HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Chinese Food - Family Style or Get Your Own Dish?

Asian communal/family style eating swept across the West with its seductive selection of great food with which we could build our own dinner plates. Buffets advanced the concept even further. Foodies love selection!

But it wasn't always like that. When I grew up, many people would eat at Chinese restaurants and order their own dish as their personal entrée. They MAY have shared the fried rice, but the Beef and Broccoli was theirs alone!

What about you? Did you order take out, or in a Chinese restaurant and not share family style? If so, do you still eat Asian food that way? Is your pad thai, your pad thai and you don't share? What about your Kung Pao chicken? Are you more likely to share Chinese food but not Thai?

Just curious to hear how your Western eating habits have or haven't been influenced by the Chinese way over the years?

Did you used to order your own dish? Do you still?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. When I eat Chinese food, it will be sharing. If I eat other Asian food, it depends; Thai food, its mine. Vietnamese, mine as well. Indian, shared.

    1. Family Style....I share everything when asked.

      1. I can't imagine eating Chinese food any way except family style.

        1. Speaking just about Chinese ...

          It's impossible to generalize a uniform statement for a cuisine as diverse and varied as Chinese.

          For example, if I'm eating at a HK-style banquet type restaurant (e.g. Koi Palace, Sea Harbour, etc.), then it's of course family style. Really couldn't do it otherwise.

          Conversely, if I'm eating a plate of pork chop rice or a bowl of beef noodle soup (niou rou mien), then it's definitely order-own-dish a la Western dining practice.

          Then there are things like hot pots. Traditionally, it's a very communal, family type meal, but nowadays you have tables setup with individual divets for personalized hot-pots.

          So, it just depends.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Exactly. At a sit down family style restaurant, we always order to share. Hot pot depends on the type of hot pot - individual vs shared. Beef noodle soup is individual portions for the soup, but we'll share the xiao tsai. But if we go to the lamb place down the street, it's shared dishes.

            Some restaurants are hybrids - If we go to a dumpling place, we'll typically order a bunch of dumplings to share (with people indicating how hungry they are), and will share the xiao tsai, but would order side soup or drinks separately. But if I stop in to the same restaurant by myself, I can order for just one.

            Lunch places, I find, are often geared towards single person servings. So at the fried rice place we each order which version of fried rice we want, and it comes with soup. Same for pasta places, or fried noodle shops. Take-out places can be either, depending on what they sell.

          2. It always surprises me that my (German-born, Canadian raised) DH expects to eat his "chosen" item without sharing. I've tried to explain to him that each person at the table will choose one dish to add to the turntable. He always looks confused. Yet, when dining at M-I-L's home, she always serves family-style. So it's not as thought he was raised on plated dinners...
            And on to Chinese/other Asian dining habits: When at a Japanese restaurant, we usually order individual meals. At Thai and Indian, I would expect to share. (DH would still have the confused look) We've not experienced many other cuisines.
            If dining with a non-immediate-family person, I would just check in with them about the sharing part.

            1. From childhood -- EARLY childhood waaaay back in the 1930s -- "Chinese" meant banquet! As I grew up, the goal was to always have at least four of us, and in finer restaurants we coordinated what each of us ordered, then shared. I grew up in a California that is pretty much just a memory theses days, and while "home" was.in San Diego, extended family covered Orange County, Los Angeles, and my paternal grandparents lived in San Francisco proper, where I was annually rewarded with at least one "proper" dim sum lunch on Grant Avenue each summer as a reward for enduring my (non-Asian) step grandmother's session with her very traditional Chinese herbalist in what I, at age five or so, considered a Little Shop of Horrors. Chinatown, San Francisco, in those days was quite literally like a physical trip to China, where Grandma Lena's herbalist wore a queue and dressed in traditional Chinese clothing, and his shop was stocked with all of the traditional Chinese medicines, many of which were quite frightening to this child. But it was all made worthwhile by the truly authentic dim sum experience across the street when we were through.

              I don't remember ever experiencing or even knowing about "take-out" until I was in my 30s,which doesn't mean it wasn't available. Just that it was "off my personal radar."

              In the late 60s, I lived in Las Vegas (height of the Rat Pack years, as in Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, et Al), and eating "Chinese" meant quasi-Chinese such as Don The Beachcomber or Aku Aku, which were really "Hawaiian/Chinese fusion."

              I'm not sure when it became popular -- the 50s? -- but full-service Chinese restaurants began offering "One from Column A and two from Column B" group menus in addition to the price set banquet menus for larger groups.

              I now live in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. There are a few authentic Chinese restaurants in the area where broccoli is not an automatic ingredient in every dish on the menu. I even had authentic dim sum for my 80th birthday that included chicken feet!

              For me, places like Pei Wei are to traditional Chinese food what a California Roll is to traditional Japanese sushi. I have never had "take-out" that is not grossly overcooked. And I readily admit that my age contributes heavily to my food prejudices and preferences. (sigh). And when it comes to Chinese American dishes like chop suey, I really miss celery, and if you're more than 30 years my junior, you probably have no clue to what I'm talking about.

              Another rant from Caroline! Sorry 'bout that...

              3 Replies
              1. re: Caroline1

                I am (by the skin on my teeth) 30 years your Junior - or very close to it, and I do know that you mean about celery. I wonder how many different vegetables it has taken to replace the ubiquitous celery, and if you include broccoli the number becomes astronomical. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 60s, family meals at a Chinese restaurant were almost invariably family style. That was as true for my caucasian family as it was for the chinese families that were dining around us. And the thought would never have occurred to us to serve it any differently at home. But at my first job in The City, one of the chinese guys took me to a chinese place, and we each 'assembled' our own dishes which consisted of noodles and one, two, or even 3 mains. Much the same as Panda Express or a multitude of other fast food places still do it. It was quite a revelation to a 16yo kid. Later in the summer I met one of my chinese friends for lunch and took him there. He also was stupefied - but his parents entirely amused when he told them about it. Sort of , ummm... yah, what did you expect?

