Chinese Restaurant DOs and DON’Ts

by Jason

Do you like Chinese food? Of course you do; no one in their right mind can’t resist the sights and smells of Chinese cuisine… well maybe vegans… vegans and assholes. Picture this: sitting down in your favourite Chinese spot ready to smash on some awesome chow mein or braised pork belly and mustard greens, and you serve yourself, stick your chopsticks upright in your bowl of soy sauce ladened white rice and the place screeches to a halt. Like any other culture, there are certain customs and etiquettes that one must – at least should – recognize before you bring shame to your house for three generations and face is lost. Here is your definitive guide to DOs and DON’Ts in a Chinese restaurant.

1. Don’t play drums with your chopsticks

Contrary to popular belief, at a Chinese restaurant is not the opportune time to bust out your stadium pleasing drum solo; it’s disruptive to other diners and is RUDE. Don’t be that guy. Also, if you think it’s a great idea to let your child play with chopsticks because you didn’t have the foresight to bring something to entertain them with; please wait for the moment their little inept toddler hand-eye coordination skills catapults the blunt end of a fucking STICK into their eye, then we’ll see how cute it is.

2. Do serve others before yourself



Besides being polite, it’s customary to pour tea for others first; starting with the eldest person on the table – yourself last. Also, tapping the table right behind your cup when someone is pouring your tea is a polite way of saying thank you, without disrupting any conversations that may be happening at the table.

3. Don’t stick your chopsticks in your bowl of rice



Don’t ever stick your chopsticks upright in your bowl of rice. This symbolizes death, or an offering – it resembles how incense is placed at an altar.

4. Do navigate the lazy susan carefully



There is no “big money” to be won, this is not Wheel of Fortune. Common sense would say to spin it slowly to avoid airborne pots of sizzling beef stew and soup. Also, like crossing the street, look both ways to watch out for any protruding serving utensils that might joust and knock over your glass of Tsingtao; and please, wait for the person to finish serving before you start to spin it.

5. Don’t serve someone with your own chopsticks



First, it’s gross, second, if you do serve someone with your own chopsticks, make sure to turn them around and use the other end to do so. Alternatively, use the communal serving chopsticks.

6. Do fight for the bill



If you’ve been invited, it’s customary to humbly “fight” to pay the bill; not showing any attempt to do so will come off as though you are being repaid for something or being ungracious. Insist a few times before conceding.

7. Don’t put soy sauce on everything
Don’t use soy sauce with reckless abandon, especially on white rice. Chinese food is saucy – not in the Beyonce kind of way – and white rice is the vessel to sop up gravies and sauces from other dishes. If you insist on soy sauce on rice, order a fried rice.

8. Do open your teapot to signal you’re out of tea



When you’ve run out of tea, it’s customary to leave the lid of your teapot slightly ajar as a signal to the waiter that you need a refill of hot water for your tea. It is bad luck to remove the lid entirely and place it on the table.

9 Do not stab your food with chopsticks
Not everyone has fingers or hands that are nimble enough to manipulate two pieces of wood to feed yourself, but under no circumstance is it ok to stab at your food. Don’t be shy and don’t hesitate to ask for a fork and knife.

10. Do bring your bowl of rice to your mouth

Man Eating Bowl of Rice --- Image by © Yang Liu/Corbis

Man Eating Bowl of Rice — Image by © Yang Liu/Corbis

It is customary to hold your bowl of rice in your other hand to scoop rice or other food into your mouth.
11-eating rice.JPG
But not with a plate!

BONUS: Don’t be these idiots
idiotsDon’t ever do this stupid shit in public with your chopsticks; 1) it’s rude, 2) you’re not funny 3) for the same reasons why you wouldn’t do the same with other eating utensils like sharpened steak knives… On second thought, if you’re going to do this, do this with sharpened steak knives.

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N February 25, 2014 - 3:05 pm

Personally I don’t think it’s so polite to use the other end of chopsticks when serving for others. I don’t know, that’s the part where your fingers go and if someone did that to me I’d be a little offended.
(I’m Japanese)
Using serving chopsticks sounds better.
Great blog, by the way.

Jason February 25, 2014 - 7:50 pm

To be fair, no one holds their chopsticks right at the end anyways, but I completely understand what you mean. It’s still better than being served with the end that the person eats with! 🙂

gordon February 26, 2014 - 10:44 am

would you consider doing a “Best of…” post on Chinese soups? LOVE this blog… 🙂

Jason February 26, 2014 - 12:48 pm

Anything is possible! Thanks! 🙂


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