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What Should I Consider When Buying Chopsticks?

It is bad luck to drop your chopsticks.
Chopsticks come in a variety of colors painted onto wood or bamboo.
A bowl of pho with wooden chopsticks.
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  • Written By: A Kaminsky
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 29 March 2014
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People who want to serve an authentic Asian meal may want to invest in chopsticks for their guests. The host should consider if the guests will be able to manage using them, however, and should plan accordingly. A considerate host will want to provide a regular knife and fork for guests, just in case. When buying chopsticks, you should consider the materials they are made out of, if you have a rest for the diner to set them on, and how much money you want to spend.

Basic chopsticks are quite inexpensive. The disposable bamboo kind that the diner breaks apart are sold by the gross at Asian food markets for very low prices. A host who wants more individualized, decorated utensils can buy lacquered wooden ones online or in stores for a bit more money, but they are still available very inexpensively.

The price goes up more for intricately designed, cloisonné chopsticks, although they are still relatively affordable. Ones made of precious metals or materials like jade can be more expensive, depending on their quality and detail. A host will also want to buy small wooden rests for each pair so guests don't have to place their utensils flat on the table.

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Once the host has the materials, price, and backup plan in mind for his Asian-inspired meal, he can buy chopsticks from any Asian grocery store, kitchen store, or online. Some Chinese and Japanese restaurants sell them, as well.

Chopsticks are steeped in history and first appeared in China some 5,000 years ago. By 500 AD, they had made the journey to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, where they are still in common use. Cutting food into smaller pieces reduces cooking time and uses less fuel, so this cooking method led to the widespread use of utensils suited to eating bite-size food. The nobility started the tradition of using expensive materials like gold, silver, jade, and porcelain to make chopsticks. The middle and lower classes have almost always used those made of wood or bamboo.

Since these utensils are so historic, a good deal of superstition has arisen around their use. It may not matter when eating with Westerners, but when eating with Asian people, a guest should be mindful of chopstick etiquette. Guests should never drop their chopsticks because it signals bad luck. They should also never pass food from theirs to someone else's, since this is a funeral custom. They should never be placed straight up in a bowl of rice, since this is another mourning custom. Resting them at the side of the plate is acceptable.

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Discuss this Article

ysmina
Post 7

My roommate is from Japan and she has a variety of chopsticks, some wooden, some ceramic, some metal (or half metal) as well as chopstick rests and cases. Some of her rice bowls also have an attached chopstick rest that she can use when she's eating. I love those bowls, they're so cool.

She even has a chopstick case and if we're going out to eat at an Asian restaurant, she takes her chopsticks with her. This girl loves her chopsticks.

bluedolphin
Post 6

@Sara007-- I've never told anyone this but that's how I learned to use chopsticks. I had to travel to Asia for my job and would have to meet clients there and I had no idea how to use chopsticks or the etiquette. I studied the etiquette online, but to learn how to use chopsticks, I bought one of those training ones that are actually made for children.

It cost more than regular chopsticks but it worked really well and I learned in less then a week. I ate everything with chopsticks to practice. I started out with sushi because sushi is so easy to pick up. I then moved on to meats, rice and finally noodles.

The training chopsticks I used were also plastic, but as soon as I figured it out, I bought some lacquered wooden chopsticks.

donasmrs
Post 5

@JessicaLynn-- Is it more difficult to eat with ceramic chopsticks or does it feel weird?

I've also been wanting to buy some ceramic chopsticks because I absolutely love the designs they have. I think ceramic just looks very stylish and classy.

But I'm not sure if I'll be comfortable with them. I know how to use chopsticks but I've only used wooden ones. I think the ceramic must have a really different feel to them, especially when they enter the mouth.

So do you recommend ceramic chopsticks or not?

strawCake
Post 4

@JessicaLynn - That sounds like a good gift. I recently saw some nice looking sets of chopsticks that came with chopstick rests. I thought that was a really nice touch.

As the article said, there are a lot of superstitions about chopsticks, including that you're not supposed to stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice. If you have chopstick rests, you can avoid this. Also, I think the chopstick rests look kind of decorative too!

JessicaLynn
Post 3

I like to eat sushi a lot, so for Christmas, one of my sisters got me a chopsticks set. They're ceramic and decorated with a cool looking pattern. I like to use them every time I get carry out Asian food. It makes me feel a little classier than just using the wooden kind that comes with the food.

Sara007
Post 2

If you have children and want to help them to learn how to handle chopsticks, you can actually buy training ones. They are usually plastic and can be ordered online very cheaply.

These small chopsticks are attached and force the user to use the correct hand position. It can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but I've found that kids have fun mastering them.

It is best to start with simple meals that offer larger items to eat and save the noodles for another time.

For adults learning how to use chopsticks, a simple trick is to wrap an elastic band around the top of them forcing them together. Practice your hand motion until you're able to use them apart.

animegal
Post 1

For those looking into buying chopsticks if you are trying to create a theme meal, I would recommend making sure you have the correct style of chopstick.

Koreans use a type of thin metal chopstick, which is probably the hardest to learn how to use, while the Chinese prefer a thicker wooden chopstick that can be awkward for first time uses. The wooden ones that you usually get with takeout Chinese food are actually styled after the preferred Japanese size.

It is really interesting to travel, and notice what small differences there are in cultures. If you are unfamiliar with using chopsticks there are some great instructional videos online with tips for using the different styles.

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