National Chopsticks Day is held every year on February 6. Is it just us, or can you practically smell the stir fry and steamed rice already? A large part of the world’s population uses chopsticks as their utensil of choice. People in China have been deftly using chopsticks since 1200 B.C. where they were first used to cook before they became a popular tool with which to eat across East Asia. Every time you use a chopstick to eat, you engage over 50 different joints and muscles. Not only do you use your fingers and wrists but your arms and shoulders too. That’s quite the workout. And there’s so much more about the humble chopstick that the world ought to know.
History of National Chopsticks Day
Chopsticks originated in China 5,000 years ago. According to historians, people typically cooked food in large pots that worked well to retain heat. However, it meant waiting a long while for the food to cool before one could dig in. Famished eaters discovered a way around the painful waiting period by breaking twigs off trees to retrieve bits of food. The twigs evolved into the chopsticks we know and love today.
The events that transpired in 400 B.C. also created a need for the use of chopsticks. Since food was scarce during this period, cooks would chop food into small pieces to cook quickly and save fuel. It made the use of knives at the dining table redundant where chopsticks could easily pick up bite-sized pieces of food and so, became staple utensils. They were so popular that by 500 A.D. that people in Japan, Korea, and present-day Vietnam also began using them.
The first chopsticks were made out of bamboo and looked like tweezers because they were joined at the top. They were also known as tong chopsticks but by the 10th century, the design evolved into the two separate pieces we’ve come to know today. Children in most Asian countries — and adults in others — use the tong chopsticks as training chopsticks today.
Soon, two distinct designs emerged. Chinese chopsticks were usually rectangular with blunt ends and around 10 inches long whereas chopsticks used in Japan were rounded, shorter, and came to a point.
People in the English-speaking world know these utensils as chopsticks, a name that came from the expression “chop-chop” meaning fast in Chinese Pidgin English. The original Chinese name for them however has way more character where they’re called ‘kuai-zi’ or ‘quick little fellows.’
National Chopsticks Day timeline
Chopsticks originate from China to help pick up hot food from pots.
Their use spreads from China to Japan, Korea, and Vietnam
The Japanese become the first to create ‘waribashi’ or disposable wooden chopsticks.
Approximately 1.5 billion people in Asia alone use chopsticks.
National Chopsticks Day FAQs
Can you reuse bamboo chopsticks?
Yes and if you care for them as you would other wooden utensils you increase their lifespan which can be up to six months.
Are single-use chopsticks bad?
Most disposable chopsticks are made from unsustainably harvested wood and are manufactured with chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
Why do Koreans use metal chopsticks?
Instead of using chopsticks made from wood, Koreans use metal ones because they’re easier to clean and, therefore, considered more hygienic.
National Chopsticks Day Activities
To make the day extra special, prepare an Asian menu and use chopsticks for cooking and dining. Use them to stir, serve, and taste. For anyone looking to learn how to use them, today is the best day to start.
Play a chopsticks game
Engage the kids in a chopsticks challenge today. Have them pick up small objects with chopsticks only and put them in a bowl. The one with the most items in the bowl (without dropping anything) wins.
Go where the chopsticks are
Make reservations at your favorite Asian restaurant and indulge in their cuisine. Alternatively, visit the nearest Asian market and pick up some chopsticks to dine with at home.
5 Facts About Dim Sum That Will Blow Your Mind
Dim Sum for breakfast
Although restaurants serve Dim Sum round the clock, it’s traditionally enjoyed for breakfast or brunch.
Best enjoyed with company
A Dim Sum serving is small on purpose to encourage groups of diners to try different varieties.
Dim Sum as dessert
One of the most popular Dim Sum varieties is an egg tart with custard filling in a pastry crust.
Dim Sum with tea
‘Yum Cha’ - a Cantonese tradition of drinking tea is incomplete without a side of Dim Sum.
Carts, not à la carte
In traditional Dim Sum eateries, waiters will roll out food on heated carts for diners to choose from.
Why We Love National Chopsticks Day
Not just any utensil
Chopsticks are so much more than a means to eat. They represent moments in Asian history. They also offer deep cultural insight.
It takes time and effort to learn how to use chopsticks. Being able to use them is a skill we get to show off on National Chopsticks Day.
A reason for delicious Asian food
We get to satisfy our craving for Chinese takeout or Japanese sushi. So whether it’s spring rolls and ‘sashimi’ you’re after, use it as an excuse to use chopsticks.
National Chopsticks Day dates