Korean chopsticks are metal--to help you eat on and rock on!
by Cari Kamja
Chopsticks of every unique Asian culture differ slightly in style. In my opinion, Korean chopsticks are the most unique! The evolution of chopsticks has developed for some pretty crazy reasons; ranging from trying not to set yourself on fire, to try to avoid being poisoned. To explain some of the differences, let's take a look at Chinese, Japanese, and Korean chopsticks!
source: Nile Cappello
Chopsticks were actually invented in China about 5,000 years ago. Chinese style chopsticks are of the longest variety, and if you've ever been to a Chinese restaurant, it's easy to see why. You know that giant spinning circle in the center of the table you see when getting dim sum? That's called a 'Lazy Susan' (sorry, Susan) and it's pretty standard practice to use one when having a big Chinese meal. Since this puts quite a distance between you and some dishes, super long chopsticks make it easier to reach over and grab that last dumpling or snatch some noodles placed a little too far away. They also help keep your hands away from the dangers of extreme heat when cooking, since China is pretty friendly with fire in the kitchen.
In Japan, the chopsticks are noticeably much shorter and most often made of wood. This is because of the Japanese custom of lifting bowls close to your mouth to eat. Let's say you're eating some ramen and want to get those delicious noodles into your belly ASAP. Bring the bowl right up to face-level and let your chopsticks scoot your food the remaining distance to your mouth. Unlike China, you probably won't need to reach far across a table, so longer utensils aren't necessary. These small chopsticks also make grabbing sticky Japanese rice a lot easier!
Korean chopsticks can be a challenge for some because unlike Chinese and Japanese chopsticks, Korean ones are made out of metal. First-time users often struggle to get the right grip, since they're a bit slippery compared to other variations. Why metal, you ask? Well, Korean chopsticks actually have a pretty interesting history behind it. It's believed that Korean royalty used pure silver chopsticks, not because they wanted bling on their utensils, but because they didn't want to be poisoned. The silver was supposed to change color if there was any poison in their meal, signaling the royals the second they picked up a piece of food that they should probably not eat it.
The idea of using metal chopsticks was the common people's way of being like the king. Since pure silver was out of the question, more common kinds of metal were used, which is why now most chopsticks in Korea are made from stainless steel. Also, it is believed that metal chopsticks are easier to clean and thus more hygienic than wooden materials. Shiny, clean, and healthy--Korea is the only country in the world that has used metal chopsticks like this!
Feature Image Source: everythingchopsticks