If you've ever been to a Japanese or Chinese restaurant, you may have experienced a unique set of utensils. Instead of a fork, you may have been handed two long sticks. What are we talking about? Chopsticks, of course!
Chopsticks are pairs of tapered sticks that are used as the primary eating utensils in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Experts believe they originated in China. Today, they're also widely used in other countries with significant Chinese populations, including Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, and Burma.
Chopsticks you get in a Chinese restaurant are usually made of wood. However, they are also commonly made of bamboo or plastic. You can also find chopsticks made out of metal, bone, and ivory.
Chopsticks are meant to be held by the dominant hand and used to pick up food. It can take a bit of practice to get comfortable using chopsticks to eat. With a little work, though, you'll be eating with chopsticks in no time.
In China, chopsticks are called kuaizi, which is a word made up of characters that mean “quick" and “bamboo." The English word “chopsticks" may have developed from a common phrase that means quickly: chop chop.
Chopsticks have been around for over 5,000 years. For example, a pair of bronze chopsticks from 1200 B.C. has been found in China. Experts believe the earliest chopsticks were likely used in cooking to stir a fire or serve food rather than as eating utensils.
If you've ever used a pair of tongs to pick up food while cooking, you've got the basic idea behind chopsticks. Chopsticks are like small tongs meant to be held with one hand to pick up food while eating.
Because of the popularity of chopsticks, many Chinese and Japanese dishes feature foods that are prepared in small pieces. This helps those using chopsticks to easily grab pieces of food. Can you imagine trying to pick up a hamburger with chopsticks? That probably wouldn't be very easy!
So, how do you actually eat with chopsticks? There are many videos online to show you exactly how, but the gist is this: hold two chopsticks the way you would hold a pencil. Use your index finger to control the movement of the upper chopstick. Only one chopstick moves while the other bottom one remains firmly in place using your thumb muscle. Clamp down on food by pushing your index finger downward. When you've got a good grip on your food, move it towards your mouth. Don't squeeze too hard or you could cause the food to drop from the chopsticks!