America / China / Cultural difference / Food / Japan / Lifestyle / Thailand

Chinese restaurants in China: It’s not what you think


Although this may break your heart, I feel the need to clarify a couple of differences between eating in a Chinese restaurant in China and a Chinese restaurant in America.

•    First and foremost, fortune cookies do not exist in China, nor does General Tso’s Chicken.
•    You won’t be able to find that red chopsticks sleeve which has a pictorial instruction telling you how to use chopsticks. In fact, there are only two types of chopsticks sleeves available here: the ones in a flimsy, as-sheer-as-it-gets plastic bag and the ones with a fancy packaging.
•    The chopsticks inside the flimsy sleeves are likely to break in half as soon as you try to separate them before use. The chopsticks in a fancy sleeves will cost you some additional 2RMB. Either way it’s a lose-lose situation on your part and a win-win situation for the restaurant owner.
•    Even if your table has a party of 2, 6, or even 10, they will only give you ONE menu here. In most situations, one person with authority orders the entire meal to share and everyone else just sits in silent and looks pretty, hoping that the person ordering won’t be choosing something inedible. Oh wait, they eat everything here, from scorpions and frogs, to pig’s brain and chicken feet. So never mind.
•    There is no such thing as a 12 Chinese zodiac sign paper placemat. In fact, there’s no paper placemat whatsoever.
•    And last but not least, there is no Chinese to-go box!!!! Honestly, I didn’t even like Chinese restaurants in America that much but the Chinese to-go box is probably one of the few reasons that draw me to them. American Chinese to-go box is very beautifully and functionally designed. It is the quintessential aspect of Chinese restaurant dining experience and I can’t believe Chinese people completely miss out on that.
•    So what do people here use when they need to box their leftovers? Some crappy, semi-plastic, boring paper box in which the lid almost always breaks right when you try to close it. It does not prevent the sauce from spilling out of the container either. Consider that the plastic bag that holds the to-go box comes with at least one hole and/or has a tendency to break 50% of the time, there’s almost no point to box your leftover after all.

Alright, I won’t hurt your feelings anymore. But yes, do prepare to experience some culture shock when you dine at a Chinese restaurant in China. They definitely keep it real. The only thing that compensates the pretty presentation offered in the US is that the food in China is far superior than the ones in America. The rest is history.

Considering that I’ve already shared with you some difficult facts to digest, I figure I should also add some extra points….
•    California Rolls do not exist in Japan. (Although it is possible to find one in a very non-authentic Japanese restaurant – but why would you want to go there anyway?)
•    Worst of all, there is no Sake Bombing in Japan! Think about how horrified Japanese people would be if a group of American tourists go to a restaurant, order some sake and beer, bang their fists on the table, and proceed to yell out loudly “Sake, sake, sake BOMB!”
•    Last but not least, ahem, Thai food generally hardly has any peanut sauce in it. Peanut sauce (if does not come with the Satay dish or a part of Panaeng Curry) = NOT Authentic Thai food.

That’s all the update from the East!

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8 thoughts on “Chinese restaurants in China: It’s not what you think

    • I’m pretty sure that’s the case, Toby. It’s a little ironic that the Japanese people were the ones invented Chinese fortunes cookies. But again, what is not invented by the Japanese?

  1. Ha! Great post. You know I’ll listen attentively to anything related to food. Flimsy chopsticks and paper carryout boxes sound awful, but if the food is amazing then I don’t mind eating it with my hands :)

  2. lol…NICE!!! I totally did not know that about California rolls…thanks for the tip ^_^

    Up over here in Scotland, when an American comes to visit, they always ask, so where’s the fortune cookie @.@…ding dong…although Chinese food here in the UK ain’t that fantastic, the food is SOOOooo WC (westernised chinese)…the usual sweet and sour chicken, lemon chicken, kung po chicken, and they think its authentic!!

    oh yeah, the peanut sauce isn’t authentic dipping in Thailand, but it is in malaysia ^_^

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