How to Eat Rice with Chopsticks—A Simple 3-Step Guide
Chopsticks are an essential utensil of many Asian food cultures such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and more. People of these cultures practice using chopsticks at a young age and make constant use of them at mealtimes. However, people of western cultures most likely have limited exposure to chopsticks and hardly use them outside of the occasional dine-in at an Asian restaurant. To be an expert at using chopsticks, practice makes perfect. We’ll go over a number of topics from why it is important to eat rice with chopsticks to how to do it and tips for eating rice with chopsticks.
Why is it Important to Eat Rice with Chopsticks?
Eating rice with chopsticks has been in practice since early history. Because rice is a staple in most East Asian diets and chopsticks are the primary eating utensil, it’s natural to want to understand how to use chopsticks to eat rice! It's important to appreciate other cultures and you'll be ready the next time you go to a sushi restaurant. While you are supposed to eat rice with chopsticks, children and toddlers who haven’t learned the art yet often use spoons instead. For younger users, we recommend starting with some training chopsticks to get them acquainted.
How to Eat Rice with Chopsticks in 3 Easy Steps:
Find Your Pair of Chopsticks
Practice the Foundation of Holding Chopsticks
So..How Do You Pick Up Rice with Chopsticks?
Chopsticks come in all shapes and sizes, and knowing your style is a crucial part of learning how to eat with chopsticks. Some chopsticks are flatter, some are metal, some are more slippery, some are thinner, some are luxury chopsticks, and it all affects your ability to eat rice with chopsticks effectively. To make sure you put yourself in the best starting place, find a pair of chopsticks you feel the most comfortable with. Make sure they don’t slide around and your fingers don’t feel cramped when holding them.
Start by holding your chopsticks slightly apart using the basic method above. Then, insert the chopsticks at a 45 degree angle into the rice, while maintaining the gap between your chopsticks. Gently squeeze and lift the chopsticks while maintaining the gap and strength. Eating rice with chopsticks is about using a “hold” technique to carry the rice from the bowl to your mouth.
If your bowl is too far from your mouth, feel free to lift your bowl with your other hand to close the distance. In fact, this is often recommended to prevent lifting your chopsticks a long vertical distance, where you’re prone to make a mistake and drop your food. Here’s a quick video that summarizes the technique:
What Can Be Eaten with Chopsticks?
The short answer is… everything!! Once you have mastered using chopsticks, there are almost no food items you cannot pick up and enjoy with chopsticks. Here are the most common things that are eaten with chopsticks:
- Rice.. which includes all kinds of rice like plain white rice, sushi rice, sushi, fried rice, even porridge!
- Sushi. This is probably the most commonly seen usage of chopsticks—in almost every sushi restaurant, the main utensil of choice is chopsticks.
- Noodles. Another classic pair! Chopsticks and noodles go hand-in-hand and includes all types of noodles. Egg noodles, ramen noodles, soba noodles, udon noodles, low mein, chow mein are all eaten with chopsticks.
Most other small food items.
Whenever you get takeout, or cook a delicious home meal, you can use chopsticks to pick up those items. Common foods include entrees like General Tso’s Chicken, Orange Chicken, broccoli, eggplant.
3 Tips for Eating Rice with Chopsticks
Know the Do’s and Don’ts:
- Do keep practicing, no matter how difficult it may seem. Remember, people who make it look natural are only pros because they use chopsticks everyday!
- Do have fun with it! Don’t take it too seriously, get the family involved and pick up some training chopsticks for kids as well!
- Don’t take shortcuts at the risk of coming off impolite. For example:
- Don’t pick up food by “stabbing” it with chopsticks, this is improper use and considered rude.
- Don’t “scoop” food into your quickly mouth using chopsticks, this can be considered very informal and rude
- Don’t stick your chopsticks into a bowl of rice or food when not using them. You may be wondering...why is it disrespectful to put chopsticks in rice? In Asian cultures, this can reference incense for the deceased, or death in general and is considered taboo for mealtime.
- Don’t use your chopsticks to pick up food from a shared plate. There should be a communal utensil (like a spoon) for this purpose. If not, try to use an unused utensil nearby to get food.
YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)
Make it easier for yourself, by lifting the bowl.
What about other rice types? For example, you might be wondering how to eat fried rice with chopsticks, or how to pick up sushi and sushi rice. The answer is simply.. PRACTICE! There is almost nothing you cannot pick up with chopsticks, so practice with confidence and know that eventually you’ll be picking up anything with your favorite chopsticks!
You can eliminate half the vertical distance required to carry food to your mouth, by simply lifting your bowl with your other hand. This is an often overlooked technique and is considered common and normal.
In short, chopsticks are incredibly versatile and can be used to pick up and eat any food item..including rice. Remember that no one is a chopsticks pro without practice, so don’t get discouraged! Here’s a summary of our how-to guide for easy reference:
- Find the best chopstick for you. Some people do better with wooden chopsticks, some with metal chopsticks.
- Practice your foundation of chopstick holding, until you’ve got a firm grasp
- Practice eating rice with chopsticks using a “hold” technique. If you have a strong foundation for holding chopsticks, you should be able to maintain a small gap to hold rice and carry it from your bowl, to your mouth. Remember, you can make the work a lot easier if you lift the bowl with your other hand and eliminate some vertical distance.
And that’s it! If you are feeling ready to practice or find your favorite chopsticks, here are some of our top picks for beginner-friendly and beautiful chopsticks: