certainly a protocol. 1) You can’t stab your food, as it’s not polite. 2) You eat everything with chopsticks. 3) You hold them both in one hand. Let me just say that while you should absolutely try and use chopsticks properly, none of these are absolute truths.
1) Dumplings can be slippery as all hell. Preserved eggs (pidan) can be slimy beyond hope. There’s simply no way to grab these things. The physics behind friction and levers simply dictate that you cannot possibly grasp a slick, oblong surface with thin sticks at a 15 degree angle. Just stab the sucker and eat. The Chinese do, so you might as well.
2) Bullshit. The Koreans eat their stone fried rice (bibimbap) with simply a metal spoon. The Japanese sometimes eat certain sashimi (or a variant) with their hands. And so sometimes with Chinese food you can’t eat it happily with just those damn chopsticks. Sticky rice is an easy proposition as the grain just clumps up and hugs those bamboo poles tightly until its death, like a koala squeezing a felled Eucalyptus. (morbid? Well maybe we should be doing more to protect them, huh?) Fried rice? It’s a shade trickier, but with the chopsticks in your right hand and a spoon in your left it’s a piece of cake.
3) Chinese food is usually cooked such that it’s edible in one go. You don’t usually have massive chunks of meat, or you’d have at it like a savage. Eating a steak with chopsticks would be awful (or amazingly barbaric.) Sometimes if there’s a dessert or bread or a fried egg, it’s too big for a mouthful. In that case, firmly grasp a chopstick in each hand, and using them you can separate whatever it is using two individually functioning sticks. It’s revolutionary and highly necessary.
Let know your thoughts: agree, disagree or otherwise!
Like what you’re reading on China? Check out some other related articles in: The China Chronicles!