4 Korean Chopsticks That Add Culture to Everyday Meals


There are many reasons why Koreans use metal chopsticks, but one thing’s for sure, they’ll liven up your dining set.

This post covers Korean chopsticks and:

  • interesting facts about them
  • 4 metal chopsticks that make great gifts

Let’s dig in!

Lingua Asia Korean Chopsticks

Why do Koreans use metal chopsticks?

Lingua Asia_Healthy Side Dishes in Korea

If you’ve traveled to Korea or Koreatown, you probably noticed that chopsticks are made of metal (they’re a bit heavy in the beginning) at Korean restaurants.

Historical Reason:

The most popular theory is based on metal chopsticks found in the tomb of a King of Baekje, dating back to 523 AD.

In the past, royal families of Korea used silver utensils to detect poison as they would change color when exposed to toxins. Silver also represented wealth as it did in many other cultures.

People wanted to be like the royals so they used the cheaper and more common alternative, metal!

Lingua Asia Korean chopsticks are reusable
Korean chopsticks are reusable!

Practical Reason:

Honestly, I just grew up using metal chopsticks without knowing why.

Koreans do use other chopsticks including wooden ones for cooking/frying or picnics, but metal ones are the easiest to clean/maintain and most durable, so people keep using them.

Also, spoon and chopsticks (수저) come in a set in Korea, because the local cuisine always includes a bowl of rice and soup. Since Koreans used spoons together with chopsticks (uncommon in other East Asian countries), they could still pick up banchan like tofu with the aid of a spoon.

So the theory is, using a spoon made it easier to use metal chopsticks instead of wood.

Some say the reason is that wooden chopsticks would char if they’re used to pick up BBQ meat, but most KBBQ restaurants now give out metal tongs to avoid spreading germs.
(Don’t let that stop you though. You can still quickly grab the best looking piece of meat with your metal chopsticks. 😉)

Why are Korean chopsticks flat?

Lingua Asia Bibimbap

There are a few theories why Korean chopsticks started being flat.

One is to use fewer materials to save costs during production.

Another reason is to increase grab stability. It’s easier to hold onto something with chopsticks if they have a flat surface.

One more interesting theory has to do with the structure of hanok (traditional Korean houses) where the kitchen was in a separate building. They had to set the portable table, then carry it from the kitchen to the dining room. If chopsticks were round, they would easily roll off the table, so they started making them flat.

What are the pros and cons of Korean metal chopsticks?

Lingua Asia Korean Metal Chopsticks
You’ll find metal spoons and chopsticks in a secret drawer at Korean restaurants!

Pros:

  • Super durable! You can’t break them even if you tried.
  • Eco-friendly! You can reuse them until you’re tired of them.
  • Sanitary
  • Dishwasher-safe
  • Heat-resistant
  • Small muscle and brain development! (Not so sure about this one, but that’s what Korean parents believe)
  • You get stronger! I developed crazy strength in my hands and ended up breaking disposable wooden chopsticks in Japan.
  • Can be used as a weapon in a pinch (please don’t do this!).

Cons:

  • Heavy, unless you grew up using them. You may get a cramp.
  • Can’t sneak them past a metal detector.

How to hold Korean chopsticks?

  1. Put one chopstick between your thumb and index finger, then rest it on your ring finger.
  2. Hold another chopstick with your thumb, index finger and middle finger.
  3. Move only the upper chopstick up and down to pick up food!

Seasoned veterans will grab a pair with one hand and the chopsticks find their places automatically.

📜Fun Fact About Lefties!

Like in many traditional cultures, older Koreans would hit your left hand if you tried to do anything with it. Especially if you used chopsticks or wrote left-handed. So, lefties naturally became ambidextrous.

This tradition is going away thankfully, so you can rest easy about being southpaw in Korea! They even made a song about how left-handed people aren’t a curse on the world.

The singer had to go to SNU so he could convince Korean parents.

Don’t you feel better knowing this information now? 🙂

Korean chopsticks sets for gifts

Korean chopsticks are a nice cultural gift that are also practical. My favorite kind!

💡 I sorted the items by price, from lowest to highest. They all come in a set that includes a spoon and chopsticks. They’re within the 4 USD to 50 USD range and will be an amazing gift for yourself or your loved ones!

1. Crane Stainless Steel Chopsticks

Lingua Asia Etsy Stainless Steel With Cranes

A pair of 9-inch-long Korean stainless-steel chopsticks.

This set has a very common design you’ll see all over Korea and Koreatown.

The engraved cranes are for good luck.

  • Price: $4.39

2. Turtle Stainless Steel Chopsticks

Lingua Asia Etsy Turtle Stainless Steel Chopsticks

A 100% high-quality stainless steel chopstick and spoon set from Korea.

It has a super cute turtle design that brings longevity!

You can make it a special gift as the seller offers custom engraving.

  • Price: $24.99+

3. Silver Stainless Steel Chopsticks

Lingua Asia Etsy Silver Stainless Steel Chopsticks

These traditional, yet modern pieces are very elegant.

The set makes a perfect gift for couples!

  • Price: $30.99+

4. Bronzeware Cutlery Set

Lingua Asia Etsy Bronzeware Cutlery Set

This beautiful hand-forged set is shipped directly from Gyeongju, the center of Korean heritage.

It’ll be a great gift for Korean in-laws, relatives or newlyweds, or a housewarming party.

  • Price: $49.99

 

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