                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  For me, the core of the problem is that changing the ingredients changes the flavor. It's that simple! You don't substitute the tomatoes in a marinara sauce with pumpkin, so why would you replace the water chestnuts in moo goo gai pan with broccoli? And this sort of thing seems to have happened (in my span of years) far more with Chinese food than with any other ethnic food.

                  I'm also amused by the arguments that I have seen on these boards on whether or not dishes such as chop suey are "Chinese" or "American." The fact is the dish was created by a Chinese cook working in an ethnically Chinese restaurant located in the United States does not make it "American," to my way of thinking. If you look at things from that twisted perspective, any Turkish dish I cook while I live in American must be "American!" Or the Thanksgiving turkey dinner I made when I lived in Greece was Greek because I cooked it in Greece?

                  Lately I am getting the most abominable "Chinese" food imaginable from restaurants run and owned by Chinese Americans who don't have clue #1 about Chinese cooking. For example, a "moo goo gai pan" in a sauce that was so over-thickened it was more like a hot molded salad that doesn't melt! Terrible stuff!

                  When I lived in El Paso a few years back, there was one exemplary Chinese restaurant that I dearly loved! You had to order everything by the number on the menu because NO ONE who worked there spoke English, and all were brought to this country on work visas by the owners, and had to (by US law) work for the owners for two years. They brought all of their cooks from Hong Kong, and the food was fantastic! Alas, a kitchen fire put them all out of work permanently because the building was gutted and the owners couldn't afford to rebuild.

                  Here in the Dallas area, I have to work hard to ferret out the good Chinese restaurants. Plano has (fortunately) a very large Chinese population, which is what brought a 99 Ranch Market to this part of Texas. The hallmark of a good Chinese restaurant in this area is one where the majority of the CUSTOMERS are talking to each other in Chinese. Then the challenge may often be getting a menu that is not made up of stuff such as Sweet and Sour pork, chicken, or shrimp (there is such a thing as authentic Chinese sweet and sour, but the sauce is brown, not red, and the vinegar content takes your breath away if you inhale when you bring it to your mouth) or General Tsao's abominable chicken.

                  Globally, the very worst Chinese food I've had in my entire life was in a "Chinese" restaurant in Liverpool, England, in 1957. I went with a childhood friend who was stationed in the area at Burtonwood Air Force Base, and I was visiting family, and we (innocently) thought, "Hey, we love Chinese food at home, it's gotta be good here too!" So off we went. YUCK! Not a crispy vegetable in a carload, and the chow mein had been boiled for about two hours. We ordered a large assortment with the intent of taking it back to my cousin's house to share, but it all ended up "in the bin" in the train station on our way back to Manchester. A fitting end!

                  I do enjoy surfing the web and comparing the menus in top restaurants around the world, then comparing them with smaller "local" restaurants in the same area that have websites with their menu posted. Fusion cooking is creeping onto everyone's dinner plates, no matter what part of the world we live in. I suspect it's part of "globalization." Makes me grateful to be old and have tasted "the real stuff" back in my day <sigh> We're doomed! Doomed I tell you!

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    "Chinese Americans who don't have clue #1 about Chinese cooking."

                    From an ABC, I'm guessing that they know very well how to cook Chinese food, but have dumbed down the menu for non-Chinese. I had that experience in Tampa in the early 90's where my also Chinese boss and I had a Chinese dinner that was barely passable. Afterwards I was talking to one of the staff and he told me that they could have cooked us real Chinese food if they know we wanted it.

              2. Chinese, Japanese, filipino, Indian shared.

                Thai, depends on how it's plated. Also, I pick level 8 spicy minimum, no one wants to share with me.

                1. Crucify me if you must, but I *never* do communal eating at a restaurant. If I'm at a Chinese place, I want every last bite of the Kung Pao Chicken–that's why I didn't order anything else on the menu! Same for Thai–sure, you can have a bite of my green hot chicken curry, but I *will* audibly growl possessively if you take another. Same with Indian...hell, ANY cuisine. (Well, I guess it's harder at a fast food joint, say a McDonald's–"I'll take half of your Big Mac, and you can have half of my McChicken." Not that I'd get anything from McD's outside of the twice-yearly two Egg McMuffins with Sausage or the *ahem* slightly more frequent order of fries.)

                  Start hammering the spikes in my hands in three...two... :)

                  68 Replies
                  1. re: annagranfors

                    Every time I've eaten family style I easily get 1-2 servings of whatever dish I want. I don't think I'd want a whole plate of fried oysters, mapo dofu to myself.

                    If the Kung pao runs out before you get your share, order more?

                    1. re: annagranfors

                      If I'm at a Chinese place, I want every last bite of the Kung Pao Chicken–that's why I didn't order anything else on the menu!

                      That's a very limited way to experience a restaurant.

                      Many Chinese restaurants have menus that run close to a 100 (or more dishes), and with the portion sizes, if you order the (for example) Shark's Fin Soup it's really not an individual-sized portion (although there are some like the sea turtle herbed cups for example). And what if you got one of those casserole-hot pot things? That's enough to feed 2 people just by itself.

