Chinese Food & Dining

As a rule of thumb whenever you’re invited to a dinner whether in a restaurant or at someone’s house you shouldn’t go (very) hungry. The invitation by itself implies more or less a social gathering and when accompanied by Chinese food (in this case) people feel better and more relaxed.

The food that actually is going to be served to you and others should be enjoyed in small pieces and bites within a period of time. It’s more about tasting and expressing your likes. Usually, the conversation is light covering topics about everyday life, art, and entertainment without politics or religion.

 

What to know when eating in China

When you are invited to a Chinese house for dining the best advice would be to simply follow your host’s gestures and encouragements to lead your way. There are few things to keep in mind for you not to offend the host in any way. Firstly you should expect that you will be encouraged during your meals constantly by the host to eat, simply because is considered as a manner of good hospitality and politeness in China. Don’t take it personally thinking that maybe you are too thin or fat and that’s the real reason.

For your own good don’t eat too fast because you’ll be urged to take more of the food served and refusing it will be a bad gesture and disrespectful. For you not to feel overeaten and inconvenient eat small bites with pause and wait for the host to have his last word asking you to take your last bite.  Also if you finish your meal too fast the host will be offended thinking that he didn’t succeed to feed you well. Consider not leaving leftovers or uneaten food as it is offensive signifying that you may not care enough for the food.

Don’t start eating before the host does or the honored guest. But, if you are the honored one then others should wait for your first bite and invitation to start the meal. The guest of honor will take the seat facing the entrance door or if the meal is served in the garden, at the open then he should be seated facing east.

 

Chinese food
Chinese dining table

The tables are usually round, which I prefer better, without edges a feeling of coziness and warmth are more present. Instead of passing the food, when there are many people at the table, a rotating surface on the table may be placed on which the food will be served where anyone can make a spin so to reach for the desired dish. Be considerate of the others and take small portions of your favorites always allowing a space for another pouring if available after everyone is served.

Chinese meals are community servings but the rice will be served separately. When you eat rice you should place your thumb on the mouth of the bowl and the other fingers at the bottom without touching the bowl with your palm so to avoid burning from the hot meal. Hold the rice bowl in the left hand and bring it closer to the mouth when taking your rice bites with the chopsticks in the right hand. Also, don’t place your chopsticks vertically stuck in the rice bowl since it’s considered particularly rude and careless because it is associated with some funeral traditions. It may look like they are drumsticks but are not – the chopsticks. Be careful and use them only for eating, not for playing. Although they look harmless, the chopsticks, playing or gesturing while talking or waving with your hand in the air when at the table it will be quite impolite. It’s exactly as if you were doing it with a knife or a fork.

Eating with chopsticks needs practice. When dining in Chinese restaurants usually you can ask for a fork, but not for knife since the knife is considered cruel and inappropriate to be at the table. When you are poured a tea in the restaurant tap with your index finger and middle finger two times on the table to give a sign that you are satisfied with the service. If you were invited to the restaurant the rule is that the one that does the inviting pays the bill. If you insist on paying the bill it would be extremely rude and insulting to the host signifying that he cannot pay the bill.

One of the best things that I found about the Chinese dining etiquette is the place setting. The thing that the table isn’t overcrowded with cutlery it’s a relief. Instead of counting your knives, forks, and spoons and thinking which one to use for what, at the Chinese table you’ll find only a pair of chopsticks and a spoon. There will be a large plate, a rice bowl a teacup and probably a chopstick placer, a glass for wine and a small glass for baijiu (a Chinese liquor made of grains).

 

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Best Chinese dishes you need to try:

 

PEKING DUCK

Probably the most popular Chinese delicates. The duck meat is marinated (and should sleepover for a while) then cooked in the oven. This dish requires time for preparation. The final result is juicy delicious slices of little pieces of meat with crispy skin served with a plum sauce.

KUNG PAO CHICKEN

It’s a spicy, stir-fried Chinese dish made with chicken, peanuts, vegetables, and chili peppers. Originating from the Sichuan Province of China may include Sichuan peppercorns. Previously marinated chicken is quickly fried in a hot oil with the other ingredients. 

SPRING ROLL

Another quite popular snack among Chinese people. Deep-fried made with spring roll wrappers with different fillings containing chicken or shrimp, vegetables, and soy sauce, served as a snack or main course.

MA PO TOFU

A quickly cooked dish that consists of tofu in a spicy sauce, with pork or beef and fermented black beans, fermented broad bean paste, along with hot red pepper and Sichuan pepper.

WONTON SOUP

A Chinese type of dumplings stuffed with meat or vegetables with soup. Prepared with wonton filling which can be any combination of meat and spices, but the classic one includes pork and shrimp, rolled in the wrapper. Afterward,  the wontons are boiled into the water along with the rest of the green veggies and seasonings. 

ZHAJIANGMIAN

Noodles with soybean paste. A Chinese dish consisting of thick wheat noodles topped with zhajiang sauce.

SHANGHAI FRIED NOODLES

 Preparation method: Cut the meat, chicken, pork or beef into small pieces. Marinade the meat for 20-30 min. In the meantime prepare the Shangai noodles (that can be bought) in the boiling water. Afterward stir-fried whole ingredients for a few minutes in a frying pan, including spring onion and seasonings.

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FRIED RICE

 A previously cooked rice left to cool off in a fridge. Later, stirred in a frying pan, mixed with vegetables, eggs, seafood or meat, soy and sesame sauce. An easy to prepare dish that will take only about 15-20 min. It can be served as a main meal or a side dish.

LO MEIN

Lo mein is a Chinese dish with wheat flour noodles. It often contains vegetables and some type of meat or seafood, usually beef, chicken, pork, shrimp.

LO MAI CHI

It is a type of Chinese pastry, dumplings made of glutinous rice flour. Fillings can be various, like sesame paste and coated with desiccated coconut or with roasted peanut. They look like small white balls and can be found in the Asian bakeries. 

 

read more: CHINA FOOD TOURS