Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

The Chopstick Topic


SobaAddict70
 Share

Recommended Posts

I think until recently, most parents and teachers in Japan forced left-handed children to use their right hands for writing, painting etc (including my husband's brother, apparently).

Not sure if they were forced to become completely right handed though. What about eating- were lefties allowed to use their left hands for chopsticks? I've never noticed which hand my brother-in-law uses for eating...

My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think until recently, most parents and teachers in Japan forced left-handed children to use their right hands for writing, painting etc (including my husband's brother, apparently).

I'm sure there are still a lot of parents who do so. My wife is close to that category of parents, but my left-handed son is safe from her brutality because of me.

Interestingly, my son uses his left hand for writing, but uses his right for eating.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

my husband spent many years being forced to use his right hand and today is completely left handed. :biggrin: The schools in my area at least, don't seem to force changing but there are some parents who do. There is a new calligraphy school opened just a couple minutes walk from our house and yesterday my neighbor and I (we both have left handed children) were talking about sending our kids there. I told her I was thinking of calling the school first to make sure they will let my daughter use her left hand to write (calligraphy is traditionally down with the right hand and the strokes can be awkward to make with the left) and my friend said she was thinking of sending her son there so that he could learn to write with his right hand....

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I admire my son's ability to use both hands equally well, right hand for eating and left for writing. This makes both right and left hemispheres of his brain work equally well. In today's world, many people tend to use the left hemisphere of their brains more, especially many Japanese, who speak Japanese. Do you understand?

A person (not necessarily a Japanese) who speaks Japanese as his native language listens to insects' chirping, birds' singing, and so on with his left hemisphere.

I understand that this is really off-topic, but it's interesting to know that, don't you think?

***

I forgot to add:

And, people who don't speak Japanese as their native language listen to those sounds and noises with their RIGHT hemisphere.

Edited by Hiroyuki (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

One of the things that strike me as odd when I look at photos of dishes presented on the table here on eGullet is how they place the chopsticks. I often see them placed vertically. While this way of placing chopsticks seems common in China and Korea, the Japanese way is different - placing them horizontally, like this.

Besides, the rice bowl (o-chawan) is placed on the left and the o-wan containing miso soup on the right.

Well, I may be nitpicking, since most of you here are non-Japanese. :biggrin:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How does one manage turning the chopsticks around before picking food out of a communal bowl? I'm having a hard time visualizing a graceful way of setting them down, then picking them up reversed.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How does one manage turning the chopsticks around before picking food out of a communal bowl?  I'm having a hard time visualizing a graceful way of setting them down, then picking them up reversed.

I had a lot of difficulty understanding what you meant...

Now I think I know what you mean.

You don't need to set them down, just hold the chopsticks with your left hand, turn them around, and hold them again with your right hand.

I admit I do this sometimes, but I think it's a bad manner. You should provide a pair of chopsticks specifially for what you call the communal bowl.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the things that strike me as odd when I look at photos of dishes presented on the table here on eGullet is how they place the chopsticks.  I often see them placed vertically.  While this way of placing chopsticks seems common in China and Korea, the Japanese way is different - placing them horizontally, like this.

Besides, the rice bowl (o-chawan) is placed on the left and the o-wan containing miso soup on the right.

Well, I may be nitpicking, since most of you here are non-Japanese. :biggrin:

That's an interesting point. I think it's simply that many people here, because they aren't Japanese, aren't aware of proper Japanese table setting. If some of these presentations are done by people with a European influence, they may just place them vertically, since that is what is normal to them for silverware.

I think it's fine to nitpick though. Many people won't learn otherwise unless it's mentioned to them. You may have just taught someone a good lesson. :biggrin:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a lot of difficulty understanding what you meant...

Now I think I know what you mean.

You don't need to set them down, just hold the chopsticks with your left hand, turn them around, and hold them again with your right hand.

I admit I do this sometimes, but I think it's a bad manner.  You should provide a pair of chopsticks specifially for what you call the communal bowl.

Thank you.

I got the information about reversing chopsticks from one of the links on this thread. It was the first I ever heard of it. To provide a "serving spoon" set of chopsticks: would that be a pair for each dish, as with western serving utensils (one utensil or a set per serving bowl/platter) ?

Does anyone know if the same applies in Chinese chopstick use? (reversal if no serving pair is available)? I'm assuming so, for hygiene reasons.

So fun to learn. Thanks for starting this thread, Soba.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the things that strike me as odd when I look at photos of dishes presented on the table here on eGullet is how they place the chopsticks.  I often see them placed vertically.  While this way of placing chopsticks seems common in China and Korea, the Japanese way is different - placing them horizontally, like this.

Besides, the rice bowl (o-chawan) is placed on the left and the o-wan containing miso soup on the right.

Well, I may be nitpicking, since most of you here are non-Japanese. :biggrin:

You may consider it nit picking if you like but I don't. Proper table setting is proper table setting in any culture. Just as I set my table properly for American food, I try to set it properly for Japanese food. I'm still learning.