                      Share a little. It's liberating.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        ipse...poor writing on my part: it should've read "if I'm at a Chinese place, AND I WANT THE KUNG PAO CHICKEN, I want every last bite of the Kung Pao Chicken–that's why I didn't order anything else on the menu!"

                        I regularly order other dishes, but with the same ethos...sure, you're welcome to have a bite or a spoonful, but I really really want to have a full portion of the thing that I'm craving. (On top of which, someone else has inevitably ordered something that has brussels sprouts as an ingredient, and despite repeated attempts, I just can't deal with the wretched things.)

                        Again, expecting crucifiction from brussels sprouts fanatics in three...two... :)

                      2. re: annagranfors

                        You know, I feel the exact same way you do, unless I'm informed ahead of itme that we'll all be sharing. I have some strong likes and dislikes, and I don't want to share somebody's General Tso's Chicken or (whatever) fried rice. I order what I want and sometimes I'll offer to share it, but usually I order what I want to eat and that's what I want to eat, not somebody else's sweet and sour whatever. Grouchy I am. Particular I am.

                        1. re: annagranfors

                          Hey, me and my family are the same way and with all restaurant food regardless of cuisine. But at home it was strictly fambly style.

                          1. re: annagranfors

                            I am similar. One bite, maybe, keep looking or touching and I'm grumpy. The rest of my family fortunately is similar - my dad used to say "if you wanted this why didn't you order it."

                            1. re: annagranfors

                              WIll you ever know the pleasure of eating a beautifully stir-fried baby bok choy in garlic sauce? Is that something you order on your own?

                              Not eating family style probably limits you from trying hundreds of dishes.

                              1. re: Steve

                                I'll never know that pleasure because it wouldn't please me. Like most offerings in most menus, I have no interest in it.

                                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                  Perilagu Khan, THAT'S a truly odd statement from a chowhound.

                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                    Not having an interest and not pleasing you are two different things. It's not good to confuse the two, whether we're talking about food, movies, books, other people, or life in general.

                                    Unless you are one of those rare human beings that cannot be pleasantly surprised.

                                    1. re: Steve

                                      We were "pleasantly surprised" a couple of years ago when having dim sum with a vegan friend. That eggplant dish turned us on to the whole vegetable in Chinese 'form.' Now grant you, later on, I discovered that the dim sum dish was stuffed with shrimp paste. My vegan friend said "no wonder it tasted so good!"

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        That dish of broiled Asian eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste and sweet tangy sauce turned me on the Asian veggies as well. For me it was back in the early to mid 90's when I had dim sum for the first time.

                                        1. re: JMF

                                          I know some people here loathe "mouth feel" but that's part of it for me, in addition to the taste. And if I had gotten to the end of my life and never had chicken feet (the brown kind) I'd have been sad. Talk about MOUTH FEEL :)

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            I'm the only one of my friends who loves Chinese style chicken feet. You are right, the mouthfeel is great.

                                            1. re: JMF

                                              I'm very happy to have Bob as my dining partner. We're always on the same page.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                Food disagreements have ended more than one possible relationship for me.

                                                1. re: JMF

                                                  I love food, but can food disagreement be really that big of a deal?

                                                  Ok, I didn't date a vegan, but that is different. I cannot see myself stop eating all meat, all dairy, or honey, or all animal products for the rest of my life.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    I think yes. Something as "simple" (ha) as steak. I want it mooing. Could I entertain someone who likes it well done? Sure. But day after day, year after year. Definitely on the subject of sharing Chinese food. I'll share the AC and/or blah stuff on occasion but not everytime I want to eat Chinese food? Not on a bet.

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      "Something as "simple" (ha) as steak. I want it mooing."

                                                      That's me. My ex-wife wanted it DEAD. She was known to send back a well done steak three or four times if it even had a hint of pink or juices......

                                                      Instead, I sent her back..,,,,,,enough was enough

                                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                                        Might be a dealbreaker for me too. I'm usually very tolerant of others' tastes, but this is one preference I just can't wrap my mind around. I DO enjoy burnt ends and the end cut of prime rib, but a seriously 'overdone', otherwise prime cut of steak?

                                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      Sure a disagreement can be that big a deal. Food and drink is my career and personal life. All of my friends except childhood ones are in the industry.

                                                      One ex was a vegetarian. Or was when we met. My cooking changed that, but it couldn't change the mindset that went along with it.

                                                      If someone can't eat interesting things, different spices, etc., isn't up to challenging themselves with new foods and experiences, I find them boring.

                                        2. re: Steve

                                          Wrong. I don't have an interest in many foods because I know what I like and dislike, and I don't have to put something into my mouth to discover the unpleasant truth, e. g. to be displeased. You see, one reason we have senses other than taste is to ward off vile, and in much earlier times, potentially fatal gustatory experiences. And swimming against the cultural currents, I do not rebrand lack of critical faculties tolerance and open-mindedness.

                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                            Did this come to you later in life, or were you one of those kids who wouldn't eat anything they didn't think they'd like without ever trying it? ;o]

                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                              I am unclear about how you know in advance you are not going to like baby bok choy, the example I gave. Or any number of vegetables ...... the smell will be of the sauce (garlic)... do you not like the look of vegetables?

                                              Also, how in the world did you change your mind about pinto beans,scrambled eggs, olives, avocado, and asparagus if you already know what you like or dislike? (This from another thread.....)

                                              " Perilagu Khan Feb 17, 2013 04:52 AM
                                              Pinto beans, generally speaking. In Texas, it's a mortal sin to dislike pintos, but up until maybe 12 years ago, I wouldn't touch 'em.

                                              I also like scrambled eggs, now, whereas buffore I would have nothing to do with them. But scrambled is still the only way I'll eat eggs.

