Chinese Food Culture

Table Manners

In China, since people eat together, usually the host will serve you some dishes with his or her own chopsticks to show his or her hospitality. Since this is different from the Western customs, you can leave the food alone if you feel too awkward. There are some other rules you are suggested to follow to make your stay in China happier, though you will be forgiven if you have no idea what they are.

Never stick your chopsticks upright in the rice bowl, since that usually appears on the funeral and is deemed extremely impolite to the host and seniors present.

Make sure the spout of the teapot is not facing anyone. The proper way is make it direct outward from the table.

Don't tap on your bowl with your chopsticks, since that will be deemed insult to the host or the chef.

Never try to turn a fish over and debone it yourself, since the separation of the fish skeleton from the lower half of the flesh will usually be performed by the host or a waiter. Superstitious people will deem bad luck will ensue, say, a fishing boat will capsize.

Food Symbolism

In China, foods are given different meanings, so that in certain occasion a kind of food, can only be eaten by some specific individuals, or a kind of food must be eaten on a specific occasion.

Usually, an honored guest will be served a snapper’s head or shell to hail him and show warmly welcome in some districts.

Long noodle is the symbol of longevity in China, so that youngsters or seniors all will have a bowl of Long Life Noodle to expect a healthy life.

In Central China, if a baby is born, his father will send Red Boiled Egg to announce the news. An even number, usually six or eight, of Red Boiled Egg with a black point dotted on one end will be delivered for a boy, and an odd number, usually five or seven without black point for a girl.

Fish is always served to symbolize prosperity and wealth accumulation on the New Year's Eve.

There are other foods and snacks symbolizing good wishes under special circumstances, such as duck, chicken and melon seeds.