If you’ve ever eaten at a Chinese restaurant, you’ve probably felt intimidated by the techniques and etiquette of eating intricate dishes like baos, rice noodle rolls, and dumplings. They’re not exactly a type of food that you can simply cut open with a knife and fork, as Chinese food must be eaten the way the locals do.
Whether you want to look like you know what you’re doing or pay respect to the culture behind the delicious meal you’re enjoying, it pays to know the right way to eat dim sum. Here are seven tips for dining at a Chinese restaurant like a native:
- Look for Happy Chinese Diners
First, you’ll need to pick a restaurant that you know has the best Chinese food in Houston. The easiest way to do that is to scan the customers for happy, satisfied Chinese customers. If you see many elders with their families, the restaurant is likely worth your time and money.
- Choose Your Tea Before Ordering
It’s tempting to get right into the heart of the meal right away, but it’s essential to order your tea first. Dim sum is meant to be eaten with tea, not with wine or beer, so decide on the type of tea you’d like to pair with it first.
- Look at What Your Neighbors are Ordering
If this is your first visit to the restaurant, look at the foot on other diners’ tables and take note of what they’re eating. If they’re enthusiastically devouring a specific dish, don’t be afraid to ask your server what it is so you can request an order.
- Look at the Carts
Dim sum places usually have carts pushed around, which gives you another idea of the many flavorful items available for you to try. You’ll often have a range of food to choose from, like deep-fried dumplings, braised poultry, roast meats, and more. Steamed dishes are best consumed immediately, so keep that in mind if you decide to order some.
- Eat One or Two Items at a Time
Once you’ve settled on what you’d like to eat, avoid gulping it down in one fell swoop. Get one or two items at a time and savor the flavor. Sample each dish on your table so you can enjoy the wide variety found in Chinese cuisine, which will round out your experience and make it more enjoyable.
- Try New Things
You’ve ordered your favorite dim sum, but there may be just as tasty dumplings or rolls out there that will tingle your taste buds. Don’t be afraid to try new menu items like chicken feet, congee, sticky rice, tripe, taro puffs, and more. Going out of your comfort zone when eating Chinese food is always rewarding!
- Eat Like a Native
Lastly, eat like a native. Serve other people tea before you pour your cup, and do not hoard a dish to yourself—it is meant to be shared. If one or two pieces are remaining, do not take it unless everyone has declined it. Eat only a little at a time and use a serving spoon or serving chopsticks to serve other people—never your own!
Additionally, use only chopsticks or forks as necessary. You can pick up some food with your hands like large buns. Never stick your chopsticks into your food, as this is considered to be rude. Ensure that your chopsticks don’t have food sticking to them. Use them to remove bones or shells and organize them in a neat pile on your plate. Put your non-dominant hand on the table’s edge and, when you are done with your meal, put your chopsticks parallel to you on the top edge of the plate. Lastly, if you want an authentic Chinese dining experience, fight to foot the bill unless you and your companions have agreed to pay for what you each order.
Eating dim sum in Houston can be an exhilarating experience, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you won’t enjoy the full pleasure of eating Chinese food. By following our guide, no one will suspect you of being new to Chinese cuisine!
If you’re craving the best Chinese food in Houston, look no further than the Ocean Palace Restaurant! We are home to the best dim sum around. Come over on weekends to witness the feast we put on our traditional rolling carts, filled with steamed and fried containers of dumplings, chicken feet, ribs, noodles, and more. Check out our menu today to order online!