While chopsticks are an iconic symbol of Asian cuisine, travelers might be surprised that they are not often used by Thai people. The utensil of choice for Thai is typically a fork and spoon, and it’s because most traditional Thai dishes tend to be made with rice and small manageable pieces. Chopsticks are simply not efficient in picking up those types of food.
But that isn’t to say that Thai people never use chopsticks. A lot of Thai dishes are influenced by other Asian countries such as China and Japan where chopsticks are popular. Dishes such as noodle soups tend to be served with chopsticks.
Thailand is a country where you’ll find food served with chopsticks, forks, spoons or nothing at all (you eat with your hands). The only thing you might not find is a knife, and we’ll get to that later.
Read on to find out more about using chopsticks in Thailand and what to expect when it comes to which utensils to eat with!
Do Thai People Use Chopsticks?
As we mentioned, Thai people do use chopsticks, but probably not as often as you would expect. Thai locals typically only use chopsticks when they are eating dishes that can only be consumed with chopsticks, such as soup noodles.
Both chopsticks and forks are fine when it comes to fried noodles such as Pad See Ew and Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles). If you are dining out, you might find that you could be given chopsticks in one place and a fork in another for the same dish.
However, soup noodles are always eaten with chopsticks, and often with a spoon. The proper procedure is to pick up the noodles with your chopsticks, place them in your spoon, and then put it in your mouth. While the noodles are in your spoon, you can dunk them in the soup for extra flavor from the broth.
Why Don’t They Use Chopsticks Often In Thailand?
It is rather unusual that Thailand doesn’t use chopsticks frequently, especially when compared to other Asian countries. The Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans all use chopsticks, even with rice dishes that are notoriously difficult to pick up. So why don’t they use chopsticks often in Thailand?
Thailand doesn’t use chopsticks often because the tradition is not deeply rooted in its culture. Historically speaking, Thailand only got exposed to the culture of using chopsticks through trade with the Chinese and Chinese immigrants, which were believed to have arrived at least in the 12th century.
As of now, Thai Chinese constitute the biggest minority group in Thailand as well as the most prominent overseas Chinese population globally, accounting for around 11 to 14 percent of the country’s population. In fact, Bangkok’s Chinatown is the biggest in the world.
Historically speaking, Thailand has always been a country that uses its hands to eat. And even today, you can find many people eating with their hands, especially with dishes such as sticky rice and roti.
But eating with your hands was seen as barbaric. It was seen as a “caveman” style of eating in the West. So for the upper class and royal families to separate themselves from the poor, they began eating with forks, spoons, and knives.
Around the reign of King Rama IV (from 1851 to 1868), the Siamese upper classes started adapting the habit of using cutlery with their eating habits. They wanted to mimic the royalty of the West, which was seen as elegant and sophisticated.
Matter of fact, historians believe that the use of cutlery was seen as a sign of wealth and royalty. The use of cutlery was starting to be taught in school. Slowly and steadily, more and more of the country began using them to show that they are civilized. However, because Thai food is usually in small pieces, knives never really became popular.
So nowadays, forks and spoons are the most popular form of utensils in Thailand, though the Chinese influence has also made chopsticks a common sight.
Read More: Can You Drink Tap Water In Thailand?
Is Pad Thai Eaten With Chopsticks?
The national dish of Thailand, Pad Thai, is one of the dishes travelers are inevitably going to come across on their trip.
Trying it is something that should be on everyone’s Thailand bucket list. The dish is a stir-fried rice noodle dish, and it’s usually served with chopped peanuts, bean sprouts, chili flakes, eggs and your choice of protein.
One of the most common questions asked is whether Pad Thai is eaten with chopsticks or a fork.
Because it is a stir-fried noodle dish, Pad Thai can be eaten with a fork or chopsticks. When you are getting Pad Thai as street food, it is usually served with disposable chopsticks or a plastic fork. Restaurants tend to serve you with a metal fork, washable wooden chopsticks, or sometimes disposable chopsticks. It can go either way.
On the occasion that you are given chopsticks to eat Pad Thai with, you can ask the server for a fork. Most restaurants have forks available because most Thai dishes are eaten with forks and spoons. So don’t worry too much if you don’t know how to use chopsticks!
Related Reading: Here’s Where To Find The Best Pad Thai in Bangkok!
What Do You Eat Thai Curries With?
Thai curries are some of the most beloved dishes in Thailand. Whether you are eating a yellow, green curry, or a Massaman curry (our favorite), they all offer unique flavors and aromas that make it hard to resist. But what do you eat them with?
Thai curries are eaten with a fork and spoon. This allows you to scoop up the curry in a spoon, while using a fork to push the food onto the spoon. Thai curries are usually served with steamed jasmine rice, so you can mix the flavors of the curries with the rice for an even better taste and texture.
Under no circumstances should you eat Thai curries with chopsticks. If you do that, the ancestors will cry!
Related Reading: Is There Caffeine in Thai Iced Tea?
Things Not To Do With Chopsticks In Thailand
There are certain do’s and don’t’s when you are eating with chopsticks. Without the proper chopstick etiquette, what you do can be offensive to the Thai locals.
A lot of the don’ts stem from spiritual beliefs from Buddhism, which is why you might find it useful when visiting other Buddhist countries as well.
Here are some things to avoid doing with your chopsticks.
- Don’t play with them.
- Don’t EVER stick them straight up in a bowl of rice. It resembles burning incense to the dead.
- Don’t point at people with chopsticks.
- Don’t drop chopsticks on the floor.
- Don’t knock on the bowl or plate with your chopsticks. It makes a sound that resembles a beggar.
- Don’t cross your chopsticks in a cross.
- Don’t intercept food. If someone passes you food with their chopsticks, let them put it in your bowl or plate instead of you trying to pick it up with your chopsticks from their chopsticks.
- Don’t mix and match chopsticks.
Related Reading: Is There MSG in Thai Food?
Chopsticks In Thailand FAQs
Does Thailand Eat With Chopsticks?
Yes, the people in Thailand eat with chopsticks, but not all the time or as frequently as you think. Many of the dishes in Thailand are actually eaten with a fork and a spoon. Only dishes like soup noodles and Chinese-influenced dishes are typically eaten with chopsticks.
How To Say Chopsticks In Thai?
To say chopsticks in Thai, say ta-kiab (ตะเกียบ).
How To Say Fork In Thai?
To say fork in Thai, say sôrm (ส้อม).
So, Do They Use Chopsticks In Thailand?
If you have read the entire article, you might know that although you’ll find people using chopsticks in Thailand, they are not as common as you think. Thailand’s rich culture and cuisine has a mix of both Western and Eastern influences, so it’s common to find locals using both chopsticks and forks for different dishes.
As long as you have the proper etiquette when using chopsticks in Thailand, you’ll be able to enjoy your food without offending anyone!