Different countries have different eating customs. You may have tasted Chinese food in your country, but things are different in China. If you are planning a trip to China, this article will help you to know the basic facts about eating in China.
1. Chinese use chopsticks to pick up food, not knives and forks. See Chopsticks to learn how to use them and to learn about chopstick taboos.
2. Wheat noodles are the main staple diet in northern China, while rice is the main staple in the south. Restaurants in southern China also offer noodles, but they are usually rice noodles.
3. Rice is served separately (in shared meals): in small bowls. Meat/vegetable dishes are served on plates or in bigger bowls, placed in the middle for everyone to share. It's not one plate each, like in the West (unless eating fast food)!
4. Chinese cuisine varies across China. There are many regional cuisines with different flavors: spicy, sweet, sour, hearty, etc. Read more about China's regional cuisines.
5. Restaurants usually provide a round table for more than four persons. There may be a tempered glass lazy Susan in the middle of the table, which swivels round enabling you to reach each dish easily.
6. Ingredients of Chinese food are various and sometimes shocking to foreigners (frogs, chickens' feet, pigs' ears, intestines, dog meat, etc.). See unusual ingredients in Chinese cooking.
7. There are usually no salt or pepper shakers, or bottles of tomato sauce on the table. But in compensation you may find bottles of soy sauce, vinegar, and chili paste.
8. Some Chinese restaurants can be quite noisy and smoky where people don't control their talking volume or smoking; though bans on smoking in public places have recently been implemented in some areas.
9. Tips are not expected in Chinese restaurants. The service fee is included in the food prices.
10. If the Chinese friend you are eating with put food on your plate, it's to show closeness and friendliness, not because they don't want it, or think you can't do it yourself. Nowadays this happens more often at family meals , where the young pass on food to their elders to show respect.
Travel to China and Experience Chinese Eating
To learn more facts about Chinese eating, take one of our private China tours.You may find out more interesting eating habits of the Chinese. See our recommended tours below for inspiration:
- 8-Day Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai tour — the Golden Triangle Tour
- 12-Day Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Guilin, and Hong Kong Cuisine Tour—the Flavor of China