29th December 2015

Interesting Chinese dining etiquette

We all know the Chinese have a rich history of thousands and thousands years. There are plenty of etiquettes when it comes to doing certain things on a daily basis. Although a lot of etiquettes are not commonly practiced these days but the most significant one that you might be interested is the dining etiquette.

1. Don’t turn over the fish In a typical Chinese restaurant, a fish dish is usually served as a whole. After finishing the topside of the fish, we have the tendency to flip it over to continue eating the other side. But do you know what does that action means in the past? It means, “You have capsized the boat”. Back in the days, a lot of regions rely on fishing as a livelihood and fish symbolizes the boat. If you turn it over, you are casting some kind of bad luck to fishermen. It doesn’t mean you have to throw away half of the fish, there is a “technique” to it. So instead of turning it over, you can pick up the backbone of the fish near the tail entirely and continue eating the meat.

2. Birthday noodles is the cake in the past Some people still carry out with this Chinese tradition today. Instead of cutting birthday cakes, you have birthday noodles. The longer the noodles, the better it means. Birthday noodles symbolize longevity. Therefore, try not to cut the noodles because it means cutting off your life, which isn’t something you would want to do on your special day. Cutting only applies to cutting it purposely using a knife or chopsticks. Biting is acceptable.

3. Tea tapping is a must Your teacup shouldn’t be dry, it should be regularly be refilled. Every time someone tops up your teacup, tap the table with two fingers, as it is a show of thanks. But of course, saying thank you is acceptable as well. There is a very cute story behind this. There was once an emperor who often toured his kingdom undercover. One night, at a teahouse, he poured tea for his accompanying servants. Traditionally, his servants have to kneel sown to show respect but they can’t blow his cover, so instead they bowed for the honor with their fingers.

4. Even number of dishes preferably When dining outside with a large group, make sure you order enough food. A rule of thumb is to order dishes equivalent to the number of people, plus one or two. Never odd number of dishes as odd number symbolizes death because only funeral meal serves odd number of dishes. However, this only applies to a more formal setting or event.

These are some of the Chinese dining etiquettes that have been passed down since thousands of years ago. Some people still practice it while some do. However, it is always interesting to know and even practice it the next time you dine in a Chinese restaurant! Next week, we shall talk about the Chinese chopsticks etiquette.