Using Chopsticks

Eating 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.

The 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 enough food.

Drinks 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.

 

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