Chinese beef and aubergine

Chinese Food: How You’re Doing it Wrong

Unless you grew up eating Chinese food, there’s a really good chance you’re doing at least one of these things wrong. For those among us who weren’t so lucky, we’ve compiled the most important rules of chowing down on Chinese food.

On the occasion of the Year of the Rooster — the 10th year in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle — here’s the Top Ten:

1. Teamwork
Don’t eat dim sum alone; the Cantonese origins of the word are not 100% certain, but many have translated it to “touch the heart”. Embrace the warm & fuzzies (and the bounty of dishes to try) among friends!
Also known as yum cha — dim sum served as high tea — it’s a meal for breakfast or lunch. Dim sum for dinner is so wrong…
…but soooooo right.

2. Tea
Choices abound, but in general you can narrow down your options by sticking to tradition: light green tea for summer, and a dark oolong for winter. (Make sure to politely hold the lid as you pour that nectar of the botanical gods, and to prop it up when you’re needing a refill.)

3. Sweet & Savoury
Especially with dim sum, savoury and sweet can share the table. Like your desserts to come first? They can be 1st, 2nd, 5th, with a side of chicken feet and pork bao, too.

4. Chopsticks
Never, ever stick your chopsticks upright in your food. It calls to mind incense in a Buddhist temple, and can stand in as a symbol of death.

5. Chopsticks…part II
If the communal plates don’t come with gong kuai (serving chopsticks), then you should turn your chopsticks upside down to take food from the main dishes onto your own plate.

Image by travellutionsingapore


6. Hot Pot
This is a specialty of Mongolian origin. Hot Tip: hot pot is a great solution for a crowd of dietary restrictions. Vegan or vegetarian? Pass on the meat and fill up on tofu and a wide range of veg. (Jackfruit is an increasingly popular substitute!) Celiac or gluten-free? Skip the noodles…and maybe get yourself a nice side of rice. And paleo peeps will always have lots of meat to pick from.

But don’t forget, there’s still a correct order to the cooking:
Your meat or meat substitute is priority number one…
then veg…
…and only then the noodles.

7. Sauces
Dumplings without vinegar is like chips without ketchup, pasta without sauce. But it’s up to you how much chilli paste is fit to taste. As for soy sauce: it’s not for everything, mate! You’re most likely to find light Chinese soy sauce (thinner and saltier than the Japanese variety) in the cooking stage of your meal.

8. Egg roll < Spring roll
We won’t be the first or the last to mention that a lot of takeaway favourites aren’t, strictly speaking, Chinese. The broccoli in your beef-and- isn’t native to China. Spring rolls, yes; egg rolls, no. Prawn toast? Debatable. And don’t get us started on General Tso’s chicken (because you’ll find we’ve already finished it).

9. Offer a toast!
Gānbēi (“gahn bay”) is practically a challenge — we wanna see those glasses empty! But if you’re not in a hard-drinking mood, there’s Suíyì (“sway ee”), meaning as you wish.

10. Eat as much as you can
This shows you’re enjoying the food.

There will be soups to start, there will be tea throughout: but don’t forget that a proper Chinese meal has as many courses as there are years in a decade. Pace yourself!


    …And as a bonus #11: we all know that when it comes to Chinese food rules, hungryhouse is a big subscriber to Law of Takeaway #68! ;)


Feature image via