Have you ever eaten with your hands?
…hot dogs and sandwiches and kebabs and fried chicken…
But, what about a piping hot plate of rice and curry?
Unless you’ve been to Sub-Saharan Africa, parts of central Asia (mostly meaning India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar – around this area of Asia) or the Middle East, eating rice and curry with your hands was probably not the custom.
If you have been to one of these destinations, you’ll have definitely encountered a plate of rice and runny curry with only your natural hands to eat with!
When it comes to Sri Lankan food, the majority of people eat rice with their hands, but eat other dishes with spoons.
To make this article a bit easier I made a quick video while I was in Sri Lanka about how to eat with your hands.
Here are a few steps written out:
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1. Wash Your Hands
Whenever a restaurant knows their customers with be digging-in fingers first, they will either have a sink (hopefully with soap), or they will provide a pitcher of water and a bucket for you to rinse off your hands.
In the case of nyama choma, there’s always a pitcher of water to wash your hands before eating.
2. Eat Only with Your Right Hand!
This is important…
Remember the article I wrote a few weeks ago explaining how to use a squat toilet?
Well it just so happens that eating with your fingers and using a squat toilet are two very different tasks that should be conducted with opposite hands.
You right hand is used for eating!
3. Use the Tips of Your Fingers
I often call it eating with your hands, but actually, it’s more about eating with your fingers.
You don’t want to just grab an entire fist-full of rice and curry when you are eating…you want to lightly grab food with the tips and lengths of your fingers.
4. Mix Your Food, Then Grab a Chunk
Even in India and Sri Lanka where silverware sets are available, many still choose to eat rice and curry with their hands.
Because I think it just tastes a little better.
Plus, you can easily play a little bit with your food, mix the rice and sauce to the perfect desired consistency, and feel the food you’re about to eat!
After you mix things around a bit, you sort of smush a chunk together to make it slightly compact before inserting it into your mouth.
Another Note: Eating with my hands while growing up in Africa, I just sort of grabbed food from the plate, however in Sri Lanka it is customary to begin eating from the part of the plate that is closest to you. You then create a little hole of rice in your plate and have a little area to work with (thanks to a video comment on Youtube!).
5. Lower Your Head and Lift Food to Mouth
One technique that works well is to slightly lower your head in a sideways manner – a little more than you would when you’re eating with a spoon.
6. Push Food into Your Mouth with Your Thumb
The final step before the rice and curry reaches your mouth is to gently release the food into your mouth with your thumb pushing the rice off your finger tips.
If some rice falls, no problem as your head is slightly lower than normal and your plate is immediately below.
Depending on the consistency of the curry your hands will definitely get a little caked in sauces – but that’s alright too, you’ve just got to get used to it!
7. Repeat Until Plate is Clean!
The last step is to continue the process until your plate is completely clean and you are ready to ask for seconds!
Just remember to always use only your right hand, even if you have a piece of roti that you need torn in half, you should do it with just your right hand.
When you’re finally stuffed, wash your hands again and you’re ready to go.
Do you like eating with your hands?