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Korean Dining Etiquette


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http://eng.joy2food.com/etiquette/manner.asp

http://www.seoulsearching.com/culture/etiquette.html

Well, chances are, if you've followed the Japanese and Chinese norms of eating at the table, you've probably made yourself look pretty uncouth at a Korean restaurant.

Two important pointers:

1) Don't eat rice with chopsticks, use a spoon.

2) DONT pick up your bowl, leave it on the table.

Anyone else got any interesting stories?

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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So do I.

And metal hashi creep me out.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Shielke: Koreans are unique in that for formal dining, they use slim METAL chopsticks and METAL rice bowls. They can be very difficult to use, even for other Asians. I always ask for wooden or plastic chopsticks at Korean restaurants if they are avaliable.

The metal bowls with the metal covers are good for keeping the rice hot, but yeah, you are supposed to leave them on the table and eat the rice with a spoon.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Shielke: Koreans are unique in that for formal dining, they use slim METAL chopsticks and METAL rice bowls. They can be very difficult to use, even for other Asians. I always ask for wooden or plastic chopsticks at Korean restaurants if they are avaliable.

The metal bowls with the metal covers are good for keeping the rice hot, but yeah, you are supposed to leave them on the table and eat the rice with a spoon.

When I was in Korea, I had the worst time with the metal chopsticks. Just not used to the weight combined with the skinniness.

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Perhaps we could make another thread where we debate the horrors of metal vs. plastic chopsticks (visions of being at the dimsum restaurant trying to eat large stalks of uncut chinese broccoli covered in slippery oyster sauce with plastic sticks).

Wood, even laquered wood. And a knife. Why the heck use anything else?

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Those meatal chopsticks sure are pretty to look at................

Those huge plastic ones in Chinese restaurants are the worst though!

Give me some good old Japanese ones anyday.

I love those Korean spoons though, they make the absolute best spoons! :biggrin:

Regarding the etiquette, I have heard about it, but since most of the Korean food I eat is in Japan, I follow the Japanese rules

ALWAYS hold the bowl in your hand

ALWAYS eat your rice with chopsticks

Pull the solid food out of your soup with chopsticks and then drink the soup directly from the bowl

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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When we go for bulgoki with my friend Aescha, she

never mentioned not eating rice with chopsticks; I'll

ask her next time I see her. Last time we went out,

she put rice in her tea. Anyone else ever see or here of this?

I haven't, but I have a fairly narrow realm of experience. I used the

metal chopsticks for the first time on my last visit. I need to work on my

dexterity! :laugh:

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When we go for bulgoki with my friend Aescha, she

never mentioned not eating rice with chopsticks; I'll

ask her next time I see her.  Last time we went out,

she put rice in her tea.  Anyone else ever see or here of this?

I haven't, but I have a fairly narrow realm of experience.  I used the

metal chopsticks for the first time on my last visit. I need to work on my

dexterity! :laugh:

I don't know about China, but it is quite common in Japan and Korea to add tea to your rice, this is quite a popular dish in Japan called ochazuke. We were just talking about it a little while back in the Japan forum.

I mentione this thread and article to my Korea born/American raised (of Korean parents) friend and she said she didn't know about eating rice with the spoon, she said it usually depending on what she was eating.

Picking up the rice bowl is the biggest no-no, it is a sign of very low class.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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  • 1 month later...

Lemme put it this way growing up as a kid in O'ahu if my father saw me pick up my rice bowl I'll get a hard slap in my head. 'Nuff said! Try to resume eating with a throbbing head.

You occasionally eat rice with your spoon if jigae is part of the picture. This way the tool kills two birds with one stone. Korean, Japanese and Chinese table matters are quite different at times. Particuarly the Chinese which would easily offend the average Korean. Rapid rice grabbing (eating) with a chopstick while holding the rice bowl is a big no no at a korean dinner table. Although I was told from a Chinese that they find it odd to see a spoon in a Korean dinner table.

