Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Chopstick etiquette



Chinese people seem happy to pick up the bowl and shovel everything in with their chopsticks. What's the etiquette here: is it more polite / refined to leave the bowl on the table or does it not matter? Can you talk when you have your mouth full or your face covered by the bowl? How do you pick up more food from a communal plate if you have already stuck your chopsticks in your mouth? - surly you can't put them back into the mix sharing your bird flue with everyone else. But most importantly - can you pick up the disposable plastic trays of food when you eat Chinese takeaway?, because it looks like your eating from a trough. And if you can do it with Chinese food, can you get away raising the bowl with Thai as the Thais don't even use chopsticks.

27 comments:

lisamaree said...

Well... there's an interesting thing.. since etiquette is different from Asian country to Asian country.
In Hong Kong, shuffling is the correct way of putting food in your mouth. Leaving the rice bowl on the table and picking up the rice to feed yourself is offensive in cantonese. As is leaving your chopsticks IN the bowl as opposed to on top of the bowl, and using chopsticks as drum sticks is also heavily frowned upon... etc, etc, etc

In Hong Kong, you are supposed to use different serving utensils for getting food once you've shoved the chopsticks in your gob, although as long as you're around family and no one is sick, people don't seem to mind either way... Most restaurants here offer additional pairs of chopsticks for picking stuff up, plus a serving spoon for each person which is used to grab your food with (not eat with)

Talking with your mouth full is a no-no.. as is talking with the bowl over your face.. as is pointing with your chopsticks..

And yeah... Hong Kong people are always eating out of troughs, or slurping their hot noodle soup... it's accepted (but slurping other than noodle soup is not). It gets confusing I tell ya!

Many years of pained Mother-In-Law'age has embedded the rules in... you don't wanna offend your chinese MIL.

In Japan, to shuffle is to offend. You are supposed to use your chopsticks to lift the rice into your gob.

Confused yet?? ;)

Clyde said...

The etiquette is that you are a Kluts with the fucking chopsticks, so ask for a fork and spoon.

If you are in a real Chinese Rest. full of Asians, pick up the bowl and shovel away

fingers said...

Lisamaree has absolutely nailed it with that comment, covered just about every regulation in existence regarding chopstick etiquette.
I would add that it is considered high praise (to the chef) to slurp your noodles and make as much noise as possible while doing so.
Also, it is impossible to eat with chopsticks and not use them to point while talking during a meal...

Memphis Steve said...

I thought the Chinese were supposed to be humble and not make eye contact, so who the hell is watching you while you eat? I say pick up the bowl and gulp it down as fast as I can before anyone notices. Then fart silently and blame it on the waiter.

sparsely kate said...

Whatever you do, don't go all Korean on me. Have you seen those blokes hock a loogie up from the back of their arse and shot it into a spit bowl whilst sitting at a dinner table? Enough to put me off my hot dog. :)

deece said...

shovelling in china? yes, expected, perhaps sometimes necessary.

shovelling in korea? no way.

slurping in korea? fine. smoking in a restaurant? no problem.

blowing your nose at the table. no way.

spitting in a restaurant? kate, i'm sorry you had to see that! most koreans would be horrified that a fellow countryman was so ill-behaved

there are no logical reasons for a lot of these etiquettes - mostly, grown long out of culture and history.

Eostre said...

What I know about Asian culinary etiquette I learned from Japanese cartoons dubbed in Arabic, so I may not be your best source. (I'm pretty sure scarfing down tempura while running up a vertical surface is only acceptable if you're ninja.)
Also now I’m craving Chinese *and* Japanese while bored and stuck on campus for 3 more hours. Thanks.

unique_stephen said...

lisamaree > I shall take your word as gospel, but you can keep the chicken feet.

Clyde > My three year old asks for her fork-n'-spoon with a straight face and wonders why we giggle.

fingers > she should know \/

Memphis > They're from the middle kingdom mate - and their economy is taking over the world. How's your Mandarin?

Kate > with enough kimchi everyone can find a poodle sized loogie down there in their loogie gland

deece > Why would you ban smoking when the place stinks of tear-gas from the last student riot? - thanks for stopping by. Now an explanation is in order; what do you mean that you've never been to a strip club?

