Most non-Asian cooks aren't aware that chopsticks are more than just an eating utensil. They also make great cooking tools. In fact, there are special cooking chopsticks (saibashi in Japanese) that are a little longer and sometimes joined at the end with a string for just that purpose. Faith recently wrote about how chopsticks are a preferred tool for making scrambled eggs, but there are many other reasons for keeping a pair of chopsticks near your stove. They are excellent for turning and lifting fried foods from a pot of hot fat, stirring noodles and soups, and they make great stir-fry tool, too.
Basically almost anything you can do with tongs, you can also do with chopsticks, and often you can do them better. Of course, you must feel comfortable and skilled with chopsticks before you use them for cooking, especially when working with the deep-fryer!
Julia Child was known for her love of chopsticks in the kitchen and would use them to fish a vegetable from a pot of boiling water to see if it was done. Other uses are grabbing olives and pickles from jars, mixing sauces, fluffing rice, flipping things in the oven. They even make great grilling implements.
Many people keep a variety of sizes on hand to customize according to need, from the larger, made-for-cooking chopsticks to smaller, child-sized versions. Plastic chopsticks would melt and metal ones will conduct the heat, so be careful about adopting just any old pair as your kitchen tool. The best material is obviously wood, with bamboo taking top marks.
Do you cook with chopsticks? What's your favorite use for chopsticks in the kitchen?
Related: No Cherry Pitter? Use a Chop Stick
(Image: Leela Cyd Ross)