I once used chopsticks like Papua New Guinea tribesman spear fish. Then I developed a vice-like power technique that often ended with wet seafood catapulting across the table. Both experiences left me with a strong dislike for chopsticks — seriously, why on earth would someone not use a fork?
Then I spent a year abroad in Japan during 1992 and 1993. It was a revelation.
The 90-second video above provides all the basics you need to become a chopstick pro and never drop food again. Several finer points…
1) Never stick your chopsticks straight down into your rice as a place holder. This is considered bad luck or even a harbinger of death, as bowls of rice with chopsticks sticking out of the center are used in some rites of ancestral worship.
2) Never attempt to pass food from chopstick to chopstick. Bad mojo similar to #2, as this is how unburnt bones are moved to the urn at a cremation.
3) During your practice phase, consider turning the hand and using the chopsticks like a forklift (about 1-1.5″ apart) for larger pieces or wet seafood. Bring your rice bowl closer to the serving dish with your free hand to cut down on distance and potential for splatter disaster. Practice in the beginning on smaller fried items with no liquid beneath them.
4) The technique I explain is common in East Asia (Japan, China, Korea), and there are alternate techniques in South East Asia (Vietnam, for example, where this video was taken). The latter tend to use heavier and longer chopsticks, which are held closer together and even scissored.
5) For those who like fun OCD-like behaviors, getting good as using chopsticks will also improve your pen tricks (demonstrated below).
Posted on: March 30, 2008.