In some countries, eating with your hands is a traditional and common practice as opposed to Western culture, where eating with your hands is rarely considered proper etiquette. Yet, eating with your hands is in no way uncivilized or unhygienic as some may believe, and can enhance the experience of enjoying your meal.
Toronto is known for its diverse and multicultural cuisine options, but some restaurants are taking it a step further by exploring and sharing the traditional ways of eating with your hands while delving back to their cultural roots. So, ditch your fork and knives and dig in (literally.)
Pick a (boodle) fight with The Philippines
When I was five years old, I used to mock my uncle every time he came over for dinner as I watched him eat rice and chicken adobo with his hands. He did not use any knives to cut the chicken and did not use a spoon to pick up the sauce. He also always had banana leaves by his plate if the rice became too saucy between his fingers.
Twenty years later, I tried the same method when I visited the Philippines last summer. I remember my mom telling me that I would be joining my first boodle fight. I honestly assumed it had something to do with a Manny Pacquaio game. Instead, we all stood around a table lined with banana leaves displaying a ton of food that was up for grabs from shrimp, to pork chops, chicken kabobs and mangoes.
Some may refer to this practice as kamayan which translates to “eating with your hands.” You can try the same dining experience at Filipino restaurants in Toronto such as Boodle Fight, Lamesa Kitchen and Tinuno Thirty One.
Experience Euphoria with Ethiopian food
Get ready for a feast when dining at an Ethiopian restaurant. Similar to Filipino culture, having a communal meal when eating with your hands is the best way to enjoy a huge platter of food. Sharing from the same platter connects you to your food as well as deepening the bond among family and friends.
While Filipino cuisine will always include white rice, Ethiopians share this same type of love with injera – a flat, round fermented sourdough bread. Floppier than roti, it may take a few tries. Rip pieces of your injera with your right hand and use it to dip and scoop your food. Just remember not to use your left hand and do not lick your fingers. Visit restaurants such as Enat Buna, Ethopian House or Lalibela Restaurant.
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Food is better from under the sea
Eating is meant to be a sensory experience and eating with your hands simulates all five senses. Feeling the food in between your fingers tells your hungry stomach that you are about to eat allowing you to become more aware of tastes, textures and smells as it draws your eyes in.
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When it comes to seafood, it is bound to get messy (especially if you are me.) I tear apart my prawns and crab legs in an almost monstrous manner. But if you want to eat seafood where you do not have to be embarrassed by messy eating, try Louisiana-inspired restaurants such as The Captain’s Boil or Boil Bar. When eating at seafood restaurants, I’m accustomed to saving a slice of lemon to rub my hands to remove any extra oils and odours. But at these restaurants, you’re offered gloves and a bib so you can enjoy your meal without any worries.
This may come as a shock to you, but sushi is not always meant to be eaten using chopsticks. The best way to experience eating sushi is actually with your hands. By doing so, you give yourself more control of your meal and most importantly, you learn to appreciate the art form of sushi-making. A lot of care and technique goes into making sushi, so use your hands to appreciate the perfect temperature and texture of the fish and rice.
Using your hands also allows for a better grip when feeding it into your mouth or when dipping it into your soy sauce. If you’re eating nigiri, turn your sushi upside-down so that the fish dips into the soy sauce instead of the rice. This will also keep your sushi intact.
I must admit, during my lunch break I sometimes get fed up with chopsticks, so I secretly use my hands to eat my sushi in one bite, hiding behind my desktop. It turns out, I follow proper etiquette after all, but what I need to pay attention to is the rice! Another shocking fact about eating sushi is that it is actually about the rice and not the fish. A lot of time, energy and years of training goes into the rice that is actually prepared for you to eat with your hands. Don’t believe me? Try going to an upscale sushi bar such as Shoushin where the chef encourages you to use your hands.
Travel back to the Middle Ages at Medieval Times
Have you ever wanted a knight to wait on you, or would you rather be in the presence of a Queen? At Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament you can have both while you watch joust battles with prancing majestic horses. The moment you walk in you will feel like you traveled back in time. The best thing about this spectacle is that you get to eat a four-course meal fit for royalty where you are the special guest. There was no use for utensils during the Middle Ages so as a Noble, use your fingers to feast on garlic bread, soup, roasted chicken, corn and potatoes.
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