A chopstick set consists of two or more pairs of chopsticks, usually accompanied by accessories such as chopstick holders or “rests,” sushi rolling mats, cloth napkins, bowls, and other culinary items. The chopsticks included in a chopstick set are most commonly fashioned out of plastic or bamboo; however, these chopsticks are sometimes also made from metal, ivory, porcelain, and bone. Unlike disposable wooden chopsticks, which split apart and are typically dispensed in restaurants, chopsticks that come in a chopstick set are of higher quality, and often polished and decorated. The chopstick set has become a popular gift item in North America in recent years, due to the increasing popularity of both Asian cuisine and its signature aesthetic, which is characterized by such details as angular dishes and hand-painted designs.
In addition to being fashionable, the accessories typically found in a chopstick set also fulfill various functions in the preparation or serving of some of Asia’s most popular dishes. Sushi rolling mats, which are often included in a chopstick set and typically made of bamboo, are used in the preparation of maki sushi rolls. Sticky rice is spread over the bamboo mats, which are then rolled tightly to shape the maki roll. Another example is chopstick rests, also known as hashioki, which provide a resting space for chopsticks when they are not in use, and might otherwise slip out of small serving bowls. More elaborate chopstick sets, such as those which include earthenware such as rice bowls, soy sauce dispensers, or teapots, more accurately fall into the category of sushi sets or serving sets.
In addition to making a popular and affordable gift, a chopstick set also facilitates the “Bring your own Chopsticks” environmental movement, which aims to reduce both the deforestation and waste caused by disposable chopsticks. In some Asian countries, restaurant patrons who eschew the disposable chopsticks that come with their meals and bring along their own chopsticks instead are now often rewarded by the restaurant, either in the form of a discount or complimentary items. It has been claimed that 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks are thrown out every year in China.