The primary difference between China and the West, when it comes to eating, is the utensils. Chopsticks are used for everything, with an occasional fork available for foreigners at the typical restaurant.

The Sichuan Province is known for its spicy food. While the cuisine lives up to its reputation, nonspicy food also is common.

Customs around eating

While you may have heard your parents tell you to “clean your plate,” it’s more polite to leave some food on your plate in China. Finishing all your food indicates to the host that he or she has not provided a large enough meal and more food will be offered, until some is left.

A typical meal includes several main dishes set in the middle of the table, along with plenty of plain rice. Each individual has a bowl for eating; everyone takes food from the common dishes as they desire, places it in their bowl and then eats. The Chinese eat rice to calm a burning mouth from a spicy dish or as filler at the end of a meal. Most meals also are served with hot tea.

Common dishes

Chao fan – Fried rice is, perhaps, the most common dish in all of China. It serves as either a main course or a side dish, depending on how hungry you are. This dish pleases most palettes and is not spicy.

Jiaozi – Chinese dumplings come in many different flavors. Most SSTers find that they crave this dish after returning home. Made primarily with green onions, cabbage, and pork, the dumpling is wrapped in dough and boiled until it is fully cooked. A special spicy dipping sauce adds to the flavor.

Huo guo – Known as “Hot Pot” in English, this is the most popular meal in Sichuan Province. Your friends will frequently invite you to dine with them for Huo guo. Together, you sit around a table that contains a large pot of boiling broth. Large buffet lines offer an array of vegetables and meats, from which you choose what you wish to cook in the broth. Pull your cooked food from the broth and dip into a spicy sauce and eat. While tasty, sometimes the spice can be powerful.