Globally known eating utensils are typically a spoon, fork and knife. They come in different sizes, with each size serving their own unique purpose. But what about chopsticks?
Continue reading to learn more about this particular utensil and where you can get a pair of your own.
What are chopsticks?
Chopsticks are actually the primary eating utensil for about 22 percent of the world’s population. Paired with a rice cooker and they’re a staple for much of the Eastern world.
They are basically a pair of equal-length sticks that have been smoothed and tapered. They can be made from wood, bamboo, metal, ceramics, plastic, stainless steel and so on.
What is the history of chopsticks?
Their initial usage dates back to at least 1200 B.C. Evidence of the first known chopsticks, which were bronze sets, were found in the tombs at Yin, part of the Henan province in China.
Chopsticks were used just for cooking at first; it was not until A.D. 400 that they had begun to be used for eating as well. When they were being used only for cooking, they were long enough to reach deep into boiling pots of water or oil.
However, when a population boom occurred across China, thus affecting the amount of available resources, this forced the people to develop cost-saving habits and, therefore, had to reduce the size of their food. As food became more bite-sized, using chopsticks as eating utensils fit well.
By A.D. 500, chopsticks had swept the Asian continent from Vietnam to Japan. Different cultures, however, adopted different chopstick styles. For instance, the Chinese had preferred chopsticks that featured a blunt end rather than a pointed end. The Japanese had chopsticks that were 8 inches long for men and 7 inches long for women.
Why is it called “chopsticks”?
The earliest written English use of the word dates back to 1699.
The English word “chopsticks” is likely to have been derived from the Chinese pidgin English “chop chop”, which means “quickly.” In a way, chopsticks means “quick sticks”, which could be the impression gained by western explorers when they first experienced people nimbly eating with chopsticks.
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What meals are chopsticks used for?
Eating with chopsticks for certain types of foods sometimes feels more natural than others.
Throughout history, as chopsticks had become infused in Asian culture, it was, and still is, used for another staple of Asian culture: rice. The use of chopsticks is frequently paired with other Asian dishes as well, such as noodles and stir fry, except for soups.
Although it still fits its purpose and still gets the job done, it would feel a bit “unnatural” if chopsticks were used for food that are not usually consumed by using it, particularly those that are eaten by using a fork, such as spaghetti, or hands, such as a burger.
Are there different types of chopsticks?
There is a vast array of chopsticks available, each different in terms of geometry, material and style. They could also differ from one culture to the next.
Here are a few examples:
Chopsticks of Different Materials
The main difference between using bamboo and wood is that bamboo is an ecologically green alternative to wood.
It is a strong and dense material which is affordable and eco-friendly. Due to this, they can deteriorate with continued use and, therefore, are frequently made as disposables.
Wooden chopsticks are often made of hardwood, such as birch wood, red sandalwood, and ebony wood. It is lightweight and durable, and will not absorb water, making them suitable for reuse.
Polymer Material Alloy
Polymer material alloy chopsticks, also known as PPS chopsticks, are made from synthesized materials of polymer and glass fibers. They are heat resistant and durable.
Chopsticks of Different Cultures
Chinese chopsticks are often made at a length of 25 centimeters and are rectangular in shape with blunt ends. They are made from a variety of materials, including bamboo, wood, plastic, and even ivory or silver.
Chopsticks that are with blunt ends are more commonly made of plastic or melamine, whereas pointed tips are more common in wooden or bamboo varieties.
One possible attribute that has influenced the design of Japanese chopsticks is how the Japanese diet consists of large amounts of whole bony fish.
As a result, in order to be able to pick out small bones in cooked fish, the Japanese chopsticks commonly have pointed ends. They are also shorter than their Chinese counterpart.
Furthermore, in order to prevent slippage, the eating ends of the chopsticks tend to have circumferential grooves.
Traditional Korean chopsticks were made from brass or silver, but nowadays are commonly made of metal.
They tend to have a flat, rectangular shape and are ornately decorated at the grip. They are almost always used with a spoon.
Which is better: disposable or reusable chopsticks?
