It has been asked, 'Does tea taste better in a china cup?' Along the same lines, it has also been asked, 'Does using chopsticks make Chinese food taste better?' This entry will try and answer that question.
Utensils used to eat chinese
Chopsticks are obviously the most common utensil used to eat chinese, as the chopstick was invented in China. Chopsticks are small, thin sticks that can be made of a number of different materials including wood, bamboo, ivory, gold, silver, pewter and plastic.
For people who cannot master the skills of using chopsticks, there is always the fork. The fork is made up of a thin handle with a number of tines on the end. The fork can be used in a number of different ways, includng as a scoop, or the prongs can be used to pick up pieces of food.
The spoon is an essential item for eating Chinese food where neither the fork or chopsticks are appropriate, such as for soup. Sometimes, the spoon is also used with the fork when chopsticks are not being used.
Utensils not used to eat chinese
This entry will not look at the knife, as it is rarely used when eating Chinese food. The knife is a common utensil in the west, but is not a common Chinese utensil, and would not be seen on a Chinese table. This is because the Chinese take their meals very seriously, and feel that the meal table should be a place of peace and harmony. The knife could be used as a weapon, and could disrupt the harmony of the table. Because of this, the knife, and anything else that could disrupt the harmony, is banned from the table.
Most Chinese food is designed to be eaten with chopsticks, as they would not disrupt the harmony of the table. Chopsticks are not sharp and are not used to cut food, so the chinese food is usually chopped into small pieces while it is being prepared, to make it easier to eat with chopsticks. It is also cut into small pieces to make it quicker to cook.
Shape is always very important. When you bite the food you feel the shape of the utensil in your mouth, and the shape you feel can greatly affect the taste of the food. With chopsticks, you only feel a small amount of the chopsticks in your mouth, just the small, thin ends. By contrast, the fork takes up more space in the mouth. However, the shape of the fork and using it as a scoop does make it easier to move more food into the mouth at once, as it has a much larger surface area.
On the whole, people find eating with chopsticks harder then eating with a fork. However, this is not always a bad thing, shown below by the comment of a researcher:
If I use a fork then I eat so fast that I am sick. Chopsticks were what I used to use to slow me down so that I could enjoy the food more.
There are two different ways of eating with chopsticks. Firstly, there is the 'ladylike' way. The 'ladylike' way is to keep your bowl on the table and eat very little in each mouthful.
One reseacher gives their opinion on the advantage of the 'ladylike' method of using chopsticks over using the fork:
You have to pick up a flavour at a time with chopsticks, where as with a fork you tend to heap all you can onto it and loose the taste 'in the crowd of tastes'.
The researcher below also prefers eating chinese using the 'ladylike' method:
Eating with chopsticks in the 'ladylike' way is better for you. It takes much longer to eat your food and you can notice when you start to feel full and stop eating.
The second way to eat with chopsticks is the 'peasant' way. The 'peasant' way is where you hold your bowl very close to your mouth and shovel the food in.
Below, a researcher comments on how they learnt to use the 'peasant' way:
I was in a restaurant in Chinatown, London at around 5.30, and there were a lot of Chinese people obviously just finished at work and grabbing a meal before going home. I saw for the first time that 'peasant way' of shoveling the food with the bowl up to your mouth and secretly had a go myself. Instead of half my food on the table as per usual I actually managed to get proper mouthfuls of rice without dropping a grain! There's no holding me back now - no going back to the 10 grains of rice at a time method - it's shovel it in every time now.
Of course, there are some people who prefer not to use a utensil at all:
I prefer to use my fingers, or scoop things up with a prawn cracker or something similar.