Interesting contrast while she was observing a mutual Japanese friend and myself eating. She noticed we never lift our rice bowl nor add food compliments since we placed it on a separate side dish. Unlike her rice bowl which had all sorts of meat/ veggie compliments on it.

Edited by DavidJS (log)
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Our typical place setting at home would be a rice bowl in the middle, with a side plate at about "1 o'clock" and chopsticks (with chopstick rest) and porcelain spoon (for soup) on the right. The use of side plate is not universal; my mum thinks it is more "genteel".

Dishes are served in a communal style. We never use the chopstick to pick food from the common dishes; would instead place a spoon in the dishes, and people would use that to serve themselves. This is another long-ingrained habit to minimise spread of infection. ( as an aside, Asian habit of dipping chopsticks into communal dishes is thought to be a risk factor for h.pylori infection (precursor to gastric ulcers) and Hepatitis B ). Again, not every family has this practice, when I am with friends who don't practise this, we would usually go along with them rather than insist that extra spoons be brought out. In more fancy restaurants, each place setting would include individual serving spoons, differentiated from the soup spoon by being long and made from metal and usually plated with gold or chrome.

Back to the place setting, the side plate is for the dishes. we would pick up say a spoon of this dish, place it on the side plate, and transfer the food from side plate to the rice bowl; occasionally we would also bypass the plate and spoon directly into the bowl- there is no hard and fast rule; the first method is good if you do not want to mix up all the flavours , the second is great when there is a big bowl of braised pork-knuckle and you want to make sure all the tasty gravy soaks into your rice.

When we eat, the bowl is held in the left hand for the duration of the meal. We use chopstick to scoop rice to the mouth. Some people lift the bowl to the lips and "shovels" the rice in- this is common in rice lovers, like my husband.

During the pauses in the meal, we place the bowl on the table and the chopsticks on chopstick rests. Chopstick rests come in such cute designs. If there is no c. rests, we would place the chosticks on top of the bowl. We would never stick the chopstick into the bowl- it is considered bad luck and disrespectful as it reminds some of incense stuck into pots on the ancestral altar.

Sometimes we don't use chopsticks at all. We would eat from a plate, and use a spoon and fork. Sometimes we would also eat say fried rice, in a big bowl and just use spoons.

Back to main topic of Korean dining etiquette, we eat at Korean restaurants and the main difference that I can see is that

1. the chopsticks are placed horizontally close to the diner, rather than vertically on the right. Same goes for Japanese places.

2. The metal bowls and chopsticks are usually made of metal. It is hard to hold the bowl esp when it is hot, so we tend to leave it on the table. Same problem with the chopstick. I almost always hold the chopstick gingerly and pick the cooler foods. The spoon is more handy in this instance.

Edited by tonkichi (log)
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We use chopstick to scoop rice to the mouth. Some people lift the bowl to the lips and "shovels" the rice in

I often see this among most Chinese tablemanners is there a reason?

This quite common in Japan.

Normally when one is eating a donburi style dish, the sauce sinks to the bottom make the rice no longer stick together and thus difficult to eat. Also a common way to eat ochazuke, sort of a rice-tea gruel.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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  • 2 months later...
We use chopstick to scoop rice to the mouth. Some people lift the bowl to the lips and "shovels" the rice in

I often see this among most Chinese tablemanners is there a reason?

i guess contrary to korean etiquette where holding/lifting the rice bowl is impolite, chinese etiquette is such where it is impolite if you don't hold the rice bowl. while i never got a walloping from not holding the ricebowl, i was frequently reminded. the other thing that comes to mind while growing up is the corollary of the way a horse feeds. ie, eat like a horse (whereby you lower your head to reach the grass), and one's life would resemble a hard one slaving like a horse. so, if you should 1) hold your bowl, and 2) bring the food to your mouth, one has two options: 1) pick up food and rice with chopsticks or 2) bring the bowl to one's mouth and scoop it in. i guess it eventually becomes a matter of convenience whereby option 2 prevails. this is especially the case in southern china i would say since people prefer long grain rice and the rice isn't cooked with as much water. this has the effect of making the rice less sticky vs that of northern china/korea/japan. when rice doesn't stick together, option 1 would again be more challenging to accomplish. for me etiquette is irrelevant versus convenience....just do whatever that floats your boat, unless you're dining in the presence of elders....

