Chinese “Family Style”

In Chinese culture, when eating a meal together, usually you eat “family style”. At a normal meal there are several dishes in the middle of the table. Each person will usually have a bowl of rice or noodles. Everyone just uses their chopsticks and takes whatever they like.

Now when I say “family style” it is still different from the way we do family style in America.

In America, everyone takes their plate and fills it up from the dishes in the middle of the table. Or we pass the dishes and everyone takes some and puts it on their plate.

In China, you take from the dishes per bite. You don’t fill up your plate and then eat. You take one bit from this dish and then one bit from that dish.

You guessed it! The same chopsticks you use to eat with are also the same chopsticks that you take the food out the dish with. Everyone at the table is doing this.

It is also common to take some of the food and put it on top of your rice and then eat that together.

This way of eating has become habit for us when eating Chinese food. But when we eat American food, we eat like we normally did in America. The funny thing is, Chinese people usually will still eat “western” food Chinese family style.

For example, you can experience this at Pizza Hut in China. Pizza Hut in China is fine dining. They are really nice and serve a lot more than pizza. So you will see a family that ordered one dish of pasta, one small pizza, one salad and some more side dishes. The dishes are all in the middle of the table and they are eating them Chinese family style, one bite at a time. Everyone sharing the salad, pasta, etc.

Next time you are going to eat at a fine dining restaurant, maybe you should bring your chopsticks and try this culture clash and share a few dishes “Chinese Family Style”!

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