Rumble box: Chopsticks vs forks

Rumble box: Chopsticks vs forks

Each week members of Team YP will debate life's important issues in casual dialogues. This week...

As a local Hongkonger, I'm proud to use chopsticks, a historic, state-of-the-art utensil invented by the Chinese. Just look at the identical sticks, made of wood, bamboo or metal. They are like an extension of our fingers: how could you find a better model for demonstrating a lever system than chopsticks?

They are also perfectly suited to human nature: they come in a pair. No one wants to be alone in life; humans need to live together to survive.

Using chopsticks at mealtimes can be a challenging task for new users: you often see foreigners dropping food as they try to pick it up with chopsticks. So yes, they can be difficult to use. But once you've used them for a few days, and built up a "relationship" with them, they soon feel natural and comfortable.

You really can't argue, Chris: chopsticks can tacle most of the duties carried out by forks, including holding meatballs and picking up spaghetti.

However, I bet you don't eat chicken's legs using a fork. And using a fork to eat shrimp dumplings will break their fragile skin. Yet chopsticks can keep this delectable dim sum intact before it enters my mouth.

Without chopsticks, we'd be miserable, too. At local carnivals, we always play the "pick up marble" game with chopsticks. Again, you can't do that with forks!

Chopsticks come in many designs and styles - some decorated with different designs.

Thicker ones are perfect as drum sticks, so they work as a musical instrument, too.

Just try using chopsticks for meals for the whole week, Chris and, believe me, you will soon realise you don't need forks at all.

Kevin Kung


If English is regarded as the most widely-spoken of all language - a symbol of the most truly "international" of things, then the ubiquitous fork comes a close second.

Let's start with hotels, shall we? Have you ever been to a hotel that includes chopsticks in their normal set of tableware?

There are only two scenarios where that would happen: either you're in Chinese restaurant within the hotel, or you're staying at a budget hotel, which has provided you a set from its kitchen drawer. Hotels prefer forks rather than chopsticks because they are more widely used by - let's see - the majority of the seven billion people living the planet.

You can really only see chopsticks on hotel tables in China, Japan and Korea - and restaurants serving food from those countries. Other than that, what's the point? It's not rocket science - forks sit comfortably on any table... and do the same job.

Obviously, hotels don't set out forks of tables for any reason other than pracicality. Chopsticks are hard to use; it is something that involves years of practice and training - like becoming a ninja.

If one isn't born into a Chinese family, the chance of a person getting the chance to learn how to use chopsticks properly will be rare. Even if a person does learn, the opportunity to hone those skills will be limited. If only chopsticks were offered at hotels, let's face it, it would probably take non-chopstick-users three days - with most food left fallen on the table and floor - to finish one simple meal.

Let's be honest: there is nothing that chopsticks can do, that forks can't do. One big fear is that forks can't serve Chinese food very well. But I don't see any problem eating delicate dim sum foods with a fork.

And fried rice and noodles with a fork? Of course! Forks have served Westerners perfectly for years when they've eaten paella, risotto and pasta. But can chopsticks cope with steak, or desserts? Er, no!

Forks are also delightfully elegant and refined - produced in countless stunning styles and designs and materials - and can match any taste.

Everything has a good and bad side, Kevin. But forks, have more goods and bads - than chopsticks.

Chris Lau

We hope you enjoyed the rumble. If you have an idea for a fun topic, e-mail us at yp@scmp.com with "Rumble Box" in the subject line and we could be wrangling your topic idea next week


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