Chopstick is a eating utensil originating from the East Asian and South East Asian countries. A pair of chopstick are short sticks which are tapered at the end. Their length varies from region to region. They are the traditional utensils for eating meals in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia, Hong Kong and also some parts of Burma and Nepal which have more of the Chinese populations. Chopstick can be made from bone, plastic, wood, metal, horn or ivory.
Chopstick originated as early as between 1766 – 1122 BCE, during the reign of the Shang dynasty of ancient China. The earliest pair of chopsticks found by archaeologists was made of bronze and could be dated back to 1200 BCE. Initially, the chopsticks were not used as an eating utensil. Rather it was used as a cooking or serving utensil, but came to be used for eating during the Han dynasty and finally for both eating and serving by the reign of the Ming dynasty. Hence it can be said that countries like China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea and Mongolia have been using chopstick as a traditional eating utensil for thousands of years.
Various Types of Chopstick
Chopstick can be classified into various types according to their length, the material used, embellishments and the tapering end or according to the country in which they are used. The huge variety of chopstick available are enumerated below.
Long Chopstick – These are very long chopstick of about 30 to 40 centimetres long andare larger than the standard length of chopstick. They are mainly used for cooking, especially for deep frying.
Bluntly Tapered Chopstick – These are blunt on the tapering end side which is used to pick up the food. This is mostly seen in Chinese style of chopstick.
Sharply Tapered Chopstick – Thesse are pointed at the tapered end and used for eating and is common to the Japanese style of chopstick.
Metallic Chopstick – These are durable and long lasting as well as easy to clean. Since metal is slippery, it may be roughened or scribed to make it less slippery. These were made with gold or silver in ancient times, but now stainless steel is the most commonly used metal. In ancient times silver was popular as a symbol of precaution, because silver turns black if it comes in contact with poison.
Bamboo or Wooden Chopstick – These are most inexpensive and best for use as cooking chopstick because of their low conduction of heat. With regular use it often warps and needs to be replaced with new ones.
Plastic Chopstick – These are also inexpensive but more durable than the wooden ones. Although slippery to use, they are preferred by most for ease of cleaning it. Melamine chopstick are a variety of these. They cannot be used for cooking due to possible damage to the chopstick because of high cooking temperature.
Embellished Chopstick – The chopstick may be decorated with lacquer or paint and waterproofed. Designs can be etched on the metallic ones.
Disposable Chopstick – These are usually made with bamboo or dark wood which has been bleached white, both leading to environmental and health concerns. The bleach used can be harmful while cutting of trees are unhindered in the production of these chopstick. In order to secure the environment and reduce consumption of wood, China imposed a 5 % tax on disposable chopstick in 2006.
Chinese Chopstick – These are longer, thicker, with squared ends and blunt tips. The length is about 10 inches and the most commonly used material is melamine or lacquered bamboo.
Japanese Chopstick – These are shorter in length and have pointed ends. It is usually made of wood or bamboo which has been lacquered. Theese chopsticks are further shortened as per use by women or children.
Vietnamese Chopstick – These are also similar to the Chinese style in being long and bluntly tapered and being made with lacquered bamboo or wood.
Tibetan Chopstick – These are same as the Chinese style as they are imported from China.
Nepali Chopstick – These are shorter with blunt ends and made of bamboo.
Korean Chopstick – These are of medium length, small and flat, and rectangular in shape. They are mostly made with brass or silver and are decorated at the rear end.
How to Buy a Chopstick
While buying chopstick one must keep the size in mind with respect to whether an adult or a child will be using them. Children’s chopstick are relatively smaller sized and may come in child friendly prints or designs. Chopstick made with plastic, metal or wood may be bought for use. However, as an environment concern it is best to minimize the consumption of wooden chopstick, including disposable chopstick. For those not habituated to eating with chopstick, they can buy chopsticks with chopstick helpers.
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