Chinese

Food of Fortune and Family Style Dining

Given that I am a Chinese American and lover of Chinese language and culture, readers may find that my blog is Asian food centric and find a lack of focus or expertise towards meat-fixated restaurants. After all, I grew up in a household in which the matriarch (or immigrant mother) barely has more than a drumstick per meal. Chinese people are traditionally Buddhists who eat very little meat.

Ridiculous depiction of what the average Chinese meal looks like, give or take some royal concubines

Ridiculous depiction of what the average Chinese meal looks like, give or take some royal concubines

In China, food is considered a blessing. Particularly, many different foods are symbolic of celebration, peace, and other fortunes as explained on BBC. Even the table and method that one uses to eat are symbolic. As a Chinese American, I experienced eating family-style at a round table with my family.

That being said, Chinese etiquette relates to the dynamics of family and adherence to gods/ancestors (for good fortune). First, the Chinese emphasizes filial piety, so respect always goes to the elderly, guests, and teachers first, though the children (mostly the very young) are taken care of. That means the respected individuals should be given the best of the food placed in the middle of the table before everyone else. In the company of a traditional Chinese host, wait for him to say “Please enjoy yourself” or something similar to show respect.

A table is arranged with the main entrees in the center and the supporting dishes on the side. [There are no real appetizers.] A worthy selection for family style from a Chinese restaurant menu is balanced by various meats with at least one seafood dish, one vegetable dish, and maybe a soup that is graced in Cantonese cuisine. Select the so-called appetizers (which approach the table around the same time as the rest of the dishes) depending on the size of the party. While all the dishes are split among the group communally, everyone is likely to have his/her own bowl of rice.