Chopsticks are a mealtime staple on many tables in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. They’re one of the most ancient utensils, dating back to 1200 B.C. in China and spreading across East Asia by 500 A.D Beyond cooking, chopsticks could be used to reach into hot oil or water, allowing the user to pick up food as deftly as they could with their fingers. Today, chopsticks are used around the world in restaurants and at home and come in a variety of styles and materials, from fancy contemporary designs in stainless steel to basic silhouettes in disposable, eco-friendly bamboo. Chopsticks are probably the most used tool in our kitchen,” says Eugene Lee, co-owner of Oakland-based Noodle Belly. From eating and cooking to adding delicate garnishes to a plate, a pair of chopsticks can function in myriad ways and are a must-have at home not just for those who enjoy Asian cuisine.
In China, they reached their peak of popularity when Confucius made them his eating implement of choice. But today, these centuries-old Asian eating and cooking utensils have taken on slightly different forms depending on which culture is using them.