                                              Also, olives, avocado and asparagus."

                                              1. re: Steve

                                                Steve -- you're doing some serious back research if you're coming up with quotes like that. :-) I had to do something similar in a thread about Chang on Rockwell a couple of months ago.

                                                Maybe Mr. P Khan (or was it P Can) was just not firing on all cylinders at 4:52 AM and can't be held accountable for his postings at that hour.

                                                1. re: Steve

                                                  Let's just say, we are all entitled the right to be wrong. ;P

                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                    My preferences simply change over time. Yes, I now like pinto beans, scrambled eggs, olives, avocado (in guac only) and asparagus, but if I had tried them 30 years ago I can assure you I would not have. There were many times when my parents forced me, against my will, to "try just one bite" of something, and my abhorrence was invariably confirmed directly the morsel hit my tongue.

                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                      I don't want to get too far off-topic here, so I will return to the main point:

                                                      Often on the internet, strident tones and adamant declarations are the sine qua non of chat rooms. To prove a minor point, people will use absolutes to contradict just about anything, including themselves.

                                                      Just for a moment, I’d like to draw open the curtain and be honest and wonder if your insistent 'I know what I like' and your more gentle “preferences change over time” are not exactly compatible.

                                                      I understand that strong preferences don’t change overnight, but perhaps for a moment we can drop the armor and accept that there could be something worth ordering in a Chinese restaurant (c oliver's garlic eggplant, for example) that you would not want to eat an entire platter of, but still you might find a very delicious thing to eat.

                                                      Perhaps over time.

                                                      1. re: Steve

                                                        No one could "abhor" ALL those things, Steve. They're each quite different from one another.

                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                          Of course it's possible. But the possibility is not so great and the payoff so grand to justify my participation in a community grab-bag wherein I would CERTAINLY have to forego a significant portion of an entrée I know I love.

                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                            Chinese food is served family style with enough for 3 to 5 portions. Yet you insist that it won't be enough for you. I'm a hardly a dainty fellow, but I just can't put away that much.

                                                            Wether the 'payoff' is justified or not: it is so if you think so.

                                                            For me, I have fun sharing even if everything is to my liking or not. I win either way. It makes me happy and fills me with fresh air, sunshine, and forgetfulness.

                                                            1. re: Steve

                                                              "It makes me happy and fills me with fresh air, sunshine, and forgetfulness."

                                                              Just a moment while I cue up The Cowsills.

                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                Ignoring the first part of my post?

                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                  I don't know where you get this bit about Chinese food being served in such colossal portions. In every Chinese restaurant I've been to, the entrée plus an app or soup is just enough to feed one hungry man. If the portions were as large as you claim, I would be much more likely to buy into this communal feed-trough practice.

                                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                    Did you see the picture I posted and the description. I'm wondering if what you and we have been describing are totally different. You may be talking about what I call a "lunch special." A portion of, say, pork chow fun with hot and sour soup, an egg roll and fried rice (never understood the rice with the noodles but....) What Steve and I and others are talking about are what I pictured here.

                                                                    ETA: That fish dish pictured probably has 15 to 20 really good-sized pieces of fish.

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      The Chinese restaurants I've been to offer lunch specials (I never order them), but also individual entrees, apps, soups, etc. that can be got for lunch or dinner. The size of these individual servings--so far as I can tell--does not vary between lunch and dinner. But I've never been to a Chinese restaurant that serves great cauldrons of chow large enough to feed Coxey's army.

                                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                        PK - Perhaps TX chinese restaurants follow a different model than those on the east/west coast. If I ate an appetizer and a full entree by myself, I would be stupefyingly full. I am not a small eater, but I would feel sick if I ate that much. We often order delivery chinese for dinner for my family. Typical order will be dumplings plus another appetizer. We will get two mains with some type of protein and a veg main and maybe noodles. This will feed four and then there will be a fridge full of leftovers for the teens to graze on after school the next day or three or for my favorite weekend breakfast of leftover chinese food nuked in the microwave. Even when we go out with groups and eat family style, it is not unusual to leave with a bag full of leftovers from the meal. While I am sure there are some who can finish an entire entree on a regular basis, I would think that person would be of the XXL variety. Your portions may appear smaller. This may account for the different views.

                                                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                                                          Yes, we obviously are talking apples and oranges, or persimmons and plums as the case may be. I have a hearty appetite, but that cannot account for the huge disparity in our descriptions and customs.

                                                                    2. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                      I've never been to a Chinese restaurant that serves all of its food as individual portions. Hence the subject of this thread.

                                                                      From the OP: "Family style eating swept across the West"

                                                                      I suppose we could ask other to chime in on this.

                                                                      1. re: Steve

                                                                        Nor have I, Steve. Since PK didn't reply regarding the portion size of the photo I posted, I don't know how that compares to what he's used to. I see he lives in Texas so perhaps the norm there is different. If so, I'd be sad to have to eat several different cuisines there :(

                                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                                          I've never been to a Chinese restaurant that serves all of its food as individual portions. Hence the subject of this thread.

                                                                          As I mentioned earlier, there are now Taiwanese style hot pot restaurants where everything is basically individualized and personalized -- hot pot, and food accouterments included.

                                                                          Now, whether you still want to "share" your individual portions is up to, but certainly the menu is setup to be non-communal in all respects, except diners will share the same table (and presumably each other's company).

                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                            I stand corrected.

                                                                            In fact, I go to A&J quite often so I know it is possible, but a rarity, and I would consider it a specialty restaurant that is not what the OP had in mind. I doubt PK is referring to Taiwanese small plates..... perhaps he was alluding to those Mall Food Court Chinese where they are handing out tiny General Tso on a toothpick.

