How to hold chopsticks

Chopsticks. Two seemingly simple sticks used to eat food across most of East Asia - but the bane of many people’s restaurant experiences. Without the escape route of a replacement fork, people are left lost, battling to bridge the gap between mouth and bowl... Not a great first date look, right?

But never fear! School of Wok are here, with a quick guide as to how to hold your chopsticks, and to give you our top tips on chopstick etiquette. Scroll down to have a read!

Tips, tricks and simple steps to becoming a chopstick pro!

Different blogs, websites and travel guides give different instructions as to how to pick up your chopsticks for the first time - and none of them are wrong! However, we’ve distilled down what we think is the easiest way to achieve the perfect chopstick pose, without all the fuss and frills.

1. Pick up your first chopstick in your non-dominant hand.

Slide the larger end of the chopstick into the hollow between the thumb and index finger of your dominant hand, and then place your fourth (ring) finger against the middle of the chopstick for support. When you squeeze with the base of your thumb and fourth finger, you should be able to remove your non-dominant hand without dropping the stick.

2. Now onto your upper chopstick!

With your first chopstick held in position, slide the thicker end of the second chopstick between the tip of your thumb, your middle and your ring fingers. The tip of your middle finger will be under the chopstick, your index just on top, and all supported by the tip of your thumb - very similar to how you hold a pencil!

3. Test out moving the upper chopstick about.

Try moving it about. Your base chopstick should remain stationary throughout, but try flexing your index and middle fingers to bring the tip of the upper chopstick to meet the tip of the lower, as this will be the point with which you pick up food (you may need to adjust the length of your chopstick to do so). Once you’ve got this down, you’re ready to eat!

Chopstick etiquette

Some aspects of chopstick etiquette are purely practical; some are symbolic. Symbolism is intrinsic to Chinese culture, informing beliefs and practices relating to everything from death to birth, to luck, nature, war - and, unsurprisingly, food! While some eateries are more lax on chopstick etiquette than others, it is wise to be aware of what may be expected - so check out our top tips for chopstick etiquette beneath!

Leave your chopsticks to the side when you’re taking a break

Chopsticks balanced on top of a plate is a sign that you have finished eating. To avoid having your food whisked away by a waiter, leave your chopsticks to the side of your plate or bowl if you haven’t finished - either in a chopstick rest, or arranged parallel on top of the table if a rest isn’t provided.

Use the wrong side of your chopsticks to serve

If no serving utensils are provided, turn your chopsticks around before using them to serve food. Essentially, don’t use the side that you eat from to touch foods that others will.

Lift that bowl!

It is perfectly acceptable in Chinese culture to lift your bowl level with your mouth and use your chopsticks to push rice in. Not only is this polite, but it is much easier than trying to precariously balance rice up to your mouth from the table.

Don’t leave chopsticks stuck in

Chopsticks left vertically stuck in food are considered a symbol of death, due to the fact that they look similar to incense sticks burnt for deceased ancestors at temples. Leave your chopsticks to the side of your plate when you need - not in the food!

No pass-the-parcel!

Passing food from one pair of chopsticks to another is taboo, as it is reminiscent of a particular Chinese funeral rite whereby loved ones pass around cremated bones between chopsticks. If you need to pass someone some food, try to place it on their plate and allow them to pick it up themselves.

Want to give chopsticks a try? Why not make a simple Pork Lo Mein using Jeremy’s YouTube recipe, and practice picking up the noodles!