For environmental and conservation reasons, reusable chopsticks is preferred. Reusable chopsticks can be used in restaurant settings, as long as they are cleaned thoroughly, and private households.
What are the best disposable chopsticks on the market?
According to review site The Spruce Eats, the best disposable chopsticks are CiboWares Disposable Bamboo Chopsticks, which can purchased on Amazon.
They praise the product to be “a fantastic, eco-friendly option for single-use utensils—and they come already separated.”
The product comes in two pack size variants: a 100-pack at $12.99 and a 1,000-pack at $64.99.
These are great for beginners as each pair of chopsticks comes in a purple paper sleeve that offers instructions on how to use the chopsticks. The paper sleeve also makes the chopsticks ready-to-use for events, at home or in restaurant settings, ensuring the chopsticks inside are clean.
Furthermore, they are convenient as the chopsticks are already separated, eliminating the risk of shredding or splintering. Not only are they safe from risk of splinters, but they have also been UV treated to ensure sanitation. These chopsticks are made from high quality bamboo, which is an ideal alternative to wooden chopsticks.
What are the best reusable chopsticks on the market?
According to review site The Spruce Eats, the overall best reusable chopsticks are Goldage Fiberglass Chopsticks, which can be purchased on Amazon.
They praise the product to have “a sleek design that is incredibly lightweight and durable.”
The original price of the product was at $15.99 but is currently marketed at $13.99.
For this price, you can get 5 pairs of Japanese minimalism chopsticks that come packaged in a premium, sleek box.
This is the only product in the market to have been certified to comply with the most stringent food-contact standards over the world, including US, UK, EU, Japan, Canada and Australia. This means it contains no coating or paint and no BPA.
Its second generation of fiberglass material makes the chopsticks much more durable than bamboo and wood, thus it can last up until two to five years and withstand high temperatures of up to 356 degrees Fahrenheit (or 180 degrees Celsius.) These chopsticks will not melt, bend or crack, even with daily use and machine washing.
Other nice features include each pair having a square body which prevents it from rolling on a table; perfectly balanced and easy to handle; has a light weight; and less slippery than metal.
Other brands worth mentioning, that have been reviewed as the best in various categories by The Spruce Eats, are as follows:
- Best Wooden: HuaLan Japanese Natural Wood Chopstick Set
The product has been praised as “delicately styled chopsticks in a beautiful wood finish, perfect for sushi night.”
- Best Bamboo: Totally Bamboo Twist Chopsticks
The product has been praised as “a sturdy and sustainable option with a simple design that provides an element of Zen to the table.”
- Best Metal: Hiware Reusable Metal Chopsticks
The product has been praised as “a stainless steel option that stands up to heat and won’t bend, break, or splinter.“
- Best for Beginners or Children: Edison Training/Helper Chopsticks
The product has been praised as “a perfect choice for those who need to sharpen their chopsticks skills or need some assistance with dexterity.”
Is owning a pair of chopsticks necessary?
This comes down to a matter of preference.
Some people who love fitness swear by certain hacks, like using compression socks for improving blood flow, or using chopsticks for limiting caloric intake.
If you are not familiar with or used to eating with chopsticks, then they may not be useful to you as a serving utensil, but they could serve as a good cooking utensil instead— they can be used for flipping food in pots of hot oil or boiling water from a safe distance.
It is not a must to own one, but they are definitely useful to have around.
Chopsticks make great cooking utensils as well as eating utensils. They are affordable, easy to clean and durable. Chopsticks are often used to eat meals of Asian culture and foods such as rice and noodles. With increasing attention on the importance of protecting the environment, reusable chopsticks are growing in demand to reduce waste of disposable chopsticks, particularly those made from plastic or other non-biodegradable materials.
- “Chopsticks,” Wikipedia
- “A Brief History of Chopsticks,” 2018, History
- “The History of Chopsticks,” 2015, Everything Chopsticks
- “7 Different Types of Chopsticks,” 2020, Best Chopsticks
- “The 8 Best Chopsticks of 2020”, 2020, The Spruce Eats