                                                                            1. re: Steve

                                                                              I guess all I'm trying to point out here and in my post initially up above is that there certainly are Chinese restaurants where sharing is not the norm.

                                                                              But to do as the OP does - i.e., never share - would not only be odd, but nearly impossible at the majority of Chinese restaurants.

                                                                              It's like, "Hmm, this sharks fin soup looks good. I'm going to order that and not share." Ten minutes later you're plated with a bowl of soup the size of a watermelon and a half. Good luck with that. Just saying.

                                                                          2. re: Steve

                                                                            I've eaten Chinese in Texas, New Mexico, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Never seen anything but the individual portions.

                                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                              That probably explains it then:) But even in Rio de Janeiro, the dishes are the large portions like described and pictured.

                                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                Last night wife, 16 yo daughter, MIL and I were out for Chinese dinner.......

                                                                                three started with soups, each had a different selection served in a bowl suitable for one with no leftover

                                                                                two had an eggroll, and one had fried dumpling appetizer. The eggrolls were suitable for one. I shared the dumplings with MIL because the portion is 6. This is too much for one as an appetizer with soup and a main course.

                                                                                Main courses:
                                                                                Wife had chicken and chinese vegetables in a white sauce with brown rice---ate it all
                                                                                Daughter had General Tso's chicken with white rice, left the broccoli
                                                                                MIL had Chicken Egg Foo Yung with brown rice--this order had three large patties (6" round), MIL ate 2, took one home. Waiter suggested, that next time MIL order the combination which includes soup, egg roll and rice but only has 2 patties. If two people ordered both soup and appetizers, this main would have been sufficient for two.
                                                                                I ordered Fried crispy duck with Chinese veg and steamed rice, I left half the rice.

                                                                                I did not find that the entrees were made to feed more than one adult, unless that adult had over indulged on soup and appetizer.

                                                                                Outside of splitting the dumplings (so wife wouldn't feel guilty about ordering something with 6 pieces) no food was shared. Each of us ordered exactly what we wanted to eat that meal. Eating Chinese food is not a novelty, but commonplace with us and there is no reason not to order an individual meal for oneself.

                                                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                  I guess AC portions are meant to be "for one", as opposed to at the Chinese restaurants (mostly Sichuan, one Cantonese) I frequent which are so massive I couldn't possibly finish an appetizer and a main by myself.

                                                                                  That's why I very much look forward to having a group of 16 for our jour fixe tonight. The more mouths, the more food to share.

                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                    This is what the AC restaurants have morphed into. Growing up in the 50s and 60s they were all Cantonese and each dish was served in a footed stainless serving bowl with domed cover and could easily serve 2-3 adults.

                                                                                    We also frequent an 'authentic' Sichuan restaurant (and yes, I feel qualified to make that call-the 16 yo was born in China and we spent quite a bit of time there iover the years) which serves family sized portions, placing all dishes center table and rice bowls and chopsticks at the individual places. This is not a place we take MIL or older daughter.

                                                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                        Then the whole thread is talking apples and oranges. There's a huge difference between AC restos and Chinese restos.

                                                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                                                          Yes, I made just such an analogy above. Then again, never having been to a true Chinese restaurant, I couldn't have known this.

                                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                                            Not in the DC area. Chinese-American places serve pretty much the same way they did when I was growing up in NY in the 60s. The food is served on platters placed at the center of the table with a large serving spoon. Each person is given their own, empty dish.

                                                                                            The only exception I can think of is a lunch combo when the portions and prices are reduced.

                                                                                            1. re: Steve

                                                                                              Right. I grew up with the same -- in this case -- German-Chinese places, where the dishes were served at the center of the table. Come to think of it... why, yes! I believe from my tender childhood on, I've shared the dishes in the middle (usually situated on a little stove) with the rest of my family.


                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                l, was this in Germany or the US? It seems that there's hardly anywhere that serves the way those states that PK mentions. And for that we can be glad...and he can be sad. Missed opportunities.

                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                    I'm utterly desolated. It hardly seems worth it to get out of bed in the morning.

                                                                                                  2. re: linguafood

                                                                                                    Now that you mention it, I've had Chinese food in France, the Czech Republic, and (you're not going to believe this), China.

                                                                                                    Even in China they served it that way!

                                                                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                                                                      As some comedian once asked "When you have Chinese food in China, do they just call it food?"

                                                                                          2. re: bagelman01

                                                                                            I see what you're up against. If others at my table ordered egg foo young, general tso's, and chicken with chinese vegetables in white sauce, I wouldn't want to share either.

                                                                                            1. re: Steve

                                                                                              My wife and I will order the 'exotic' at the authentic Chinese Restaurant, but daughter who was born in China is too Americanized. She'd rather have Mexican than the food of her roots. Even on trips back to China, she gravitates towards the western franchise places such as KFC

                                                                                2. re: Steve

                                                                                  Regarding the portion size, Steve, I agree. If anyone can eat a whole order of those portions, well, they're just abnormally hearty eaters :)

                                                                                  Attached is a fave of fish filets in spicy oil with some glass noodles, bok choy and tons of dried peppers. The two of us could NEVER eat all that. It's about 12" in diameter and about 2" deep.

                                                                                  And I also love the act of sharing food - even if I have to take a few half-hearted bites of sweet and sour anything.

                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                    Even the ubiquitous general tso's chicken or kung pao are piled high in a giant mountain of food.

                                                                                    Eating all that might get you your own tv show....

