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Is this proper in a Chinese restaurant?

When eating chinese food, my husband likes to fill a rice bowl with rice and hold it up halfway to his mouth. Maybe a little closer than halfway. He then uses a chinese soup spoon to spoon the rice into his mouth. I thought it looked improper till he pointed to someone else and said "Look, he does it too". Sure enough, someone else was eating the same way. So, is it OK to eat rice this way??

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  1. I've always seen the rice bowl very near the mouth but eaten with chop sticks and I think that is indeed proper.

    1. My experience has been that adults use chopsticks to push rice from a rice bowl into the mouth. The bowl touches the lips. Using a soup spoon? Only kids do it. But there really aren't that strict a rule about how rice is eaten in Chinese restaurants.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PeterL

        Plus, it's pretty easy to "shove" the rice in your mouth using chopsticks, compared to picking up stuff. I've never seen anyone use a spoon though... but I guess I haven't really ever looked either!

      2. It's "okay" but he really should work on his chopstick skills a little bit more so he does not have to resort to the spoon. That's just my preference not state or federal law. Yet.

        1. I would just loosen up and relax.

          The most important thing is to actually get the food into your mouth.

          Unless your husband is dining at a super formal Chinese banquet, let him eat the way he likes.

          Most folks at Chinese places aren't going to care. After all, any notion of proper etiquette goes out the window when the folks at a table fight over the fish head ... and trust me, there is NO proper or dainty way to suck a fish head clean. None.

          8 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            You never saw my grandmother work over a fish head! We never fought over it...if she wanted it, familial respect dictated that she got it. And she would DAINTILY poke and prod the head until there was NO meat left, nor skin. I have no idea how she managed to do it do delicately...my brother and I tend to look like we're locked in mortal combat with the fish heads, surfacing every now and then for air before diving back in.

            1. re: ricepad

              Sucking on the eyeballs was my favorite thing to do as a kid. We would fight over them!

              1. re: ricepad

                Us, young whippersnappers just don't know how to properly eat fish head!

                Kudos to grandma!

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I'm all about effect, not impression! My *other* grandmother could put a chicken foot in her mouth and draw out nothin' but BONES! It's been over 30 years since I last saw her do that, and the memory is still vivid.

                  1. re: ricepad

                    My uncle can do wonders with duck head.

                    Give him some hoison sauce and any duck head will magically disappear in his mouth, without any trace of its prior existence on a plate.

                    1. re: ricepad

                      My dad lived to 93 and he ate the chicken drumstick that way too until he passed away. When he was about 90, there were a couple of months when he had to eat "mechanical soft" type foods (mushed up stuff)... he hated it and went on a hunger strike :-) I kept telling them to let him eat regular stuff, so finally the speech therapist came to look at his swallowing again. The ironic thing is that he died because he was having problems catching his breath after he choked on water when taking a pill. He was the best pill swallower in the world too! He could put a bunch of them in his mouth, sipped once, and swallow all.

              2. Well, if he goes to China he should use chopsticks and raise the rice bowl almost to his lips.

                1. agree with the others that using chopsticks is preferred
                  also, hold the bowl with the tips of the fingers on the rim and the base only. no full-paw grasp around the side

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: orangewasabi

                    Oh, please, that's absurd. Why would that matter at all?

                    1. re: John Manzo

                      To avoid burning your fingers -- if the contents of the bowl are hot (as in sipping soup). Usually thumb is placed on the rim with the other fingers supporting the base.

                      1. re: John Manzo

                        Because that's the polite way to hold your bowl. It's impolite to have the 'full-paw grasp' (love that description, btw) on a rice/soup bowl just as it's impolite to hold a fork in your fist.

                        1. re: ricepad

                          Holding the bowl with the "full-paw grasp" is considered rude because it resembles a pauper begging for food.

                          Disrespectful to the host and/or other dinner companions.

                    2. The bowl to the lips thing is proper. The way I was taught is that one should bring the food to your mouth, and not bend over for it.

                      As for the Chinese soup spoon method, I've never seen or heard it before. Using your chopsticks is what most people do.

                      1. As others have mentioned, chopsticks is the preferred method. If your husband doesn't know how to use chopsticks or doesn't do so well, then he can use a fork (which is more acceptable than a soup spoon.) If others see your husband with a soup spoon eating his rice they won't say anything but may raise their eyebrows at the peculiar sight.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: peachblossom

                          I also used to think that observing others was a good way to learn what sort of restaurant behaviour is acceptable.

                          The first time I was in Mexico, I was sitting at a counter in a restaurant. The server brought me a basket of tortillas, and I decided to observe the person next to me (obvously Mexican) to see how he ate his.

                          he took one tortilla, tore off a piece, and ate it. I did the same. Then, he took another tortilla and proceeded to fan himself withj it. I figured that whatever I did could not be less acceptable than this.

                          1. re: ekammin

                            Haha I just burst out laughing at that one.

                            I agree with watching people. Even more importantly than etiquette, you might learn a tasty thing or two.

                            1. re: ekammin

                              Oh my! I never saw this thread before, but that's so funny... it just goes to show, the locals can have bad table manners too! :)

                          2. Yeah I agree with the others that he should use chopsticks but I have to admit that I have done that occasionally with fried rice and sometimes when my rice becomes very soggy with a lot of sauce on it. Typically, children usually use spoons to scoop rice into their mouths because they have not quite mastered the skill of using chopsticks.

                            If your husband is not Chinese, and he is not doing it at a formal Chinese banquet, I don't think the waitstaff or the other Chinese diners would care too much. Chinese people are happy to see people from other cultures enjoying their food and they tend to be a little more forgiving (than other cultures) when they see non-Chinese doing things the wrong way.

                            1. Your husband must be half Chinese (brings bowl towards him). half Thai (uses spoon).

                              In a previous thread it has been discussed. We define social etiquette only based on what we know. We can't know what we don't know. So what might be considered proper is considered improper in another culture. I think it's sensible to use the strategy that best fit the kind of food you're eating.

                              When eating out of a plate , the Thai eat with a spoon and uses a fork to push food into the spoon. A system I like very much, especially for eating Thai salads, where there are so many ingredients mixed together loosely, and you want to get a bit of everything for that burst of spices and herbs in each bite.

                              Ideally every dining experience is so great that no one has any attention to spare on how someone else look when they eat, whether they are "proper" or not. Those get in the way of good eating.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: HLing

                                Maybe 3/4 Chinese...it's a Chinese soup spoon!

                              2. Agree with others about what to do. One thing NOT to do with your chopsticks: Don't stick them upright in your food (like when you're taking a break in between bites). This is very bad luck, and could be somewhat alarming/ offensive to Chinese people around you.

                                I think it has something to do with the fact that in this position, the chopsticks resemble incense sticks for burning. (?As would be done for a funeral, I guess?)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: clee0601105

                                  Yes, incense is for the dearly departed.

                                2. When I was 5 years old I used a spoon. My grandmother was appalled I wasn't using my chopsticks. She bought me an ivory set and I was obligated to use it from then on. Using the spoon is improper even if others do it.

                                  1. i am married to a chinese woman and into a chinese family. there is nothing wrong with what you described.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: MarkG

                                      Maybe your in-laws are cutting you some 'lo fan' slack!

                                      1. re: ricepad

                                        i guess my point: the chinese arent too hung up on table manners and eating manners.

                                        1. re: MarkG

                                          This is a sweeping generalization and it certainly wasn't the case in my house when I was growing up.

                                    2. He's more correct that people who try to eat Thai curries with chopsticks. Now THAT"S annoying.