Today I introduce you Agness from eTramping! She was awesome to put this guest post together for Going Awesome Places. The eTramping blog is a fantastic blog with a mission to help other travelers like myself to travel the world. They just released a new eBook and constantly provide incredible tips and stories. Based in China right now, hoping Agness will become a regular in writing for us!
“Chinese culinary knowledge hits its limits in the dim sum of Chinatown, prepare for a steep learning curve.” – China Lonely Planet 2009, p.6
As you may already know, Chinese cuisine culture is deep rooted in China’s history. Thus, locals are quite obsessed with food. The first thing people ask you when see you in the street, instead of saying “Hi”, is: “Did you have your lunch?”: 你吃中餐了吗? Nǐ chī zhōng cān le ma? They will keep asking you while you are eating: “Is it good? Is it tasty?”: 好吃吗? Hào chī ma? And you can’t leave the table unless you say: “I’m full.” “吃饱了Chī bǎo le.”
As China is divided into 34 provinces, you can taste different foods and find out what “Chinese food” really tastes like. Stews, filling breads and dumplings, steaming-hot noodle soup, Beijing roast duck, chicken and mushrooms with oyster sauce, a traditional dim sum are just one of many dishes every tourist should try.
The food in China is normally served on small plates so you can taste many different dishes. You can notice that in Chinese restaurants eating tables are always rounded in shape. This is unlike Western restaurants in which the eating tables are usually square in shape. Why? Firstly, it is very comfortable for people as the food is usually served with many dishes. Each person can pick up the food easily from any position. Secondly, it’s a part of Chinese culture as they share food in a family and gather together in the same table. The food is a symbol of reunion, it improves social gathering.
Chinese people speak a lot while eating. They can discuss all important issues during their lunch or dinner. There is a rule: the more important meeting, the more dishes are served on the table. The dinner is over, so the conversation is. They drink lots of water, no wine or beer, no desserts after the meal.
When you finish eating, you should clean your hands with wet towel. Some people may also use the towels to clean their face. Wet towels are traditionally made from cotton and moistened with water (lemon juice is sometimes added to the water for its fragrance).
You don’t really find knives and forks in China, as they equated with violence (a sort of cold weapon to Chinese). As opposed, chopsticks reflect gentleness and benevolence. How should you use chopsticks properly? It’s not that difficult as you may think. You should:
- Place the first chopstick so that thicker part rests at the base of your thumb and the thinner part rests on the lower side of your middle fingertip.
- Bring your thumb forward so that the stick will be firmly trapped in place.
- position the other chopstick so that it is held against the side of your index finger by the end of your thumb.
- Check if the ends of the chopsticks are even.
When eating rice with chopsticks, you should bring one’s rice bowl close to one’s mouth and quickly scoop the rice into it with one’s chopsticks.
Once you find an uneven pair at your table setting, it means you are going to miss a boat, plane or train. Dropping chopsticks will inevitably bring bad luck. Crossed chopsticks are, however, permissible in a dim sum restaurant. The waiter will cross them to show that your bill has been settled, or you can do the same to show the waiter that you have finished and are ready to pay the bill.
Every food symbolizes something in China. For example, long noodles are a symbol of longevity in Chinese food culture. Fish, for example, is always served to symbolize prosperity and wealth accumulation in the New Year’s Eve. There are other foods and snacks symbolizing good wishes under special circumstances, such as duck, chicken and melon seeds.