                                                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                                                      I think you've done a great job of bringing this back on topic. How could anyone, regardless of their fave, ever go away hungry...for their fave. And maybe learn to love something new in the process. I'm 66 not 6 so when I "take a bite" it's not cause I'm being forced to :)

                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                        Aw, kinda sorry if this is really back on topic. I thought we might be about to get into a real food fight with this one. ;o[]

                                                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                                                      I've only encountered two family-style dishes that I could finish in their entirety-- mashed eggplant and green chilies and grilled shrimp with wild mushrooms and wilted basil.

                                                                                      Not sure where to find either of those in NY...

                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                        Went back to this place and snapped another pic that will give a sense of size. We had this with an order of ma po tofu and rice for one and have a lot leftover. Lunch tomorrow.

                                                                      2. re: Steve

                                                                        Good point, Steve. One of our favorite dishes is a spicy garlic eggplant but I wouldn't want that to be the entire meal. And we also don't order the lunch specials that come with soup, rice and an egg roll. We'll order two (or more) main dishes with rice knowing that we'll be getting a second meal from it. And by ordering multiple dishes, we can get one tried and true and another new to us. At our fave place, there's hardly anything on the menu that we wouldn't try, except for the Chinese-American page. Been there, done that --- decades ago. Nothing wrong with it, we've just expanded our interests. I can't imagine eating the same things over and over, year after year. There was a recent thread asking what's a non-CH. Maybe that would be one definition. But to each his own.

                                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                                          Folks, we've ended up removing a lot of posts from this sub-thread that got unnecessarily personal. If you're assessing another poster's character or fitness to call themselves a hound, there's a good chance your post isn't really a good idea.

                                                                      3. Unless the restaurant is Western style with individual plating, we always share dishes. Asian, Indian, African, South American, American BBQ, etc. even with individual plating we taste each others food if we order different things. Otherwise how could you try enough of the dishes?

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: JMF

                                                                          Even when I am eating Chinese takeout alone I share, with myself, in other words I never get just one dish, but always several and have some of each. And do the same with leftovers.

                                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                                            I also tend to order more than one item even if its twice what I need initially. Leftovers aren't bad, and variety and contrast is appealing.

                                                                            1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                              same here - i live alone and get usually an appetizer and 2 mains and live off it for the better part of my next 5 meals or so...i love it!

                                                                        2. It doesn't matter what the cuisine is I share everything with everybody no matter how it's served. Good food should always be shared and plates get passed around for others to try no matter where I eat. If this "wigs you out" then you don't have to join in but most do. In the end it draws everyone closer and we can all talk about the food and the dishes we like and didn't like.

                                                                          1. There are exceptions here and there. For the most part, sharing is nice. However, as mentioned, there are cases which one does not share.

                                                                            <Did you used to order your own dish? Do you still?>

                                                                            Specifically to your question though, my answers would be: Yes, and yes.

                                                                            1. I share Chinese but not always Thai. In part, that's due to different people wanting different levels of heat in their Thai food and the kitchen accommodating that.

                                                                              Have you ever see the movie "Reversal of Fortune?" It's about Claus von Bulow's trial. There's a great scene where he goes to a Chinese restaurant for lunch with his new attorney and the attorney's student researchers. Von Bulow gets upset when the dish he's ordered is then shared by the whole party.

                                                                              1. YES..............
                                                                                Growing up in the 50s and 60s

                                                                                Thursday night was always Chinese takeout, and we shared the ordered dishes

                                                                                If we ate out we ordered from the Family Dinner Menu: so our family of 5 got to choose 3 From Column A and 2 From Column B. Each was served their own cup of white rice.

                                                                                By the late 60s Family Dinner menus had disappeared in our area. We then ordered individual meals that were always served in stainless pedestal serving dishes with domes. Family protocol said that after you had your first helping of the dish you had ordered, other family members could sample the dish. Occasionally my parents my choose two dishes specificalkly to share amongst themself.

                                                                                Today as parents with grown children (youngest is 16+ and is Chinese) we never order family style or to share in a restaurant. We don't order takeout. If we are going to et Chinese food at home we cook it ourselves and then it is served family style.

                                                                                As to your question about sharing other Asian cuisines. I don't care for most Thai food (don't like lemongrass or peanut) so it is not an issue. Japanes is ordered for individual consumption, with the exception that wife and youngest will order sushi rolls to split.
                                                                                Korean is appreciated solely by me, so sharing is not an issue. And wife and daughters like Indian food and I let them go dine without me. I, OTOH, like the foods of central Asian-Mongolian, Tartar, Persina and will dine without the ladies.

                                                                                1. The people I eat with, whether it's the whole posse or just Mrs. O, are deeply conscientious about sharing if it's a Chinese restaurant, and only a bit less so if it's any other kind. Mrs. O and I almost always trade bites, unless it's a place so familiar we know what everything tastes like already, but when the two of us are eating at a Chinese place, even if we each got essentially a one-pot meal, we'll still take some of each on our plates until either it's gone or we're ready for the carry-out boxes. I remember the whole crew went to an Indonesian place once and everything got handed around. Somebody proposed getting the durian shake, and we had to vote on it! Yes, it was vile, but now we KNOW that.

                                                                                  When it's our gang eating off a full Chinese menu, as opposed to something like a meetup of CH folks, we make an effort to construct a nicely balanced meal, tastewise, and the more of us that are present the wider we can range. There's a place the two of us have gone to several times and really love, but everything has been so good we've long wanted to get a table of at least six together, just so the we can cover a lot more of the menu.

