Indonesia Banget #25: Eating With Hand

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This post is related to previous Indonesia banget post called The Floor Sitter. This is a very short Indonesia Banget post 😉

Here in Indonesia, you can easily find people who enjoy eating with their hand instead of using spoon and fork. Spoon and fork are used after the Westerners came to Indonesia, chopsticks are used after the Chinese and Japanese came to Indonesia…long before they came, we use our hands. Till this day, many people are still using their hands.

I am going to exclude the overly rich people because those people already feel that using hand is disgusting.

When I say using hand, I mean RIGHT hand. The custom is left hand to wipe your ass and right hand to shake hands and to eat. NO ONE EATS WITH THEIR LEFT HAND, with or without the help of spoon. It is considered impolite and dirty to use left hand to eat.

Some of you might think that hands are dirty and unthinkable to eat straight with our hand…but the truth is we wash our hands thoroughly before eating.

The amount of people using spoon and fork is rising each year but the one using their hands are still more than those using spoon. The Sumatran can even use their hand to eat rice soak in soup water. My father is one of them.

If you never eat rice with your right hand, you might think that it’s an easy task…but, I know a Japanese woman who once married to an Indonesian. She told me than she tried to be polite with her husband family by trying to eat with her hand, she who mostly uses chopstick and spoon told me that her rice often fell from between her fingers. It was very difficult for her.

At home, I often use my hands rather than using spoon…but when I am at the office or other place, I prefer using spoon because for me using hand means comfort and comfort is something I find at home.

Have you ever tried eating rice with your hand? 😉


  1. oooh, I’d never get used to eating with my hands on the floor 🙂 I’d have to carry a spoon with me everywhere LOL Especially since I don’t like rice. I use it only for stuffing things or when making some fritters.

    1. Don’t worry Dez…you don’t have to carry spoon, we have it here 😉

      Rice has been our main meal for ages, we sort of get used to it since baby. I can understand why you don’t like rice that much.

  2. I think the best way to eat chicken (non fillet/boneless) is using hand. I think it’s so hard peeling all the meat off the bones using spoon/fork. You can’t enjoy all the meat when you use spoon/fork. When it comes to eating chicken, definitely go with hands! (y)

  3. We have the notion of what we call “Finger Food” here in the US, but it is mainly for lil’ snacks and nuggets of snacks, not for loose things like rice. 😉

    I have never tried to eat rice with my fingers, but I have gotten pretty good at eating it the way they do in India and parts of Africa where you tear off a small piece of thin flat-bread like Roti or Injera and grab some rice or stew with it to eat. I like eating that way a lot!!

    My Mom and Grandma ate with chopsticks occasionally when I was a child… and I could do it fairly well when I was little, but somehow I’ve completely lost that skill over the years!!! So sad….. 😦

    1. I guess only in my part of the world you can find people eating Rice with hand 😉
      As for snack and other you called fingers food…we also use our fingers 😉

      Eating rice with Injera or roti is easier…the rice won’t fall down, they will be trapped in that injera. The idea is quite the same, you have to trap the rice in between your fingers.

      I thought once you can use chopstick, you’ll be able to do it for life…I guess I was wrong 😉

      1. Hahaha!! I always seem to be the exception to most rules. 😉

        I was able to do it fairly well when I was 5 or 6, but just got out of the habit after that. Mostly I think because when I started school I was using spoons and forks exclusively so I would be able to eat in school with the other kids. I never realized how out of practice I had gotten until sometime my first year of college when a quick trip to a fancy Chinese restaurant in the city with friends revealed just how much I’d forgotten of the technique….

  4. I used to eat with my hands for a long time which isn’t accepted in Europe and my parents were most upset. later they negotiated and I started to eat with chop sticks. Only when I was almost in my teesn I switched to forks and spoons… I also never wanted to wear shoes unless it was cold and stopped walking barefoot at 20. A freind of mine belives in reincarnatio and say he’s sure I used to be an Asian in my former lives. 🙂

    1. Why didn’t you want to use spoon when you were little? do you remember?

      Talking about eating with hands is unacceptable in Europe, I become curious of the European living here, or the one married to Indonesian…I wonder how they feel eating with hand 😉

      You like walking barefoot?? then I think you indeed belong here with us 😉

        1. hehe…I bet they’ll have a big shock seeing Indonesian people 😉
          There were some occasions where people ate food from a big plate or unbroken banana leaf together…everyone’s hands were mixed together with the food. I quite like that occasion…it gave a feeling of closeness.

  5. I frequently eat with my hands. For instance, I wouldn’t think of eating a sandwich with a knife and fork, though I could be done. Same thing for fried chicken. I’ve been known to eat things others eat with a fork if no one is looking. I also wash my hands a lot.

    1. I think Sandwich and Chicken are quite common with hand. Have you ever tried eating rice with hand, Audrey? Do you like Rice? I know that rice is not a daily food in US and Europe.

      1. Yep, I have. Many times. It depends on the rice as to how well it goes. The way my mother cooks rice comes out with each grain separate and intact. That’s really hard to eat with my fingers. Especially since if she catches me using my fingers she’ll swat me with a spoon. I cook it so that it sticks together. Then I can pick it up easily by squishing it into little clumps. If it’s really sticky, it will even stay together as I drag it through my curry. Yum.

          1. Here…we cook it both way, separate an sticky…it depends on which one someone likes to eat.

            hehehe you’re not weird, Audrey…you are just a bit Asian 😉
            You do well adapting to our custom.

  6. We don’t eat with hands too, but at the same time it isn’t that different or unacceptable (like in Europe). For example we have special breads for eating meat and if there is that type of bread and that type of meat on the table we use hands for eating ( is the bread,çöp+şiş.JPG is the meat 🙂 it is really deliciousss… ). Arabs are usually use hands too. I met a woman from Dubai, we had a meal and she ate rice with hands without spilling (I couldn’t do it and used my spoon).
    By the way, eating with right hand is common here too we use fork-spoon with right hand. (Mostly because, it is Sunnah)

    1. Oh…I thought Turkish also eat with hands…I guess I was wrong. Nice to learn something new here 🙂
      That meat looks like Sate here in my country.
      I know Arabs also use hand, I think it’s because Prophet also used hand.
      I think using right hand is no longer because of sunnah here, it’s more like being polite or not. Even the Christians in my country use right hand. Using left hand for eating will make you being looked on by people…that’s the hand to clean your butt not for eating 😉

  7. Actually Turks were eating with hands too (even in Ottoman palaces) but in the late 1800s, as a result of Westernization movement, using fork and knife became widespread. But like I said eating with hand isn’t that “no-no” like In Europe. By the way eating with hand is sunnah too and we show respect for bread so we eat it with hand.
    I mean we use our hands more than West and less than East 🙂

    1. Ah…yes, I know about the westernization in Turky.
      Since it is not exactly a no-no to use hand, I guess we Indonesian can freely eat with hand in Turky 😉

      A backpacker from Indonesia once said that she felt more like home in Turk than other countries in Europe.

      1. Yes, yes of course. We gladly welcome you 🙂
        By the way, our only far eastern tourists are coming from Japan. Other far eastern countries don’t know us that much I guess…

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