I'm inclined to wave my chopstick while talking but I'm getting better. Just have to remind myself now and then.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the things that strike me as odd when I look at photos of dishes presented on the table here on eGullet is how they place the chopsticks.  I often see them placed vertically.  While this way of placing chopsticks seems common in China and Korea, the Japanese way is different - placing them horizontally, like this.

Besides, the rice bowl (o-chawan) is placed on the left and the o-wan containing miso soup on the right.

Well, I may be nitpicking, since most of you here are non-Japanese. :biggrin:

I have always placed them horizontally but at the top of the placesetting, they are too long to place vertically and they look funny! Rice bowl on the left and soup bowl on the right is similar to our "proper" table, solid foods are placed on the left and liquids are placed on the right. As another lefty, I've never had any trouble using chopsticks, the best way is to pick them up and use them, no photos or instructions! That can be confusing for a lefty! Changing light bulbs is still a bit of a challenge, can't tell you the number of bulbs I have broken off in the lamp....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To provide a "serving spoon" set of chopsticks:  would that be a pair for each dish, as with western serving utensils (one utensil or a set per serving bowl/platter) ?

First of all, "serving bowls and platters" are less common in Japan than in China, the United States, and other countries. Of course, we do have oo-zara (platters), but Japanese tend to serve each dish on a ko-zara (small plate) for each person beforehand. Thus, if you have three different dishes for four diners, you need 3 x 4 = 12 small plates. Use of a variety of plates in size and color is one of the characteristics of Japanese cuisine.

As for your first question, that depends on the family. My wife and I usually provide a pair of chopsticks for each dish, especially if one dish is greasy and another isn't.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that learning the finer points of chopstick use takes a long time. If you are lucky enough to be able to observe someone who has been using chopsticks their whole life then you should try to learn as much as possible. Some of the more advanced techniques such as removing small pieces from a large piece of food or picking up very slippery objects requires some practice.

I find Japanese chopstick easiest to use, Chinese style chop sticks can be a little difficult to use because of their length, and Korean style chopsticks are very hard to master even if you have had practice with other types.

Sometimes I will challenge myself and try to pick up individual grains of uncooked rice, oily spanish peanuts, or a hard boiled egg. I used to think eating rice with chopsticks was impossible but now I wouldn't eat it any other way. Chopsticks (either the metal tipped or larger saibashi) are now an indispensable tool in food presentation for me as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hold my chopsticks correctly. So does my husband, who learned from a Scotsman in Venezuela :raz:

But is it just me, or are those lacquered ones impossible to use? Don't even get me started on those blunt plastic ones in cheap restaurants. My family just used washable plain wooden chopsticks, which had better grip. Disposable wooden chopsticks are fine in restaurants, but I feel eco-guilt using them at home every day. But the more elegant ones are a pain. We eat with those coarse wooden chopsticks for cooking when it's just us at home :rolleyes:

I have a Chinese-American friend who can't use chopsticks, but the only Chinese dish she will eat is ma po dofu.

I find food tastes different depending on whether I use a fork or chopsticks. Again, is this just me?

Edited by Culinista (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just reviewing this thread - and I want to make sure. Is it ok to eat with your left hand in Japan (I am a lefty and I know there are some countries where it is a cultural "no-no")? I shudder at the thought of having to learn to use chopsticks in my right hand.

Also - I am somewhat used to the Chinese (Chinese/American?) way of eating some things (a small amount of food placed on top of a rice bowl - and you bring the bowl near your mouth). Is that done in Japan? I can handle a single grain of cooked rice with chopsticks from the plate to my mouth - and somewhat larger amounts - but it's very slow going in terms of eating :smile: .

Although I am ok with chopsticks - sometimes I am stumped (doubt I could do a hard boiled egg and I have no idea how I'll do with the fresh tofu skin). I've been told that it's a cultural "no-no" to stick one chopstick through the middle of something to get some leverage - and then use the other to hold it steady (apparently it has something to do with customs relating to death). If I run into any problems - what is the least offensive way from a cultural point of view to get the food into my mouth (fingers - ask for spoon - something else? - I would rather people make fun of me than to offend them culturally)?

Finally - and only somewhat related to chopsticks. I prefer sashimi and my husband prefers sushi. Sometimes we order the right amounts of each - but sometimes we don't. Is it unacceptable to pick the fish off a piece of sushi with your chopsticks - and leave the rice on your plate? Robyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You will have no problem with your lefthandedness in Japan, both my husband and daughter #2 are lefties. :biggrin:

In Japan it is fine to pick up your bowl with one hand, however it is better to hold it at about chest level. At home though my husband has no problem with bringing it all te way to his mouth and actually shoveling the food in. :hmmm:

Yes, stabbing food is bad manners. The Japanese usually serve foods so that any one with a decent chopstick ability should have no problem. You will most likely never be served a whole boiled egg or similar thing that is difficult to pick up with chopsticks.