                                                                                  1. I'm (part) Chinese, so until I went away to college, I didn't know there was any other way to eat Chinese food. It still baffles me that people don't order family style. Of course, growing up, we sometimes ate 'old school' Chinese style - that is, food on serving platters, individual rice bowls, but no individual plates. We did have individual soup bowls, however (which usually became the rice bowls that we repurposed after the soup was gone).

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: ricepad

                                                                                      +1. Exactly the same experience as you.

                                                                                    2. I suppose anyone could do whatever their dinner party would like, but it just seems so much more enjoyable (and sensible) to share such a varied and wonderful cuisine.

                                                                                      I travelled throughout Asia for 30 years and can't say that I recall it ever being even suggested any other way. And I don't remember ever doing it individually in the US either, even as a kid when my parents would take me to a local place in New York.

                                                                                      1. I loathe buffets and it seems the Chinese buffets have just about destroyed the old mom n' pop Chinese restaurants I loved so much. Now, if I see a non-buffet Chinese restaurant it is apt to be primarily a take-out joint with zero atmosphere. A sad development.

                                                                                        As to sharing and whatnot, the members of my family always got their own entrees and appetizers and there was no real sharing. The exception was the infamous, wonderful pupu platter.

                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                          I despise the Chinese buffets outside of China, but often when I couldn't decide what to eat, I'd pop into one in Shenzhen or a typical older, somewhat ramshackle part of town and make a feast on one of the 三菜一汤 (three dish, one soup) offers. Sometimes they'd have a plate that I didn't see on my usual wanderings (ie, 狮子头 lion's head meatballs) or a combo of vegetables, but the biggest minus was easily the heavy volume of cooking oil in the guise of a swimming pool.

                                                                                          Otherwise, I'm not keen on sharing because I have a hearty appetite. If I'm invited to eat with Lazy Susan太太, that's one thing, but if it's just one or two other friends and myself, no thanks. It's uncommon that my taste buds will be in the same food mood as my pals', with a notable exception being Hunan restaurants.


                                                                                          1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                                                                            The same. I invariably polish off everything I order and I do not like leaving a restaurant hungry. So, if five people are taking stabs at what I've ordered and I'm not particularly enamored with what they've ordered, then I'm not getting a complete meal.

                                                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                              Oh, come to think of it, what if you were at a Northern Chinese place that specialized in dumplings? I think I could concede and eat anything, particularly with the brilliant combination of minced garlic and vinegar.

                                                                                            2. re: BuildingMyBento

                                                                                              The funny thing I noticed at all you can eat buffets in Beijing, was that the customers would load up heaping platters at the buffet line, then take the back to the table to eat family style with their group. The locals could empty a line of steam tables in seconds so a solo diner had to keep a vigilant watch in order to get anything to eat.

                                                                                              As for me, family style always. Even if it's Western food my friends and I always like to share and try each others' food.

                                                                                              1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                                                                A dumpling buffet with a few vinegars to choose from would be asplendid idea.
                                                                                                Even better if the Japanese donated their contemporary gyouza- ie edamame, kurobuta and something with miso butter- to the cause.

                                                                                                1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                                                                                  OMG. What a concept for a food truck. A Dim Sum food truck.

                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                      ipsedixit: who is they and where is it? I need one of my very own!!

                                                                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                        Here you go


                                                                                                        Their dumplings are ok. They have several trucks in NYC. Don't know if that helps you.

                                                                                            3. I don't enjoy sharing dishes. There are very few people I'd want to share with in general and I'd rather just eat my entree by myself. If it's a good restaurant, I'll be back and I'll try a different dish then.

                                                                                              1. Family style. We now have 3 Sichuan places in town with 2 more scheduled to open soon (one of them exclusively a hot pot place), and frequent 2 of them on a weekly basis.

                                                                                                And by "we" I mean a group of chile heads / food enthusiasts who get together for the sole purpose of stuffing ourselves to the gills with as many dishes as possible. Shared. The more mouths, the more dishes to order.

                                                                                                I don't get the "own dish" at all, at least not in this case.

                                                                                                If we order take-out Thai or Indian for a poker game, we also share everything.

                                                                                                1. Due to allergies, I will only share with DH and DD. And as there is basically only one Chinese/Thai (kind of a noodle bar) place in town I trust to not kill my child, we don't eat out for Asian food much. Usually we coordinate our ordering and swap leftovers for lunch the next day.

                                                                                                  1. Here's what frosts me: I'm perfectly willing to share the dish I want to order. But some people think that 'sharing' means that we have to *agree* on what dishes to order. Translation: I have to agree to order what the other person wants. And this boils down to the lowest common denominator, since I am the most adventurous orderer among my crowd. To the point that I just won't go to Chinese with one of these order bullies any more.

                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                                                      Totally agree! I'm in the sharing camp...but will always order what strikes my fancy and ignore any pressure from anyone at the table. Fortunately, when dining in this manner I am usually in the company of like minded people who are knowledgable with regard to Chinese cuisine.

                                                                                                      1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                                                        that's the perfect time to order sea cucumber and pork bung. Have you no spirit of adventure? '-)

                                                                                                        1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                                                          A little discussion and coordination is reasonable, to avoid having say 6 quite similar dishes on the table (which isn't necessarily terrible, but a good variety is more fun). But actually having to have full agreement on each dish from everyone at the table? No way. Order bullies is a perfect term for those people.

                                                                                                          Nobody is forcing them to take a serving of every single dish if they don't want to. So why should they get to force their tastes onto everyone else's choices?

                                                                                                          1. re: Daisy.G

                                                                                                            We went to place and assumed we would eat family style, then everyone else in the group all ordered the same dish. So there were three orders of general tso's, one Szechwan shrimp, one sesame chicken, one orange beef and one lo mein. Booooooring!