Eostre > I live but to serve

Tiffany Cavalli said...

I made a mistake when reading the title of the post.. I thought it said Chapstick.. and i just love a guys Chaps Stick.. Know what i mean..? and i think im familiar with the etiket etc.. etc. I then processed the info and thought it meant Chapstick.. as in" i kissed a girl and liked her cherry Chapstick... " But then i realised it was about Chinese chop sticks! This is dangerous territory for me.. anything Chinese is very off limits right now so i cant really comment.. It might not be politically correct! So i will rather stick to the Chaps stick or Chapstick.. love Tiff

The Crazy Colombian said...

I am surprised no one has asked the most critical question:

Since when do you actually care about etiquette? C'mon, it's good ole' Steve we're talking about here!

?????

unique_stephen said...

Tiff > do you find that you need a lot of Chapstick when you're working with Chap Stick? - just curious. What's that about a 'chink' in your armour I heard in the blogsphere?

Diagito > por favor, no soy un campesino, soy un caballero.

xl said...

Ask for a spoon.

F. said...

Chopsticks confuse me...I try to avoid using them at all costs.

Em said...

hahaha... sharing your bird flu with everyone...

Cat said...

I read that people who eat with chopsticks are on avergae skinnier than those who eat with the fork - less shoveling going on IMO. Cat

Leesha said...

Personally, I prefer to get the food into my mouth and not all over my lap so i choose good old fashioned cutlery over chopsticks anyday.
And talking with your mouth full is just not on.... :)

Tiffany Cavalli said...

Could not resist the comments i made.. Personally.. I love chinese food.. I go to Mr Lee almost every fri night.. for chow fan rice and sea food mix. Its amazing how the mind is.. I honestly read Chap Stick first time round.. And then i wondered if i was on the cooking channel with miss lisamaree.. Very informative.. No chinks in her armour.. solid facts. Is it politically incorrect to ask how many times they whack a dog before eating it in Korea?

unique_stephen said...

XL > that would be like admitting defeat.

F > G'day: Another Kuwaiti reader. That's like, two!

Em > Yeah, share something close to your heart: your chest infection.

Cat > I propose a more general extention to that theory - weight gain is inversely proportional to the utensils you use in one hand. Testing the theory with a thought expirement: Chips and a burger; no hands. The theory is looking sound.

Leesha > Your not a toddler then? And your second sentence - you come over all peaches and cream but you have a dirty mind girl. A dirty mind.

Tiff > Um, "wack" kind of has a meaning here in Aus., well it's a half word. Please feel free to use it as often as you like. Happy ending for the dog tho'

Leesha said...

yes, yes I have got a dirty mind which I try to repress but sometimes it just gets the better of me

unique_stephen said...

That's alright dear, you don't have to wipe your feet here, feel free to be a grot. Emunctory is snot after all.

deece said...

i am well impressed. poor old koreans, most people have no idea about the gwangju massacre. in fact, most people have no idea that there is much of a difference bw the north and south of the peninsula...

living in canberra and never having been to a strip club does raise the incredulity stakes, i'll grant you.

unique_stephen said...

Deece > me ≠ pretty face.

Lana Banana said...

chopsticks? only in my hair.

unique_stephen said...

or on a piano?

Tiffany Cavalli said...

very snappy retort! love Tiff

Mark Lawrence said...

Only Steve can generate so much interest in chopstick etiquette... and more.

lisamaree has nailed it pretty much – especially for Cantonese. I've noticed Chinese from other regions tend to have subtle differences. If you're at a table with other Chinese, just take your cues from them.

And as lisamaree says, never leave your chopsticks sticking in your bowl – something to do with funereal rites and general manners, I think.

Steve, just spoon some of your takeaway into a bowl. Then you'll be right to shovel etc. Who wants to eat out of that crappy plastic takeaway container/trough anyway? When it's hot it gets all bendy and sloppy anyway...

BTW, I do remember seeing chopsticks at eateries in Thailand. After all, the Chinese migrated pretty much everywhere.

unique_stephen said...

Mark > as an ABC Lisamaree is has the cultural box ticked.