Edited by FuManChu (log)
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  • 7 months later...

I'm not Korean but have had many a meal in Korean restaurants and have gotten used to metal chopsticks, though it isn't easy! I haven't heard about using a spoon instead of chopsticks to eat rice, but I've heard about picking up the rice bowl. Unfortunately, as a Chinese, its just second nature for me...

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I remember reading somewhere about a Korean guy saying that the Koreans introduced chopsticks to Japan, but not spoons, and that this was an object lesson in only giving people what they needed, and not scattering your pearls before swine!!

I'm not so sure that Chinese or Japanese or Korean chopsticks are intrinsically better -- I started with Chinese chopsticks, eating Chinese food at the Chinese grocery where I worked, and moved to Japanese chopsticks when I came here. At first, I found the Japanese chopsticks slippery and hard to handle; now I find the Chinese chopsticks hard to balance!

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  • 1 month later...
Two important pointers:

1) Don't eat rice with chopsticks, use a spoon.

2) DONT pick up your bowl, leave it on the table.

Anyone else got any interesting stories?

Actually, you don't have to eat rice with a spoon, unless you're in a formal or somehow fancy situation. When you're just eating out with friends, it's okay to use chopsticks. I can't say for everyone, but at least the Korean friends I have eat rice with chopsticks all the time, so I never thought twice about it. My mother usually gives us a spoon for our rice, however.

But don't pick up your bowl, unless you're eating by yourself and nobody is watching.

Semi-interesting story, I was eating at a Chinese friend's house and their family wanted to know why I didn't just pick up the rice bowl and shovel the rice in my mouth. They were sincerely concerned that I didn't have proper rice-eating etiquette. So I picked it up and ate that way, but it felt very strange.

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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  • 2 years later...

I wanted to bump this thread because I found it to be very interesting

I love Korean chopsticks, to me they are very easy to hold and alot easier to use than both chinese and japanese chopsticks. Japanese are easier than chinese though, because the bottoms are pointy and meet at the tip making it easier to pick up incredibly small/skinny things like say a grain of rice. I give up with chinese chopsticks though, they are way too hard.

I only use a spoon when I am eating stews (jigaes). I dip my spoonful of rice into the soup or take some broth and pour it onto a section of my rice. It's not very polite to dip rice into the jigae because your rice can seperate and float in the soup. Also I think it's customary to share almost everything on a Korean table. You don't take your own portions of vegetables for the entire meal, you pick and eat as you go. This may be different for other korean families...I was taught by my mother and her family and they weren't exactly rich growing up. Oh and I never really see those metal bowls anymore. They are kind of old fashioned, although I do see them at some restaurants. I guess more rural Korean families use them, and yes I hate how hot they get. They are the worst when they are filled with hot soup and you are trying to bring the soup to your face so you can drink the broth. Metal chopsticks don't get hot unless you leave them in a hot pan. I eat noodles and use them in soup all the time and they are fine.

and yes picking up a rice bowl to your face is considered extremely rude. I used to do this once in a while and my mom would yell at me :angry:

other small rules I have noticed:

- don't go digging around in the banchan looking for that "special" something, pick whats on the top and eat it. This is the same for kimchi

-don't fry tofu on the grill after you have grilled sam gyup sal and kimchi, because it looks like dog food (I learned this in the august, but I dont care because it tasted so good).

-After you are done eating and consume alot of alcohol it is customary to put

some rice or nu rum gee (burnt rice) into some ook soo soo cha (corn tea) or borheecha (roasted barley tea).

