Kitchen essentials | chopsticks

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You don't need to be eating Chinese or Japanese food to find uses for a pair of chopsticks. And you don't need to use them like the chef/dad in Eat Drink Man Woman who kills a carp with a swift jab through the mouth.

You don't need to be eating Chinese or Japanese food to find uses for a pair of chopsticks. And you don't need to use them like the chef/dad in Eat Drink Man Woman who kills a carp with a swift jab through the mouth.

Cooking with chopsticks takes several forms, but the one most commonly observed in my house is manipulating Asian noodles. At every stage, from first softening in the pot till their steaming journey from serving bowl to plate, nothing seems to work better. And I've tried everything, including spaghetti forks. As the noodles start to loosen up, they must be separated or they'll stick together. Shaking and poking with chopsticks makes sure it happens.

But their uses don't end with noodles. Few kitchen instruments give such precise control when you want to fish garlic or a bay leaf from a pot. If you're skilled, you can use them for turning meat or veg in a frying pan. And if you have a wok without a steamer insert, four crisscrossed chopsticks do the job perfectly.

But, of course, most people will use them for eating Chinese and Japanese food. You can invest in fancy sticks made from lacquered wood or even silver. But I am quite content to use plain old wooden or plastic jobbies - though for cooking, only wood will do. The easiest to use are those with a square-sided section on the part where your hands go.

Chopsticks are cheapest in Asian supermarkets or shops, which may sell the longer version designed for cooking. That, however, is for fanatics only.

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