Style of Eating Habits Discussion

We are very pleased to present you with an AAPI Style of Eating Habits discussion thread.

Are you familiar with the style(s) of eating habits followed by a specific Asian community? Feel free to share your insights and resources with your fellow AAPI members.

To help us get this discussion started, AAPI member Karen Mai kindly wrote the following about the traditional styles of eating habits in China ---

How Chinese Families Eat at Home

Growing up as an American-born Chinese (ABC) allowed me to enjoy both American and Chinese cuisines. Eating Chinese meals at home is something I hold dear to my heart as it brings back warm memories and nostalgia. To anyone unfamiliar with how family eating in China works, I hope the following paragraphs will fill that gap. I also encourage my ABC friends to read as you may learn a new thing or two about how we eat!

Typical Meals at Home

Types of foods eaten in each meal varies by region in China. But the typical Chinese person eats rice, noodles, or steamed bun like mantou. These grains serve as the main component of the meal and are consumed with several meat or vegetable dishes. Since my parents grew up in the south of China, I typically enjoy most of my meals with white rice. But wheat is king in the north of China, so people there would enjoy bread and buns.

Similar to many families in urban places, dinner is usually the only time families can gather and enjoy a good meal together. This rule was no exception for my family. I would return home in the evening to find my mother spending a couple of hours preparing rice, three to four meat and vegetable dishes, and a hot soup cooked with chicken or pork. We would wait for the whole family to be seated before we began to eat.

Mantou (馒头), also known as steamed bun. Image credit to

How Food is Arranged on the Table

Not only does my family share the atmosphere with chatter, but also the food. Each member has a bowl of staple food, in my case it is rice. Meat and vegetable dishes are placed in the center of the table to be shared by all. Restaurants would have chopsticks and spoons to allow each person remove food from shared plates – but this is uncommon in family meals. But if someone has a cold, they will not be using their chopsticks to pick food from the center in our home!

Speaking of chopsticks…

Chopsticks Are Essential

Sure, nowadays we ABC can get by with just spoons and forks. But I find that a Chinese meal taste more genuine when using chopsticks. While chopsticks are made of different materials, such as silver, bronze or gold, my family has been using wooden chopsticks.

I remember my mother scolding me for playing with my chopsticks (but really, what kid has not attempted to play with chopsticks?). I learned that inserting chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice is inappropriate because positioning chopsticks this way is a custom in sacrifice or funeral.

There are other behaviors people should avoid, such as beating their bowls with chopsticks, colliding chopsticks with other people’s chopsticks, and making noise with chopsticks.

Do you follow any of these habits when eating at home? If not, what is common in your culture? Please share in the comment section, we are excited to hear them!


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