Nice to eat rice with the hand, say Asian experts

Hand to mouth: People using their hands to eat at a restaurant in George Town. — K.T. GOH/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Eating rice with the hand involves the adroit use of the thumb to slide rice soaked in sauce on the fingers into the mouth, says former president of Consumers International Datuk Anwar Fazal.

“I take all international visitors I host for vegetarian rice on banana leaf in Penang Gandhi Ashram.

“I give them a short lesson on how to eat with your hands in 10 easy steps, ” he said when presented with “advice” from self-proclaimed English etiquette expert Grant Harrold on how to eat rice.

Harrold, a former butler of Prince Charles and his sons, told his Twitter followers on March 6 to “remember we always use knife and fork or chopsticks to eat rice. We do not use our hands or fingers (sic).”

Anwar responded: “The only rice he can eat like that are perhaps ketupat or chicken rice balls.

“The art and science of eating developed differently in various civilisations. The earliest is the use of hands, followed by chopsticks and then cutlery, ” Anwar said.

Malaysian culinary maestro Chef Wan, also known as is Redzuawan Ismail, had even stronger words.

“Don’t bodohly (foolishly) follow white people’s thinking. Rice is a grain. It’s not like pasta you can catch with a fork, ” he said.

As far as eating utensils are concerned, Chef Wan said the spoon was “plain common sense and so convenient” to eat rice with.

“Asian cuisine is full of gulai (curries). If you only have a fork and knife, how are you going to scoop all that without a spoon?

“We have our culture too. There’s no right or wrong. If some of us love to eat rice with the hand, then it’s ok too. Don’t be so rigid, ” he said.

Thousands of people worldwide scoffed at Harrold’s view on how to eat rice.

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