Chinese meals, whether or not a banquet or a casual family dinner, are served in a table which appears very different from European-style dining. The Chinese love for beauty and symmetry, as well as the practical utility of various eating utensils, bowls and plates, creates a satisfying harmony about the well-set table which signals of the intricate tastes and delicacies to come.
Center of Attraction
The main meal in a Chinese feast or daily dinner is served communally. Dishes are placed in the middle of the table, often on a lazy Susan, for diners to help themselves. Regional Chinese cuisine is determined by signature dipping sauces to taste local specialties, therefore diners have several dishes and dipping bowls in every individual area setting. Besides the platters of food, the table facility might incorporate a symbolic blossom or other centerpiece, based on available space. The table itself might or might not be covered with a very simple cloth; personal style will decide whether you will find decorative table runners. To ease support from communal platters, many Chinese dinner tables are round.
A single place setting at a Chinese table involves a plate for main class foods; a bowl or bowls for soup and rice; small plates and dipping bowls for sauces, condiments and inedible items such as a random fish bone; a pair of chopsticks and a chopstick rest; a porcelain soup bowl; a cup for tea, plus a couple of glasses for different drinks — wine, liquor or nonalcoholic. The rice bowl and condiment or dipping bowls may be filled prior to guests being seated.
Place Setting Pattern
Variations about where to place each item are as many as hosts, but a general manual relies on practicality. The main functioning platters are grouped in the middle of the table. A flat plate topped by an empty bowl — to get soup, shared items and solid main class foods — goes directly before a guest. To the right or directly above the plate and bowl, a pair of chopsticks are arranged with the tapered ends pointing to the left, if horizontal above the plate, or toward the middle of the table, if vertical and to the right of the plate. The porcelain soup spoon is laid horizontally above the plate, then handle to the left. A small bowl of rice sits above the main plate, slightly to its lefthand. A small sauce bowl may be placed above the soup spoon or slightly to the right above the plate. The teacup goes above the main plate, often to the proper, occasionally upturned before tea is served. Napkins may be based on the plate or in the empty bowl, or even tucked beside the plate.
Chopsticks can be hard for people unaccustomed to eating with them, but they’re graceful, efficient and utilitarian in a Chinese meal. It would be wise to practice picking up food with them. They have their own etiquette, and familiarity with chopsticks protocol can allow you to avoid an embarrassing gaffe. The chopsticks are often placed with the narrow ends on a chopstick rest. Once you have used them, always return them to the rest; never place the used finishes on your table. At a communal meal, most dishes are going to have massive pair of communal chopsticks. That is what you use to function yourself that dish, returning the chopsticks into the dish for another guest. Do not use your chopsticks in a shared dish in any but the most familial meals, and perhaps not even then. If there are not any communal chopsticks, utilize the fat, blunt end of yours to serve yourself from a shared bowl.