Does Chinese food taste any better when eaten with chopsticks? This is not purely an aesthetic question, but also a practical point. I think most people find it enormously satisfying to be able to use chopsticks at a Chinese table, partly because all Chinese food is prepared in such a way that it is easily picked up by chopsticks. If you regard eating with the fingers as natural, then just think of chopsticks as an extension of your fingers. Some conservative Chinese regard the Western practice of using knives and forks as barbaric – which is why some waiters in Chinese restaurants are so rude to customers who use them. Still, I myself have enjoyed eating many a meal with just a fork without too much bother.
Chopsticks – how to hold them
Learning to use chopsticks is quite simple and easy – use the drawings to help you. I always maintain that using chopsticks is like riding a bicycle: you must not concentrate too hard on what you are doing, but relax and let your mind wander to other matters such as the beautiful person sitting next to you or the wonderful wine being served with the food.
At an informal Chinese meal all the dishes are brought to the table together. The host or hostess signals the start with his or her chopsticks, waving them in the air rather like the conductor of an orchestra. Then everybody picks up their chopsticks and tucks in. When you think you have had enough, you simple wave your chopsticks and mutter something like ‘Please don’t hurry!’ But in more polite society the host and hostess constantly serve the guests, using a spoon to help them to more food from the centre of the table so that the guests never have to stretch out their arms to help themselves.
Anyway, one advantage of using Chinese tableware is that there is very little washing-up afterwards; all you need for each place setting is a medium-sized plate, a pair of chopsticks and a rice bowl, which doubles as a soup bowl when used with a porcelain spoon.
© Deh-Ta Hsiung and reproduced with his kind permission.