Everyone associates oriental food with chopsticks, and that includes Vietnamese cuisine. Even those who have never tried to eat with chopsticks find it an interesting concept, and the practice is steeped in culture and tradition. But since the country is more westernized than most, do they use chopsticks in Vietnam?
Vietnamese people often use chopsticks. Vietnam even has its own type of chopsticks, and like most oriental countries, the way you use them is of utmost importance since it has great symbolic and traditional value. But since Vietnam has strong western influences, western utensils are just as common.
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Do Vietnamese People Use Chopsticks?
Vietnam inherited chopsticks from the Chinese, and Vietnamese chopsticks look very similar to those used in China. The people in Vietnam commonly use chopsticks as their utensils of choice, especially when they’re eating traditional local cuisine.
Vietnamese dishes consist primarily of rice, different cakes, and noodles, which they eat out of deep bowls, making chopsticks a logical choice so they can easily reach the food at the bottom of the bowl.
Most Vietnamese citizens will always choose chopsticks if given a choice, mainly because of tradition and being used to it.
However, Western traditions and utensils have become mainstream because Vietnam used to be a part of the French empire. You can find knives, forks, and spoons just as quickly as chopsticks in homes and restaurants, and no one will find it funny if you prefer to use them.
Chopsticks are a part of Vietnamese culture to such an extent that the country even has a unique type of chopstick called “đũa,” derived from the Chinese word “zhu.”
Vietnamese chopsticks are approximately nine inches long and flat with tapered ends. The length of the chopsticks discourages many newcomers from trying them, but they are long because Vietnamese people transfer food from their plates into deep bowls before eating it.
The flat surface also helps them to eat rice more efficiently, which is crucial because rice is even more of a staple in Vietnam than in many other oriental countries.
The đũa are mostly made of bamboo, coconut wood, or palmwood covered in lacquer. These are all wood types that don’t splinter easily, an important fact since the chopsticks you use to serve people are often seen as a sign of respect, and splinters in chopsticks indicate low quality.
Because chopsticks play such a significant role in Vietnamese culture, you can get some genuinely unique chopsticks.
Like some special knife and fork sets are passed down from generation to generation in the western world, Vietnamese families often decorate unique wooden chopsticks with jewels and patterns that are then passed down within the family.
It is especially popular for families to do this with chopsticks that belonged to grandparents or other loved ones after they’ve passed away.
How To Correctly Use Chopsticks In Vietnam
When you eat using chopsticks, it is crucial to use proper etiquette. Many of these rules are similar to western table etiquette, while others are shared among all Asian countries.
Before you begin to eat, it’s considered etiquette to wipe your chopsticks with a napkin to remove dust. You may also rub them with lemon juice to sanitize them, especially when eating at a restaurant. However, you should never rub the chopsticks against each other.
You should also never use two chopsticks of uneven length. They should be precisely the same length; if they are not, the correct practice would be to ask for a different pair, as Vietnamese people consider uneven chopsticks to be bad luck and reminiscent of coffins.
Similarly, always choose two chopsticks that look identical. They must have the same patterns, colors, and decorations on them. Once again, the Vietnamese people consider it a bad omen if you use chopsticks that don’t match.
Try not to make clicking noises with the chopsticks; you should eat as quietly as possible. Also, don’t tap with the chopsticks against your bowl, as this is a common practice among beggars.
When picking food for someone else, use a clean pair of chopsticks or the back of your pair. Never serve someone else using the same side of the chopsticks that you eat with.
You should never leave your chopsticks sticking out of your bowl or place them in an x shape. When you’re not using them, place them in the chopstick tray (if you have one), or let them rest against the side of your bowl.
When you pick food, don’t dig around in the dish. Take from the top and place it in your bowl before eating it.
Don’t use your chopsticks to stab or cut food unless it is to help small children. It’s considered disrespectful in any other context. You may use a spoon to break large pieces of food into smaller pieces.
Never point at something or someone with your chopsticks. When you want to point at something, place your chopsticks down (correctly, as mentioned) before doing so.
It is also impolite to lick your chopsticks. Yes, some juices may cling to the chopsticks, and the food might be so good that you must get every taste out of it. But resist the temptation; licking your chopsticks is rude.
When you have eaten enough, place your chopsticks side by side next to the bowl. This signifies that you will not be eating anymore.
Lastly, don’t drop your chopsticks. It is considered clumsy and disrespectful to drop chopsticks on the ground or scatter food across the table. If you fear a risk of this happening (because you may not be used to chopsticks), it is acceptable to request a fork instead.
How To Properly Hold Vietnamese Chopsticks
You hold Vietnamese chopsticks similarly to any other chopsticks. First, determine where you are supposed to hold them. One end of the chopsticks should be larger than the other end. The bigger part is where you should hold them.
Sometimes, the bigger part will be more square-shaped, with the tips being more circular. This is especially common in wooden chopsticks.
Once you’ve figured out which side to hold, the tricky part is how to hold them.
Place them in your hands with your fingertips more or less in the middle of the chopsticks. Let the lower chopstick rest on your little finger with some added support from the base of your thumb.
Let the upper chopstick rest gently between your ring finger and middle finger. Your thumb and index finger should make a pinch-type gesture over the top of the chopstick. Now ensure that the tips of the chopsticks are perfectly aligned.
You can use the chopsticks by moving your ring finger and middle finger closer to your little finger while closing the gap between your index finger and thumb. This will move the upper chopstick down to the lower chopstick and let you grip food between the tips.