Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

Upon a quirky discovery in Dubai, wondering when a chopstick is no longer a chopstick

After accidentally discovering a little-known Dubai attraction, we delve further into the uncharted world of records related to chopsticks

Krishna takes a selfie outside Chopstix. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Krishna takes a selfie outside Chopstix. Chris Whiteoak / The National

I recently found myself spending a few unexpected days in Dubai’s Deira district, and I thought I knew what to expect from this fairly unassuming but undeniably charming part of town.

Bargain curries, easy access to the airport and cheap accommodation were essentially as much as I needed, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that this neighbourhood has its very own world record that is feted in few tourist guides. Downtown Dubai may have the world’s tallest building, and Dubai Marina might be home to the world’s tallest twisted building, but Chopstix Restaurant in Deira’s Marco Polo Hotel has what were once named the “world’s longest chopsticks”.

When I stumbled across this unexpected quirk, the restaurant was closed for refurbishment and no one seemed to know when or if it would reopen. Thankfully for passing tourists, though, the chopsticks are proudly on display on the pavement outside the hotel, where you can gaze in awe at this bizarre attraction in all its 6.7-metre glory.

In truth, the record-breaking display probably doesn’t warrant setting aside a whole day to visit, but if you’re in the area it’s worth popping by to say you have – and I am led to understand the restaurant is actually well-liked when it’s open. It will certainly make you scratch your head and wonder what other bizarre records may be out there. I certainly did.

Chopsticks alone practically warrant their own chapter in the Guinness World Records, so innumerable are the efforts to beat previous records – from most M&Ms/Smarties eaten in one minute using chopsticks (65 by Kathryn Radcliffe in the UK) to most catches of a bouncing 43-millimetre ball using a pair of chopsticks while simultaneously bouncing a paddleball (six, by Brian Pankey, US). It all gets very specific after that: there is also the most fidget spinners consecutively stopped by passing a chopstick through the bearing holes, a record that was beaten by Canadian Norbi Whitney. No chopsticks-related record has been left untouched.

The chopsticks hanging up outside the Marco Polo Hotel in Deira, Dubai, were once the world’s longest. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The chopsticks hanging up outside the Marco Polo Hotel in Deira, Dubai, were once the world’s longest. Chris Whiteoak / The National

In the case of Chopstix’s April 2008 record, it took the hotel staff one month to prepare, and the Dubai chopsticks beat the previous record-holder, which was a paltry 6.29-metre set of chopsticks housed at the Museum of Food and Drink in the northeast Chinese city of Shenyang.

Marco Polo Hotel’s vice president Sunil Marya said at the time they achieved this feat: “It is really a tremendous feeling having this certificate and being in the book of world records, especially from Guinness, for the first time. I can say that all of our team’s effort has paid off well.”

Are chopsticks defined by their form, or their function? Clearly no one would even be able to eat with these, and without being realistically capable of doing what they are supposed to do, are they actually chopsticks at all?

The bad news, after all that effort, is that in the cut-throat world of chopsticks records, you can never relax – in 2010, the Dubai record was cruelly snatched away by Oregon high-school senior Zhuang Zhuang Zhao and chainsaw carver Josh Blewitt, who crafted a whopping 9.14-metre set of chopsticks from giant logs. These monsters are now on display outside Marsh’s Free Museum in Long Beach, Oregon.

I must admit, as I looked deeper into the mechanics of creating world-beating chopsticks, with chainsaws and logs coming to the fore, I couldn’t help but wonder at what point a chopstick ceases to be a chopstick and simply becomes a beam with some Chinese characters engraved on it.

Are chopsticks defined by their form, or their function? Clearly no one would even be able to eat with these, and without being realistically capable of doing what they are supposed to do, are they actually chopsticks at all?

I certainly hadn’t anticipated that such philosophical questions would arise from my surprise discovery of this little-known culinary marvel. And that only makes me more likely to recommend a visit.

It’s an unexpectedly educational experience, and who knows what debates may follow.

Updated: July 16, 2019 03:58 AM

SHARE

SHARE