In normal Chinese customs, a basic meal consist of rice and small dishes. Instead of being served from starters, main course and desert, the dishes are normally served at one time in the table and shared by every one. Families have meals together three times a day. Compared to other cuisines in the world, Chinese eating habits still remains some of the traditions.
“Four dishes and one soup”
The story of this short phrase can be date back to Ming Dynasty when the emperor Zhu, Yuan Zhang
found out the expenses in the royal court was too high to afford, while the people in the country were suffer from the natural disasters. So he reduces the costs by only having basic four dishes and one soup at a meal. The habit of “four dishes and one soup” in the meal had become popular among people. However, it does not mean people can only serve their meals like this, it is flexible to suit the needs of the family. But the habits of having soup in the meals even become more popular in southern part of china. Soups are considered as a starter but can be a main dishes, and the soup tends to be cooked with meat and vegetables, or with herbs.
Bowls and chopsticks
Steam rice is always the sides to eat with dishes, which means a bowl of rice will be served individually but share the food with others who dine together. A round bowl is used to fill the rice because a flat plate is hard to pick up the rice. And chopsticks are used as eating tools instead of forks and knives.
Different areas in China has different etiquette about using the chopsticks. For instance, in southern part of China, it is not proper to make a noise by using the chopsticks to knock the bowls due to it would consider as a beggar behaviours.
Respect for seniority
China has a long history of civilised culture. When dining with others, some of the customs needs to be respect. If having meals with families or seniors in the company, always waited until everyone is present. And allow the older people be seated first. It is a good manner to wait for the eldest people or senior start to eat first, as well as in drinking occasions.