Ordering a Chinese Meal

Plan a meal through a local Chinese restaurant and order "take-out" dishes to be brought to school. (If each student contributes $1.00 it should be possible to order a selection of dishes for everyone to taste.)

  • Ask the restaurant if it will supply chopsticks and have someone give a demonstration of their use.
  • Ask the proprietor of the restaurant to explain to a student committee how Chinese patrons would select dishes to balance each other and how soup would be taken either in the middle of the meal, at a banquet, or at the end.
  • Note which dishes are eaten with rice, the staple of southern China, and which involve wheat (noodles, dumplings, pancakes), the staple of northern China.
  • Try to include as many distinctive ingredients as possible, such as: beancurd, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, Chinese mushrooms, ginger and other spices. Also, select if possible a hot and spicy dish, a soup, a vegetable, and a noodle dish.
  • Note that each person at the table receives only an individual bowl of rice, and that all other dishes are placed at the center of the table for each person to take a serving. Individual meals are not ordered as in the American custom.
  • Discuss what type(s) of food the restaurant specializes in and locate on a map the province in which the particular cooking style predominates.
  • Note that many of the dishes most popular in the United States (spareribs, egg role, sweet and sour pork, chow mein, chop suey) are not popular throughout China and may not even be on the menu in a Chinese restaurant. Since many of the Chinese who emigrated to the United States were from the south of China, Cantonese dishes from the southern province of Guangdong (Kwangtung) are often the best known here. Other dishes (chop suey) were invented in the U.S. and are unknown in China!

Additional Suggestion:

A small group of students might be delegated to do a project on Chinese food and cooking and report to the class, demonstrating cooking methods, utensils, ingredients and basic principles of the Chinese diet.