Chinese food would not be as enjoyable if the wrong utensils were used.
Chopsticks are a tradition that has been used centuries ago. The
history of chopsticks began during the times of Confucius because of
his abhorrence towards knives, which are potentially dangerous weapons.
Using two slim and slippery sticks to pick up grains of rice and little
pieces of meats and vegetables is actually not a difficult task to
accomplish. In fact, there are foreigners who are as competent in using
the chopsticks as the Chinese. When dining with Chinese friends or
business partners, it is always better to try learning how to maneuver
the chopsticks. You should only ask for a fork and spoon when all else
fails. It is perfectly acceptable for you to lift up your bowl and
delve the tiny grains of rice into your mouth using the chopsticks.
Scraping and slurping are not considered a gaffe among the Chinese.
correct method for using chopsticks would be to point together the thin
ends of the stick towards the food. One chopstick is held firmly
between the joint of your thumb and the inside tip of your index
finger. The other stick is held between the tip of your thumb and the
tip of your first finger. The first chopstick remains static while you
move the second stick in a pincer motion to pick up the food.
In Hunan, elongated
chopsticks are supplied in restaurants. It is said that people feed
each other across the table because the chopsticks are too long to
maneuver the ends into their own mouths.
How to Order
When ordering a
Chinese meal, start with a cold dish appetizer to whet your taste buds.
A bowl of clear, light-broth soup may be served before the main entrees
are served. This hot soup helps to keep you warm, especially in winter.
The types of main dishes you order are to your discretion and taste.
However, a proper Chinese meal should include sufficient spicy and
savory dishes to make the neutral and relative blandness of steamed
rice an essential balancing agent. Finally, a happy ending to the meal
is with dessert, which is usually in the form of sweet soup. There are
many kinds of Chinese desserts available, from puddings to pancakes and
soups to ice cream, all of which are equally luscious to the mouth.
Dining the Chinese
style differs from Western cultures. When going to Chinese restaurants,
it is more enjoyable to invite a large group of people so as to sample
more dishes. Most Chinese restaurants cater to groups of at least four
or more, although tables for two can be found.
To get into the
spirit of Chinese dining, let loose and just enjoy the food. Chinese
people are inclined to eat with extreme zest, plenty of soup slurping,
and talking. Eating is, to them, a form of celebration even though
there may be nothing special to revel on.
However, there are a
few rules in Chinese dining that need attention. The Asian style of
eating is to order several dishes of food, which are served in the
middle of the table and shared by all. It is unlike the Western style
of an ala-carte menu with individual servings. Each diner will be
served a bowl of rice to complement the dishes on the table. The rice
may be topped up when finished. Taking food from the center of the
table and putting it directly into your mouth is regarded as impolite.
Normally, the Chinese would pick the food and put it into their bowls
first. It is also customary for a guest of a formal or traditional
dinner to not finish all the food in the center. This is to avoid
embarrassing your host who may feel that he or she has not offered
always accompany food. Chinese tea is the main drink served in
restaurants. Other types of drinks are available, but tea is considered
to be the most refreshing, especially after the consumption of oily
food. Each table would have a teapot or two, which is constantly
refilled. To ask for a refill, simply turn over the pot cover and place
it at the top of the pot's opening. As a matter of courtesy, refill the
cups of your fellow diners first before turning to yours, even when
theirs is not empty. There are many different kinds of tea supplied in
restaurants and it is often up to you to pick the tea of your choice.
If unsure about the taste of tea, do not hesitate to ask the waiters or
waitresses for recommendations.