Vietnam is a country that is well known for its delicious cuisine, and chopsticks are an integral part of the meals in Vietnam. In this article, we will explore the etiquette of using chopsticks in Vietnamese meals.
1. History & Significance of Chopsticks in Vietnamese Cuisine
The use of chopsticks in Vietnam can be traced back to the early 2nd century BC. During the Chinese Han dynasty, chopsticks were introduced to Vietnam as part of the cultural exchange between China and Vietnam. Over time, the use of chopsticks became popular, and they became an essential part of Vietnamese dining culture.
Chopsticks are not only used for eating but also for cooking. In Vietnam, chopsticks are used to stir and mix the ingredients when preparing dishes. It is also used to transfer food from a shared plate to your bowl, and it is not considered hygienic to use your hands to pick up food from a shared plate.
Chopsticks are also considered a symbol of togetherness and sharing in Vietnamese culture. Sharing dishes is a common practice in Vietnamese meals, and using chopsticks to transfer food from a shared plate to your bowl is seen as a way to show respect and consideration for others.
2. Types of Chopsticks in Vietnam
In Vietnam, chopsticks are typically made of wood or bamboo, and they come in different shapes and sizes. The most common type of chopsticks used in Vietnam is round with tapered ends. These chopsticks are usually 9-10 inches long, and they are easy to grip and manipulate.
Another type of chopstick used in Vietnam is a flat chopstick with blunt ends. These chopsticks are more commonly used in the northern regions of Vietnam, and they are ideal for picking up slippery noodles and thin slices of meat.
3. How To Use Chopsticks
Step 1: Hold the chopsticks correctly
The first step in using chopsticks is to hold them correctly. To do this, hold one chopstick between your thumb and your index finger, and support it with your middle finger. The second chopstick should be placed between your index finger and your middle finger. Use your thumb to control the movement of the chopsticks.
Make sure that the tips of the chopsticks are even, and they are not too close or too far apart. This will ensure that you can pick up food easily without dropping it.
Step 2: Practice opening & closing the chopsticks
Once you have held the chopsticks correctly, practice opening and closing them. To open the chopsticks, move your index finger and your middle finger apart, and to close them, bring your fingers back together.
Practice this motion until you can open and close the chopsticks smoothly and without dropping them.
Step 3: Pick up food
Now that you can hold and control the chopsticks, it’s time to pick up some food. To do this, place the chopsticks at the base of the food you want to pick up, and gently squeeze them together.
If you’re picking up small pieces of food, like rice or peas, use the tips of the chopsticks. For larger pieces of food, like a piece of chicken or a slice of sushi, use the middle of the chopsticks to grip the food.
Step 4: Practice With Different Types of Food
To become comfortable using chopsticks, practice with different types of food. Start with larger pieces of food, like a piece of chicken or a vegetable, and work your way up to smaller pieces of food, like grains of rice.
You can also practice with different types of cuisine that use chopsticks, like Chinese or Japanese food. This will help you get used to different shapes and sizes of chopsticks and different types of food.
4. Tips For Using Chopsticks
Relax your hand and arm when using chopsticks. Tension can make it harder to control the chopsticks.
Use the chopsticks to stir your food, as well as pick it up. This will help you get used to the movement of the chopsticks.
If you’re struggling to pick up food, try using a rubber band to hold the chopsticks together at the top. This will give you more control over the chopsticks.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a fork or spoon if you’re having trouble using chopsticks. It’s better to enjoy your meal than to struggle with chopsticks.
When you’re finished using the chopsticks, place them back on the chopstick rest or on the table. Don’t leave them on your plate or bowl.
5. Etiquettes of using Chopsticks in Vietnamese Meals
When sitting down for a meal, the first thing to do is to place your chopsticks on the chopstick holder or on the table in front of you. Do not place your chopsticks on the bowl, as this is a sign of disrespect.
Using chopsticks to serve yourself
When using chopsticks to serve yourself, use the opposite end of the chopsticks that you eat with. For example, if you are using your right hand to eat, use the left end of the chopsticks to serve yourself. This is to avoid contamination of the food.
Holding the chopsticks
To hold the chopsticks correctly, hold the first chopstick between your thumb and your index finger, and support it with your middle finger. The second chopstick should be placed between your index finger and your middle finger. Use your thumb to control the movement of the chopsticks.
Don’t use Chopsticks to gesture or point
Using chopsticks to gesture or point is considered impolite in Vietnamese culture. If you need to gesture, use your hands instead.
Don’t Play With Chopsticks
Playing with chopsticks, such as tapping them on the table or making clicking noises, is considered rude and disrespectful. Once you have finished eating, place your chopsticks back on the chopstick holder or on the table in front of you.
When passing food to someone, use the serving chopsticks or a clean pair of chopsticks. Do not use your eating chopsticks to pick up food from a shared plate.
Don’t Stick Chopsticks Vertically in Rice
Sticking chopsticks vertically in rice is a common practice in some cultures, but it is considered taboo in Vietnamese culture. It is believed to resemble the incense
In conclusion, chopsticks are an important part of Vietnamese culture, and using them correctly can make a big difference in how you enjoy your meal. Remembering to hold the chopsticks correctly, use them gently and respectfully, and follow proper etiquette, will show respect for the Vietnamese culture and enhance your dining experience.
By following these simple etiquettes, you can enjoy Vietnamese cuisine and culture to the fullest. Don’t be intimidated by using chopsticks, as with practice, anyone can learn to use them like a pro. So, take your time, be patient, and have fun mastering the art of using chopsticks in Vietnamese meals.
Currently, I’m the founder and responsible for the content on Explore One Vietnam travel website. After many trips, I have accumulated a lot of experience in traveling to Vietnam, so I want to share these things with international tourists. Check Tin Nguyen on Linkedin