THE BLOG
03/17/2014 04:54 am ET | Updated May 17, 2014

OTP's Guide to Eating With Your Hands

Give your spork a rest and dive in with your digits.
2014-02-26-eatingwithyourhands1.jpg
Photo by: Margaretglin

Everyone around the world can agree that food is fucking great, but the way we eat it can be as different as a schoolgirl and a call girl. A dinner in France can go on for seven courses and feature as many types of booze as there are tiny forks. In Burma or China, one person usually orders a smorgasbord for the table, and diners take turns picking at stuff with chopsticks. Southerners in the U.S. worship their BBQ like Turks follow coffee fortunes. We drink it, smoke it, stab it, stick it and savor it a million different ways, but there are only a handful of countries in the world where food really gets under your nails. Mama may have told you it's rude to eat with your hands, but in some places, even your mother's got to roll up and dig in.

India
2014-02-26-eatingwithyourhands2.jpg
Photo by: Wikipedia

Oprah recently pissed off the Indians by referring to their country as a place where people "still" eat with their hands. Indians get down and dirty with their food because they believe using their fingers allows a deeper connection with the spicy, delicious grub that keeps them fueled. Curries, soupy meat dishes, and saucy vegetables are scooped onto roti, naan or chapatti -- or served with rice.

How to Chow

Using your right hand, move the food between your fingers and thumb to create a small ball, and then use your thumb to push it in. Make sure to dodge any bones if you're meat-eating, and try not to show any top-side finger stains unless you're looking to be demoted to the dining newbie.

Ethiopia
2014-02-26-eatingwithyourhands3.jpg
Photo by: avry

Ethiopians keep it saucy like the Indians, but instead of using a boring ol' flour-based bread to sop everything up, they employ injera, a traditional flatbread made of native teff flour. It may look and feel like a pock-marked latex mask, but this stuff beats globally-praised San Francisco sourdoughs hands down. Food is served in a bunch of colorful mounds on top of the spongy injera pancake, with an extra piece of injera rolled up on the side. Berbere is an African spice blend used for flavoring many Ethiopian dishes and will give your taste buds a jolt.

How to Chow

Tear off a little injera and roll it around a bit of your preferred mound. Once your side roll is all munched-up, tear pieces of the saucy injera from underneath the mounds to finish off the meal. Just like everywhere else, the digging in is only done with your right hand, as your left hand is reserved for wiping your ass. All you lefties better learn to be ambidextrous real quick.

Indonesia
2014-02-26-eatingwithyourhands4.jpg
Photo by: Jonathan Lin

Due to the influx of Western tourism and their political history with Japan and China, many Indonesians eat with forks, spoons or chopsticks (never with knives) but it's still a pretty handy place. Their cuisine varies greatly across the islands, but a few national dishes guarantee to make your hand-to-mouth experience a true taste of Indonesian culture. Nasi goreng (fried rice), saucy gado-gado, satay (meat-skewers), and face-warming soto (soup) are the pride of the place.

How to Chow

Meat on sticks, small plates, and soup are all meant to be eaten with your hands and face. Unlike in India or Bangladesh, where all restaurants have a communal hand-washing stations, in Indonesia, you'll be given a small bowl of water (kobokan) to wash up before chowing down. Fish is uber popular on this island nation, and after the meal it's common to use lime to get that fishy stank off your digits.

Pakistan
2014-02-26-eatingwithyourhands5.jpg
Photo by: Asad Durrani

If you want to spoon you can do it here. While Pakistanis use cutlery for some dishes, the fork takes a backseat to its shapely sister. Here, you'll find a lot of super-spiced stews that pack in flavor through the use of cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and all kinds of ass-tickling chillies.

How to Chow

If food is served on a banana leaf, you're expected to use your hands. Grab the rice first, create an Indian-style rice ball, and then dip it into the sauce on the banana leaf. While it's still balled up, grab a piece of meat or veggie and put the whole package between your lips. Oil on your chin means you're doing it right.

OTP Tip: Girls: keep your grubby paws away from plate of a Muslim dude -- he won't be able to eat his food if you touch it.

Mexico
2014-02-26-eatingwithyourhands6.jpg
Photo by: rpavich

Mexico is a huge country with all kinds of delicious food floating around. While authentic Mexican (like mole) takes the love and time of someone's abuelita to concoct, the street food here is meant to satiate with quick, portable bites packed with flavor. Outside, you'll find steamed tamales, quesadillas, tortas, and of course, almighty tacos. Flavors, ingredients, and preparations vary widely across the many regions of Mexico but from Oaxaca to Chiapas, prepare to get spicy goodness all over your pointer finger.

How to Chow

We're not going to tell you how to eat a taco but we will slap the shit out of your wrists if you try to approach them with a fork and knife. Make sure you get a good lime-to-cilantro ratio going and you're golden.

Your hands make pretty brilliant utensils and shoving them into the world's various little mounds, wraps and stews offers a full body experience of your food. Snooty salad forks be damned! The world is full of all kinds of ways to play with your food.

Written by: Lisette Cheresson