Not About Food

Using the back/ larger end of chopsticks when taking food from a communal plate

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Using the back/ larger end of chopsticks when taking food from a communal plate

tinnywatty | Jun 17, 2012 06:34 PM

So whenever I eat Japanese or Chinese food with people other than my boyfriend, we transfer food from a communal plate to our own plates with the non-eating end of the chopsticks, then turn them around to eat. As far as I'm aware, this is common practice in chopstick-using restaurants since there is no designated serving utensil. (Boyfriend and I don't bother turning our chopsticks around, and if I'm grabbing something distinct like a piece of sushi and know I won't be touching any food but the piece I'm taking, I don't usually bother unless I'm with someone very formal, which might be a faux pas).

My question is this: is this not done in Korean restaurants/tradition? Yesterday, we (boyfriend & I) were graciously hosted for a meal out by a Korean family (mother and two children) that we know slightly. She explained to us that meals in Korean restaurants are usually eaten family-style. When she demonstrated how to eat the food (wrap rice, sauce and meat in a lettuce or sesame leaf, fold up) she didn't turn her chopsticks around, so we followed her example and didn't either. She ordered a spicy pork dish mainly for us and separated out a little dish of the meat for herself (kids didn't like pork) before we started eating, so I suppose there was no real eating-end of chopstick contact there except between boyfriend & I. But in the communal dishes of various kimchees and other sauces, no one seemed concerned about dipping the eating end of the chopsticks or the soup spoons.

I'm not super germaphobic in this kind of situation, but I'm curious if there is a custom difference with Korean food or if the difference was specific to the fact that there were kids involved and it was a fairly casual meal.

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