Food and dining are great ways to learn about and understand a culture. Chinese dining etiquette is something that you need to know about and be respectful of when eating with Chinese-born-and-raised acquaintances. Here are some of the most notable aspects of traditional Chinese table etiquette
A Walkthrough to Chinese Dining Etiquette
The Table Setting
People are always seated at round tables. On formal occasions, guests of honor will be seated farthest from the door, so let someone choose the seat for you. Elders and guests will be treated with the utmost respect.
Tea is always served before the meal and is replenished throughout the entire dining experience. Pouring tea for others around the table, especially elders, is considered polite.
General Table Manners
In more formal settings, hand towels are often served before the food arrives and again after the meal. Sometimes people are given finger bowls.
Chopsticks are the preferred utensils, though you can ask for Western utensils if you are not confident in your skills. Make sure to use the serving utensils provided in each meal instead of your own. Chopsticks go directly to your mouth, so it would be rude to dip them into the meal you are sharing with others.
When passing food, the best way to do it is to use the turning board, if there is one. If there isn’t, do not reach across others. You may politely ask someone to pass it to you. And if someone asks for you to pass it back, then do it with both hands.
Traditional Food Served
Not all hosts serve the same thing in their kitchen. If you are dining out with a host, they are usually the ones in charge of ordering, though they may ask around the table for suggestions. But if you are a guest in someone’s home, you will have to eat whatever is prepared. Chinese cuisine is delicious and delightful, so you won’t have a problem enjoying any of it.
Whether you’re in a restaurant or at home, there are some staple foods you can expect on the table. For appetizers, you will often find nuts for sharing. It is best not to grab a handful to eat them. If you can, pick them up with chopsticks to eat them.
Fish is notably served whole, so someone has to take it apart first. Be careful and take you time chewing. You don’t want to accidentally choke on a bone.
And lastly, all Chinese meals will serve either rice, noodles, or both as side dishes.
Dining etiquette, in general, can differ from culture to culture. However, the concept of much of it is the same with most cultures: to be respectful to the meals and the people you’re dining with.
Chineses etiquette, in particular, is laced in years of tradition that was passed down from household to household, which is why most of it is still being practiced to this day. Of course, not all of this is followed by everyone, especially if the meal is not a formal event. But when you find yourself in this situation, it is best to come into it with some prior knowledge.
If you’re in the mood for the best Chinese food in Houston, then visit or order from Ocean Palace Restaurant. We have been open since 1999 at the Hong Kong City Mall in Chinatown. Our best sellers include a wide variety of traditional dim sum and dumplings. Taste our food today!