Follow These Chinese Eating Rules For A Perfect Meal

30November 2021

Did you know the Chinese have rules of etiquette for eating? It’s time to learn and follow these Chinese eating rules for a perfect meal.

The West is catching up with China and its cuisine. More and more westerners are eating Chinese food, and they may order some of the stranger dishes that people in China eat daily. 

However, there is no reason to be scared of Chinese food if you know what to avoid and eat it properly.

Welcome to the next article in our Chinese Food Focus: First Bite Series

Where in Wembley Can I eat Great Chinese Food?

Below is a brief list of implicit rules that Chinese people follow when it comes to their food.

01. Chinese Eating Rules – Don’t Mix the Dishes!

Chinese food gets served with many different dishes, and it can come as a bit confusing when you try to figure out where to start. The best way to start is to take one food dish at a time and eat it before going for another one.

Eating one at a time will ensure that you get used to the different spices, flavours and textures. Also, therefore you enjoy each dish without mixing too many tastes in your mouth at the same time.

02. Chinese Eating Rules – Be Careful With Your Chopsticks‘ Etiquette

Locals will use thin sticks to pick up food with bones in it and put those bones directly on the table instead of putting them in their mouths first and then throwing them onto the table later as foreigners do. 

They also believe it’s rude to use their chopsticks to pick up food from a shared dish because it’s like stealing. In addition, one should never cross chopsticks when putting them down on the table while eating or gesture with their chopsticks during a meal.

chinese-food-sweet-and-sour-with-chopsticks
Chinese food. Chicken with sweet and sour sauce

03. Chinese Eating Rules – Spoons are for Soup!

When you order a dish with soup in China, two spoons will come along with it: one for you and one for your soup. One spoon is for putting the soup in your mouth – do not pour it over your rice!

The other spoon is for when you want to eat some rice.

Chinese Noodle Soup
Chinese Noodle Soup

04. Chinese Eating Rules – Don’t Drink From the Bottle! 

In China, the Chinese use cups to drink tea, while bottles get filled with water. If you do not want to drink tap water, order a mineral water bottle and pour it into your cup.

That way, you will avoid potential problems with the local drinking tap water.

05. Chinese Eating Rules – Don’t Ask for Ketchup!

We have soy sauce and chilli sauce in China, but these are generally only used for specific dishes (like fried rice). 

So, if you want to eat all different types of Chinese food without making them taste like ketchup, then our chilli sauce is not for you.

06. Chinese Eating Rules – Watch Out with the Chilli!

If you are brave enough to use the chilli sauce without flinching, then it is time to learn about another piece of Chinese etiquette. 

Use the chopsticks to pick up some chilli sauce, but do not dip your meat in it! That is reserved only for cabbage or other vegetables that eaters see as “cool.”

07. Chinese Eating Rules – Keep Your Sauces On the Side! 

Some dishes come with a small cup of soy sauce on the side already. That is because the sauce might be too robust for the dish you are eating.

It will also add some extra flavour if you add a few drops of that into your dish while eating it.

Chinese Sweet Chilli Sauce
Chinese Sweet Chilli Sauce

08. Chinese Eating Rules – The More, the Merrier!

 In China, people love sharing their food with friends and family members, so everyone does gather around the table while eating. So, another rule about eating in China: always order more than you can eat! 

No matter how picky you might be, just let your friends know what food they can skip when they are ordering.

There are many ways to enjoy Chinese food. Understanding the context and knowing the dishes to eat like a “real” Chinese person is vital! 

Otherwise, it looks like you do not want them to join in on the meal – and nobody wants that.

09. Chinese Eating Rules – Miscellaneous Manners

    • It’s a positive act to try unfamiliar foods. How else would you broaden your palette or discover what else you might like?
    • Licking your chopsticks, like licking your knife or your fork, especially in a public setting, is bad form and should be avoided.
    • It is customary to allow older people to get started eating first 
    • Avoid eating the last of anything on a plate. Apart from bad luck, it gives the impression that you’re greedy, even if you are! It also conveys that perhaps there was not enough food available. If you’ve eaten the last, perhaps if there were more, you’d eat that too.
    • Don’t eat noisily – no crunching, sucking or groaning, even if in appreciation!
    • Don’t put your knives, forks or chopsticks into shared food – always use what’s provided for filling your plate or bowl.
    • Avoid picking at your teeth while at the dinner table
    • Don’t return food you’ve taken but not eaten to the shared plate
    • While eating, avoid affecting others who may be eating too.

Conclusion – Follow These Chinese Eating Rules For A Perfect Meal

Now clearly, the floor will not open up and swallow you if you were to break these rules. By paying attention to them, you at least live in the spirit of the cuisine. Also, you’ll avoid embarrassing yourself and those around you.

Previous article in the series: Most Popular Chinese Dishes Around The World.

Where in Wembley Can I eat Great Chinese Food?

If you’re aware of or know of any other Do’s and Dont’s around Chinese Cuisine etiquette, be sure to leave them in the comments section below.

Don McDonald

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