Each country has its own style of making and using chopsticks. The chopsticks used in Vietnam are often much simpler in comparison to those used in Korea or Japan. The design of chopsticks also varied in Vietnam. To be specific, chopsticks from Northern Vietnam are usually made from bamboo, while chopsticks in the south are usually made from coconut wood.
In terms of usage, chopsticks etiquettes in Vietnam also seem to be less complicated. However, there are a few dos and don’ts that you had better bear in mind, which will be explained in this guide, along with some tutorials.
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Firstly, before holding the chopsticks, make sure that the two ends of the chopsticks are placed evenly. After that, using the 3 fingers, the thumb, the index finger, and the middle finger, to gently hold the chopsticks. The middle finger is placed under and between the chopsticks to close or make a gap between them. The thumb and index finger clamp the chopsticks to hold them firmly, and you can balance the chopsticks using your ring finger.
Vietnamese quite often wipe the chopsticks with a paper napkin or lime juice in order to pasteurize and remove dust from the chopsticks, making sure they are clean enough to use. That is also often applied to other utensils like the soup spoon. You are recommended to do the same thing for other people's chopsticks in the meal as a polite eating manner.
In Vietnam, the culture of using chopsticks is a way to express your caring to others in a subtle way. At the beginning of a meal, especially in the traditional meals, before picking up their own items, Vietnamese usually use clean chopsticks to pick up food for others who sit near them. In the middle of the meal, if you want to or somebody asks you to pass them a piece of food using chopsticks, you are supposed to reserve the chopsticks and use the clean ends to do this.
Avoid sticking your chopsticks upright in the middle of the rice bowl. When you need to place chopsticks down, you should rest them either on a designated chopsticks holder or on the side of the bowl.
Read more about Vietnamese Traditional Table Manners
In ancient beliefs, uneven chopsticks would bring bad luck such as death. In the past, the coffin is formed by five wooden planks, two short and three longer. The unequal chopsticks are thought to resemble these wooden planks, representing the unfortunate event. Thus, using uneven chopsticks is a very bad omen.
The act of knocking the bowl into the bowl is considered to be the same as a beggar because the beggars used to use the chopsticks to knock on the pot in order to sound out, and then, ask for food. That is considered to be bad luck in chopsticks etiquettes in Vietnam which you should absolutely avoid, especially when going to business dinners. In addition, the Vietnamese also appreciate the courtesy that you will not make clanking chopsticks noise or chewing sound while eating.
Do not put the chopsticks vertically into a rice bowl. This action is thought to be similar to sticking incense into the censer. If you put a pair of chopsticks into the bowl like that, it would seem like you are consecrating this bowl of rice to the dead.
While upright chopstick in a bowl is associated with offering to the dead, piercing chopsticks through food to pick it up makes you look like a greedy person.
In the past, this behavior signifies serious mistakes because people think that all ancestors are resting on the ground and should not be disturbed. Today, although not many people hold such spiritual belief, you should still be careful not to drop the chopsticks as it would make you look clumsy, much like scattering food on the table while using the chopsticks.
Learn more about Vietnamese superstitions.
Using chopsticks might be a little tricky at the beginning. But once you get used to it, you would find it extremely useful in eating, especially when you eat Vietnamese noodles dishes like Pho or even Bun bo Hue.
Being one of the oldest countries in Asian, Vietnamese culture is distinctive, interesting and fascinating at the same time. There are many choices for you in order to explore varied aspects of Vietnamese traditional, including chopsticks etiquettes, such as I love food tour and Saigon’s other side tour.
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Wow, I know using chopsticks is a challenge already. There are still a lot of other things to learn about
Hi, I'm not very efficient in using chopsticks but I'm very interested to take the street food tour. Will it be totally inappropriate to ask for fork?
I can't use chopsticks that efficiently but i'm extremely interested to take the street food tour. Will it be too inappropriate to ask for fork?
I find it very useful to know how to use chopsticks. If you travel to Vietnam or Asian countries, I recommend picking up this skill.