Most restaurants won't even blink if you ask them for a fork.

We were at a Korean restaurant this past weekend and my two younger kids were having a hard time with the Korean metal chopsticks so we asked for waribashi (wooden dispoable ones) with no problems.

As to leaving the rice from sushi on yor plate, I have never done this nor thought about it before but it probably isn't the most polite thing to do. The Jaapnese don't like to waste rice, my ex-boyfriends mother used to freak out when I left even one grain of rice in my bowl!

Most sushi chefs also put as much work into the rice as they do the topping and it amy be considered an insult to leave it. I would instead order jsut a few dishes at a time insuring that you don't order too many.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also - I am somewhat used to the Chinese (Chinese/American?) way of eating some things (a small amount of food placed on top of a rice bowl - and you bring the bowl near your mouth).  Is that done in Japan?  I can handle a single grain of cooked rice with chopsticks from the plate to my mouth - and somewhat larger amounts - but it's very slow going in terms of eating  :smile: .

Do you mean something like a stir-fry dish? I had to think about this for a moment, but I would normally take a helping and place it in my torizara plate, keeping it away from the rice. Eat the stir-fry directly, then "chase" with the desired helping of rice. I do notice that some Japanese will eat their rice completely separately after ingesting the mains, which would be to enjoy the flavor of the rice itself.

Generally, I would say most Japanese want to keep their rice separate from the mains, so there is not a lot of heaping stuff in the rice bowl (except for furikake, natto, ochazuke, etc.).

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also - I am somewhat used to the Chinese (Chinese/American?) way of eating some things (a small amount of food placed on top of a rice bowl - and you bring the bowl near your mouth).  Is that done in Japan?  I can handle a single grain of cooked rice with chopsticks from the plate to my mouth - and somewhat larger amounts - but it's very slow going in terms of eating  :smile: .

Do you mean something like a stir-fry dish? I had to think about this for a moment, but I would normally take a helping and place it in my torizara plate, keeping it away from the rice. Eat the stir-fry directly, then "chase" with the desired helping of rice. I do notice that some Japanese will eat their rice completely separately after ingesting the mains, which would be to enjoy the flavor of the rice itself.

Generally, I would say most Japanese want to keep their rice separate from the mains, so there is not a lot of heaping stuff in the rice bowl (except for furikake, natto, ochazuke, etc.).

Commenting further on sanrensho's comments,

If you use the rice bowl to help you get the food to your mouth, you don't normally place the food on the rice. Instead you sort of use the bowl as a way to guide the food to your mouth and possibly catching any drips. :biggrin:

Depending on the restaurant/home you may or may not have a torizara (small dish) and amy need to realy on your rice bowl. This is one of those things were there isn't really a correct way, everyone does it a little different. Just remember not to shovel and you should be fine. :biggrin:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is a big relief about being left-handed.

I don't know where the stir-fry on top on the rice comes from - the "shovel" method. Whether it is Chinese - or just something I've seen in Chinese restaurants in the US. Whatever - I have no problems eating stir-frys with chopsticks - and I generally don't eat that much rice. So doing them separately will work fine for me.

What are "furikake, natto, ochazuke, etc."? I live in northeast Florida - which is not exactly a place where one learns a lot about Japanese food. We do have a lot of new Japanese restaurants here - but they are mostly owned/operated by people from China.

I think some of the "problems" I worry about won't really be problems. When I first read about tonkatsu restaurants - I asked myself - how do you eat porkchops with chopsticks? Then I saw that they are cut into pieces before they're served :smile: . I am ok with that.

I guess worse comes to worse - I will watch what other people are doing - and try to do the same. It is very hard learning about the "rules" in a country which seems to have a lot of rules. I was reading about shopping today - and learned that in general - I shouldn't pull something like a sweater over my head if I'm trying on clothes - and that - if I do - I should use a hairnet (supplied by store). Also that I should take off my shoes when entering a dressing room in a store. But I guess if I read enough - I will not make too many mistakes :smile: . Robyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Walk into any Japanese noodle shop or restaurant and chances are you'll be eating with a pair of disposable wooden chopsticks from China but not for long. In a move that has cheered environmentalists but worried restaurant owners, China has slapped a 5 percent tax on the chopsticks over concerns of deforestation.

The move is hitting hard at the Japanese, who consume a tremendous 25 billion sets of wooden chopsticks a year about 200 pairs per person. Some 97 percent of them come from China.

Rest of the article here.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i think ill try to carry around my own utensils for a while. i need my metal chopsticks and my spoon. a fork would be good too. ziplock baggie. i think the hard thing will be remembering to take them out of my purse.

its a pain.

i think disposables are here to stay unless theres a major cultural shift.

200 pairs of chopsticks a year huh?

"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...