-don't blow your nose at the table, its incredibly rude. If you want to blow your nose then excuse yourself first.

-try to wear socks when sitting at the table...bare feet are not proper (especially true if you are sitting on the floor at a low table).

holy moly this is long. I guess I bumped this because I miss all the Korean chit chat on this board...it's so slow paced and needs to be more lively!

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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I come out firmly in favour of metal. As my significant other explains, as a Korean and as a food scientist, metal chopsticks are just more hygienic (unless we go disposable, but let's be "greener" about things, shall we?). Metal can be taken to temperatures quite easily that will kill anything, wood can be a pain (although there's all that business about wooden cutting boards being safe, too).

When I travel in odd spots with questionable hygiene, I generally carry a couple of light metal pairs with me. I can boil these if needs be. I got a few stares from the Mongols, but I just told them I was Korean. Then they stared more. Oh, well.

Second point, traditionally all Koreans are given a silver spoon and pair of chopsticks at birth. Our kids all have sets.

When I get home I'll have to get a shot of the set of 10 I had made in Phnom Penh. Solid silver, with a wonderfully heavy hasp to them, backloaded about 20gm. I cheated and had them slightly corrugate the tips. All my Korean in-laws are in envy of these.

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My husband learned to use chopsticks with Korean metal ones, which he likens to learning to drive a car for the first time with a standard transmission. Learn the hard way first. I remember it took me a long time to learn how to artfully wrap a piece of gim around a lump of rice - and how good I felt when I finally mastered it.

When I was in Korea these past four years, metal bowls were still really common in lunch restaurants, although obviously not as much in people's homes. I don't know how many times I burnt my fingers.

Picking through the panchan is still a definite no-no, and eating rice with chopsticks is considered weird and funny - I never saw anyone in Korea use chopsticks for their rice -(except for the waegooks) always a spoon - as long as the jigae was on the table. And most people seemed happy to dip their rice-filled spoons into the jigae. I guess bad table manners are rampant!

I remember being at the welcoming dinner for my school, and looking around and realizing that myself and the Japanese teachers were the only ones who had picked up our bowls to eat the rice. We all looked at each other sheepishly, and slowly put our bowls down. Oops.

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I always eat rice with my chopstick, especially (like you said) when I am wrapping kim around my rice or wrapping some cabbage kimchi around rice. you are right about the metal bowls, I tend to see them in alot of restaurants but aren't used so much in the home.

despite all these proper ways to eat, when I am eating korean food in front of my mother I eat horribly. I blow my nose at the table, hold chopsticks and spoon in the same hand at the same time, prop one knee up and have the other leg folded, dig in the kimchi for the raddish strips, and dip my spoon into the chigae. However when I am out at a restaurant and in front of relatives I change my tune really fast. Also when you are drinking alcohol there are a whole set of other rules to follow. I love it, because there is so much culture and formality involved.

Im surprised that everyone says metal chopsticks are so difficult to use. They seem to grasp things much easier than chinse and japanese chopsticks. I couldn't live without them. I use them alot when I am sauteeing or flipping over bacon. They also make nice whisks or skewers when I'm grilling

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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I've got one:

About a year ago a friend and I stopped in to a Korean restaurant for lunch. Although the menu was in English as well as Korean, the waitstaff spoke next to no English. I ordered crab soup, which was delivered to me with an entire intact crab in it. I was surprised but unphased and asked (in pantomime) if I might have something to crack the crab open. They looked at me with such consternation and horror that I quickly said, "Never mind" and ate the soup and left the crab. There were no other customers I could appeal to for help--just me, my friend, and a large language barrier.

Does anyone have any idea what sort of gaffe I may have commited? Incidentally, my friend ordered fish soup and got soup with a large fish head in it, which at least made sense. And I would've happily eaten the crab had I been able to extract it from its shell....I was thoroughly baffled.

"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

--Flannery O'Connor, "A Good Man is Hard to Find"

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