Vietnamese food is no doubt one of the best in the world. Like any other Asian country, Vietnamese food is mainly eaten by chopsticks and sometimes spoons (soup only). Learning how to use chopsticks is therefore a mission one you want to complete enjoy Vietnamese food. I already mentioned how to use chopsticks here. But these Vietnam 101 tips is about how NOT to use chopsticks in Vietnam. These are not deadly important as Vietnamese people will see you as an amateur and therefore sympathize with a smile. But once you know these rules you can proudly blend in with the local and maybe teach your innocent friends back home.
- Shoveling: Bring a dish up to your mouth and rapidly pushing food into it using your chopsticks. This is only for children as they don’t yet master the way to do it properly. Pick up food gently with your chopstick while holding the bowl near your chest avoiding accidentally dropping your food. Leaving the bowl on the table while picking up your food to your mouth is only for the experts, and when eating dry food.
- Standing: Sticking your chopsticks upright in your rice is the way a bowl of rice is offered to the spirit of a dead person, or at the beside odd the deceased. Never do this in front of elderly people.
- Resting: Resting your chopsticks on your bowl during your meal. This actually indicates that you’re done with your meal. Otherwise your host will bring your desert or tea. Instead, rest your chopsticks on a provided chopsticks holder or on the food tray, beside your bowl.
- Licking: Grabbing bits of food from the tips of the chopsticks with your tongue. Use common sense, you don’t lick food from your knife or folk neither right?
- Searching: Searching for specific food items in your food by swirling your chopsticks around. Everyone shares food in one dish, dipping your used chopsticks in the shared food is only when you are a family member, or very close to your hosts.
- Pulling: Drawing a dish towards you with your chopsticks. Chopsticks are used to pick up food, not to mess things around the dining table.
- Double grabbing: Two people picking food from the same dish at the same time. Always wait for others (especially the elderly) to finish picking food from that dish, then it’s your turn.
- Rummaging: Rummaging a dish for only the things you like.
- Pointing: Pointing your chopsticks directly at someone else.
- Hovering: Moving your chopsticks over various dishes, while deciding which to choose. Instead, take a glance at the specific bits of food that you like and pick it up without hesitate.
- Burying: Using your chopsticks to push food that is already in your mouth further back in. If the piece is too big, bite it in half and leave the rest in your bowl for the second bite.
- Touching: Touch the food with your chopsticks that you don’t intend to take. Once you touch it you have to take and eat it.
- Skewering: Impaling food with your chopsticks.
- Biting: Holding your chopsticks in your mouth. Or keep your chopsticks with your teeth.
- Drumming: Tapping your chopsticks against the bowls, dishes or table. Make as least noise as possible with your chopsticks.
- One hand: Putting the hand that is holding your chopsticks in contact with a dish.
- Transferring: Transferring food from one pair of chopsticks to another. If you want to share give a specific piece of food to another, pick it up and gently drop to their bowl. Use two hand to the elderly.
- Waving: Shaking off food that is attached to the tips of your chopsticks. Try to keep your chopsticks clean by eating everything sticking on them.
Now to make it easier for first time chopstick users. Here are the 3 “simple” steps to master your chopsticks. Make sure you practice this well if not wanting to stave in Vietnam.
1. Hold the first chopstick firm and stationary in fixed position.
2. The second chopstick is held like a pencil with the tips of thumb, index and middle fingers. Manipulate this chopstick to meet the first one.
3. This manipulation will form “V” to pick up the food.
Last step: Give up and use a folk, maybe :))
By Pham Tuyen