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So, what is there in a Chinese meal?

Having talked about many Chinese dishes, I still haven’t discussed how to combine them together into a nice Chinese meal.

People I come across always ask me, ‘so what do you eat in one meal?’, or when we go to restaurants here with my Western friends, they would ask me what to order according to Chinese custom.

This is the first post of ‘many’ forthcoming meal ideas – well, it is not so much an ‘idea’, but rather, what I would prepare or plan a table of food for a quick weekday dinner, or weekend for ‘two’, or a table for 8 guests, for example, according to Chinese custom. Hope it helps.

If you ask any Chinese what kind of dishes make up a meal (for example), most Chinese people would simply say ‘Four dishes and one soup’

I am not sure when such concept of a meal became ‘so common’ in China, but that is what is considered as a standard meal. Of course there are many variations from family to family, and depending on the situation ( for example, how many people at the table, and what you can afford…etc).

These ‘Four dishes and one soup’ normally include
a meat dish, a fish dish, a vegetable dish, the fourth dish can be your choice, and a soup. Although it is not a rule, if we have guests at home or go to restaurants, this is normally what we would order. The stable food is usually boiled rice.

And as for how many dishes actually we would prepare, we normally say three dishes for two people, six dishes for five people, and so on – always one or two more than heads. This might strike you as too many, but given that we don’t have starters nor cake as desserts, it is not unreasonable.

Oh, and it is not a bad thing if you end up with some left overs. If you finish all of the dishes, seeing the empty plates, the host would be really happy as the guests showed enjoying all of his dishes (or orders), but at the same time, they would get worried and think the food was not enough, hence they might think that they are ot a good host. :)))

Typical Chinese meal

And I like the idea of sharing, because like this, everyone can taste different food on the table, not just your own plate, and imagine the varieties of nutritious you are taking in. :))  Of course, if you don’t like the idea of everyone using their own chopsticks to pick up the food from same plate, you can always use a different spoon for each plate.

I have a really good friend in China. We team up very well for eating. For example, if there are several different types of vegetables in one plate (like in most of the Chinese dishes), there is always something I like the most, and she would like the other, in the end, we can happily ‘share’ the task and finish the whole plate  :))… You see what I mean my sharing. :))

Coming back to the details of each meal, for example, during weekdays, I would prepare three dishes for each dinner for two of us. These include a slightly ‘heavy’ dish, a meat or seafood dish (or soybean dish for a ‘vegetarian’ night), one vegetable dish, and one salad (especially for spring and summer).

The cooking is fairly simple and quick. It is not only that I am (sort of ) following Chinese eating habit — eating less for dinner, but also, we (kind of) keep ‘his’ Spanish dinner time – late dinner, so we need something healthy and easy to digest. … I am not a nutritionist either, this is just my eating habit, really, as I grow up with.

Anyway, hope this and forthcoming ‘meal ideas’ post help to understand Chinese food culture, and if you are planning for a Chinese meal at home. :)))

Related posts:

Starters and desserts in Chinese cuisine
Meal ideas: Chinese meal weekend garden dinner for 4/5
Cooking salad leaves in Chinese cuisine
Culture note: Not all about stir-frying

Discussion

2 Responses to “So, what is there in a Chinese meal?”

  1. >This is a really great posting. I just come back from TEDA, Tianjin ansd every meal was just as he said. I enjoyed some hotpot there they was 4 people (counting me) and they was 5 thing to go in it (Lamb, beef, Lotus root, noodles & napa cabbage.) then when I meet an English teacher they was 5 people and 7 dishes.

    Posted by Zhan Haoran | May 29, 2011, 3:55 am
  2. >Thanks for the comments!

    Posted by B@cookingsimplechineseathome | June 2, 2011, 1:01 pm

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