We guess most of you have had Chinese food in your countries, usually those Chinese dishes won’t be as authentic as what in China, for the purpose of appealing to the local’s tastes. But even so, some people still can’t get used to it, no matter for the chopsticks, the spicy flavor or cooking methods. What are the main differences between Chinese and western eating? Here are all the differences you may want to know.
Some westerns believe that Chinese people eat everything, even things they think not eatable. Ingredients such as frog, jelly fish, sea cucumber, winter melon and yam are seldomly used in western cuisine. What’s more, western people just use some parts the chicken for western cuisine, however, Chinese cuisine may use all of it, including feet, head, and all the internal organs. This might surprise lots of western people.
Various Ingredients in Chinese Cuisine
To be honest, Chinese people would like to try all kinds of ingredients, and some are rarely seen in western cuisine, but it doesn’t happen to everyone. Let’s take the fact of eating dog as example, it’s true that Chinese people eat dog, but not every Chinese will eat it. As China is so vast, you may also see something weird along the food streets in different part of China, just try it if you’re curious about the taste.
In western countries, soybean products are not as popular as in China. Except for soy sauce, tofu also symbolizes Chinese food culture, and there are lots of other soybean products in China, which are ubiquitous in Chinese cuisine.
Compared to western dishes, Chinese dishes are aromatic in flavor, with various of delicious tastes. In general, ginger, garlic, green onion, mint, coriander and some other fresh spices are common to be used for cooking. And there are all kinds of peppers for a bold flavor. Chinese food is really delicious in taste, the usage of these spices also brings out incredible flavors, such as soy sauce, oyster sauce, cooking wine, vinegar, black bean sauce and plenty more seasonings.
Kinds of Spices for Chinese Cuisine
Some western people may not get used to the spicy and hot flavor during a trip in China, because chili won’t be served with each dish in western countries. Tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, pepper powder and mayonnaise are more common for westerners. Moreover, cheese, butter, cream and milk are also popular, and herbs like oregano, rosemary, sage and tarragon are added.
Cooking methods in western countries are mainly frying, baking, roasting and boiling. And for vegetables, western people will make salads, without cooking the vegetables. Basically, sunflower oil, olive oil and butter are widely used for frying in most western countries.
There are more cooking methods in China than in the western countries, expect for the common cooking styles, more methods like stir-frying, quick frying, steaming, stewing and sautéing are used for Chinese dishes. But oven is not common to use in Chinese families.
Speaking of vegetables, Chinese people seldom eat raw vegetables, they will fry or stew the vegetables with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sometimes with chilies. And for the cooking oil, animal and peanut oil are more common.
Chinese People Cook Vegetables
Small pieces of food are favored by Chinese people. Usually Chinese people will cut the food into small pieces, it’s more convenient for them to pick up with chopsticks, without cutting the food on the table. Also, Chinese people don’t like to remove the bones from meat. As western people use knives and forks, portions tend to be much bigger when it comes to western food.
In Chinese culture, most dishes are designed to be shared with other people, as communal eating is highly encouraged in China. Except for eating noodles and set meals, Chinese people will order plenty of dishes, basically based on the number of people for the meal, and all the dishes will be put in the middle of the table for all the people to share with other dining companions.
Communal Eating in China
As it’s common to see western people order individual dish and have it all to themselves, dishes will be put right in front of them. If it’s a big meal with many people, westerners pass the dishes and put some on the plates, but individual portions of a dish are more the norm.
As what we mentioned above, communal eating is a common feature of Chinese eating. For a typical Chinese meal, round table is more favorable, especially the lazy Susan, because Chinese people used to share the food together. Additionally, round tables will more convenient for everyone to chat with each other.
Round Table is the Norm in China
Even though square tables are also prevalent among Chinese families, round tables will definitely be the first choice for a family meal, for roundness symbolizes unity in traditional Chinese culture.
Tables in western countries are usually square tables, since western people prefer individual dishes and like to have small talks with people beside them. This shows that, the usage of tables is deeply influenced by the cultural difference of collectivism in China and individualism in the western countries.
Obviously, Chinese people use chopsticks while western people use forks, spoons and knives. When you have meal in local restaurants in China, normally they will provide a set of disinfected tableware wrapped by plastics bag, including cup, plate, bowl, spoon and chopsticks. Be aware that Chinese people will wash the tableware before eating, it’s a kind of Chinese eating habits. It’s fine if you use the tableware without washing again, it’s clean.
As we all know, most Chinese prefer hot drinks, while western people are fond of cold drinks. Hot tea will always be served in Chinese restaurants, usually it will be offered once you take your seat, and it’s free. For drinks Chinese people will order, we have to mention juice and milk tea, what’s more, some Chinese people also like to order beer and Chinese white liquor (“Baijiu”). Coffee and some foreign drinks are increasing in popularity in China in the recent years, mainly among young adults.
Chinese People Prefer Tea
Drinking traditions in the west vary from place to place, but there are more options for drinks, such as wines, cocktails, champagne, whisky, cider etc.
Sweets like ice-cream and brownie must be the most popular dessert option for western people. But Chinese people prefer to have fresh fruits for desserts, generally are watermelon, pear and pineapple, they think that fruits could clear the mouth and stomach after the meal. Influenced by western culture, more young people choose ice-cream and cake for deserts recently.
Chinese People Have Fruits for Desserts
By knowing the differences between Chinese eating and western eating, we hope that you will have a better understanding of Chinese food culture. Certainly, if you want to taste the most authentic Chinese food, China welcomes you!
Instead of reading information, it’s better to explore the main differences between Chinese and western eating on your own. Don’t hesitate to start a gourmet tour in China, Chinese food will never let you down. See our sample tours for some inspiration.
Enjoy a Chinese Meal
If you have specific Chinese cuisine that you love, please feel free to let us know, we’re pleased to help you create a tailor-made tour based on all your interests. Meanwhile, you can read more China Tours for some good ideas.