Many of us have been to a Korean restaurant at least once (some of us much more frequently!) Therefore, you’ve probably noticed that the cutlery is slightly different than in other Asian restaurants. We’ll be exploring what eating utensils Koreans use, their history and some interesting myths behind them!
The Korean utensil set comprises of a long, shallow spoon known as ‘숟가락’ (sutgarak) and metal chopsticks known as ‘젓가락’ (jeotgarak) which explains the blended name ‘수저’ (sujeo). These metal chopsticks have rounded tips and an engraved design on the handle. How ornate the design is often depends on how expensive the chopsticks are; some of them are even hand painted.
The oldest chopsticks ever found were made out of brass and discovered in Henan, China. These chopsticks dated back to around 1200 BC! Although metal chopsticks are still used in other Asian countries, it is mainly a luxury item. Only with Korean cuisine are metal chopsticks commonly used in the modern day.
So, why are the chopsticks made out of metal? There are many reasons for this, some with more evidence behind them than others. Apparently, only royalty and Korean nobility used metal chopsticks. However, instead of being made out of iron like it is today, they were made from silver. While some believe the use of metal was just a status symbol and a sign of wealth, others believe something much more fascinating. Allegedly, silver would tarnish or turn black if their food was poisoned. Also, after the Korean War in the 1950s all the trees in the Korean peninsula had fallen so wood was a scarce resource. Iron ore is much more abundant in Korea and therefore iron was used to mass produce chopsticks.
So, that’s the history of Korean utensils! These are only some of the theories behind the ‘수저’. Next time you go to a Korean restaurant you’ll have a better idea about why the chopsticks are metal instead of wooden. Let’s just hope they don’t tarnish when you eat!
Featured Image Source: © photogrammer7, 22.02.17, pixabay.com