3 Things To Know About Traditional Chinese Dining

Posted on: 29 July 2020


Chinese food has become one of the most sought-after items in North America. Your favorite Chinese restaurant will likely serve sweet and sour pork and General Tso's chicken, but these dishes are not always representative of authentic Chinese cuisine.

Traditional restaurants can offer you the opportunity to experience a piece of Chinese culture without leaving the country. Learn a bit more about traditional Chinese dining so that you can avoid culture shock when you visit your first authentic and traditional Chinese restaurant.

1. Expect Family-Style Dining

Traditional Chinese households and restaurants serve meals family-style. This means that several dishes are prepared in large quantities, then placed in the middle of the table for all guests to enjoy.

A traditional Chinese restaurant will usually bring each guest their own rice bowl. Lazy-Susan turntables are often found on the table that allow guests to rotate main course items for all to share. Be sure that you take into account the fact that you will be dining family-style when placing your order in a traditional Chinese restaurant.

2. The Menu May Vary

Most North Americans have come to expect a certain group of items to be listed on the menu at a Chinese restaurant. Traditional restaurants will have a limited menu based on the geographic part of China the restaurant owners call home. Chinese cuisine varies significantly from one region to the next. One of the more notable differences is the base food used for each meal.

Although rice is thought of as being the base food preferred by the Chinese, it is only the Southern regions that enjoy rice on a daily basis. The Northern part of the country is colder and drier, which is more conducive to growing wheat products. You are more likely to find dumplings, wheat noodles, and steamed buns on the menu at a traditional Northern Chinese restaurant.

3. Expect Whole Foods

Waste is something that is frowned upon in Chinese culture. In order to prevent food waste, most menu items are served whole in a traditional setting. This means you can expect to see whole foods when you visit a traditional Chinese restaurant.

If you order fish, you may receive an entire gutted fish on your plate — bones, head, tail, and all. The bones are often soft enough to chew along with the meat of the fish, but you will be given a separate plate on which you can spit bone splinters.

North Americans aren't used to being served whole foods, so be prepared for this type of presentation when visiting a traditional Chinese restaurant.

To learn more, talk to a Chinese restaurant in your area.