Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What's That? Wednesday: Dining in China

My observations for dining in China are primarily based on eating at non-Chinese food restaurants.  I’m sure that there is a whole other set of findings to be made when dining on Chinese cuisine.  Although our family enjoys Chinese food, minus the chicken feet (which I’ve had no desire to try), we spend a lot of time in the international restaurants. We enjoy eating Indian, Thai, German, Mexican and “American” food.

EBean eating at Heidi's on Singa Plaza
during the first week we moved to China.

Here are a few of the things I have learned along the way...

Once you are seated and the waiter/waitress hands you your menu, you are left alone until you call him or her back to your table.  Often times this involves yelling “waitress” across the restaurant and waving your arms.  This tends to bring most Americans (i.e. me) out of their comfort zones.  But other than that, I tend to like it because you don’t get a waiter that asks the inevitable “How is everything?” as you’ve just taken a big bite.  I also don’t feel like they are hovering and waiting for you to pay so they can boot you out of the restaurant.

LBean enjoying the foosball table at the
German restaurant across the street called "Big & Whistle".
Formerly known as Pig & Whistle....
Perhaps the servers don’t bother to “hover” because there is NO TIPPING in China  (unless you are in a big city at a really fancy Western-style restaurant or hotel). I think their philosophy is, stay as long as you’d like!

Appetizers don’t necessarily come first.  Some times appetizers become dessert…even if you specifically ask for them to be served first.  Makes me laugh! In fact, main courses usually aren’t served to all the diners at the same time either.  We have learned to eat when your food arrives and not wait, or someone’s food will be certainly cold.  

An appetizer that arrived on time, but without the
advertised sauce.  My friend decided that maybe the
sauce was "optional"!
You can tell how many expats (expatriates) a restaurant serves based on the question “Would you like ice?”  The Chinese tend to drink warm or hot drinks and avoid cold drinks.  It’s been explained to us that your body has to heat up (like a fever) to stabilize your body’s internal temperature after drinking something cold, so why would you want to cause a “fever” reaction in your body?  I am a risk-taker, so I don’t mind getting my body’s ying and yang off balance and enjoy ordering lots of ice!

EBean enjoying her "bing hong cha" (iced tea).

The bathroom situation varies.  Some restaurants, like ones in a shopping mall, don’t even have a restroom, and you are expected to use the mall’s bathrooms.  Odd? Yes. It tends to not be a problem unless you have small children who need to be accompanied.   It’s even harder when I have the girls by myself (no spouse to divide an conquer parenting duties).  I must encourage everyone to “eat fast.” And, if one insists, “But I have to go NOW!!”. We must abandon our food and make a hasty exit.    There are some establishments with their own restrooms, but the sinks are often outside the restroom.   I actually like this set-up, because it is easy to tell the kids to run and wash their hands before and after eating without having to go with them into the bathroom.

Napkins and tissue are like gold (I’ve got you wondering about this one, right?!).  For some reason in China, paper products are scarce and closely guarded.  There aren’t many napkin dispensers in restaurants. If you’re lucky, you might  get one or two with your order.  We often ask for more napkins.  Now, for the tissue.The lack of paper often extends into the bathroom...always carry tissue (just FYI)!

LBean has taken the award for the best chopstick skills,
but EBean gets the award for most adventuresome eater.
(LBean enjoying the beef on rocks at Yang Yang's in Old Town.)

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