                                                                                                        2. Interesting read about why and why not people do not share.

                                                                                                          For me, the best is going to a family style Chinese restaurant with a bunch of people with good synergy and similar food preferences (adventurous and no dietary concerns, for example). Happy to say, I did just that last night and had a wonderful dinner!

                                                                                                          It does not mean that you have to like every dish being ordered -- a general consensus on most of the dishes is good enough. For example, we ordered five dishes, and I thoroughly enjoyed three of them, while one was fine and I didn't care for the last one.

                                                                                                          Even if it is at places that are not explicitly family style (Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, bars, or even more formal settings etc.), I usually still try to see how much I can push with the sharing, especially with the appetizers. Variety and the act of sharing is great, I really do not care too much about quantity (or I do not remember the last time I felt deprived because there was not enough to share).

                                                                                                          The only exceptions are the individual portions of noodles in broth, and even then, one of my friends usually suggests sharing those and I do not mind.

                                                                                                          1. Only with Chinese do we eat 'family style' (just the 2 of us). We'll order 5 or 6 dishes we both like and share. It's enough food for 5 meals. Leftovers are great since the meats have had a chance to marinate in the sauces.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. I will just comment on what people do in Hong Kong for Cantonese food, some of which will apply to regional Chinese dining and maybe even in parts of Taiwan and SE Asia.

                                                                                                              A lot of it depends on the nature of the restaurant itself, what they are serving, portion size, and the demographic.

                                                                                                              Everyday comfort food (carb based) to small plate stir fry can be shared or suited for solo diners. There are no hard fast rules on sharing with friends or family, or if you get your own.
                                                                                                              And it doesn't matter if it is a specialist restaurant (more prominent over there) or a place that does a jack of all trades and puts everything under one roof (most metropolitan US restaurants with some exceptions). For the metropolitan US restaurants with a wide menu that also offer comfort food carb based dishes or bowls, you want to consider the portion size and what makes sense to you (or other diners with you).

                                                                                                              The other question is from the customer side, do you want to sample more dishes, share with others, or are you happy just getting one or two dishes and hogging everything to yourself? The restaurant won't care either way. If the portions are bigger than what you can finish, you can take it home to finish (rare exception like fresh seafood, will not taste good if reheated, whereas a curry claypot beef brisket for example, if done right, will taste marvelous like an overnight ragu the next day.

                                                                                                              Now as far as mid to higher end Cantonese fine dining at seafood restaurants (or fine dining in famous Hong Kong hotels), or even places that don't really do comfort food, but a variety of stir fry homestyle or elegantly done high end entrees, I prefer a variety (and a well balanced one at that), and shared with friends or family, or like minded folks. The social aspect of this is important in these cases, particularly if it is a restaurant that offers strengths in different areas (and not just one category). This is also important in cities that have hundreds of restaurants (particularly if new) where eager beaver reviews want to cover as much ground as possible for their social media accounts, blogs, or just to brag on instagram (or weibo/microblogs) and don't want to revisit a restaurant 100 times to try everything. Thus it makes perfect sense to preorder the signature or best set dishes, find out the restaurant's signature strengths, and/or make special requests off menu. While this might not be possible at some Chinese restaurants in the USA, that is how people get the good stuff in Hong Kong, or they defer to an authority figure or a connection, then host their own version of "chowdowns", where most people will come equipped with picture taking gear (phone or DSLR), snap away then comment, and maybe learn a thing or two about the chef and dishes. For these cases, I agree variety is the spice of life and dining "family" or "friend" style and sharing.

                                                                                                              Another thing about family style for the really nice dishes, is that most preorder traditional style "lost recipe" coming back into vogue items are labor intensive (but taste damn good), and to make it a personal portion is not feasible. For example, 8 treasures stuffed duck, or glutinous rice stuffed chicken...there's no way to make that, and a chef wouldn't even want to do let alone a wing. But in Hong Kong you can find some fine dining Cantonese where there are dishes that are designed for one person portion, like a Shaoxing wine steamed crab claw with egg white and winter melon...sure it will cost you $25 to $35, but you're paying for the labor and work of art. Although you'd be hard pressed to find a Chinese chef in the USA who is willing to do that for a Dungie claw.

                                                                                                              If dining with a group of people, you can also share the responsibility of ordering by say, having each individual pick one dish, so everyone gets to try.

                                                                                                              I've seen solo diners at Chinese restaurants wolfing down a whole stir fried crab or 1.5 to 2 pound lobster, but they don't have room or inclination for anything else. And that is fine too.

                                                                                                              1. Not sharing of Chinese food is a dealbreaker in a relationship for me. Similarly tasting or sharing others dishes in western food is required as well.
                                                                                                                Order my own dish but available to all, even other tables.

                                                                                                                12 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                                                  <Not sharing of Chinese food is a dealbreaker in a relationship for me>

                                                                                                                  Are you really serious?

                                                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                    well....not sharing the egg roll is not cool.....

                                                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                      To a degree, one who does not share food might well not share other stuff, whether time, or emotions or whatever. So not ironclad but at least watched.
                                                                                                                      And you might wonder why l am divorced. However, both my wives were sharers of the highest degree.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                                                        "To a degree, one who does not share food might well not share other stuff, whether time, or emotions or whatever. So not ironclad but al least watched."

                                                                                                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                                                          I'm sorry, but that's bollocks. Food, dining, appetite and personal tastes combine to create a very specific circumstance that is hardly germane to one's overall generosity or niggardliness.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                            l agree to disagree, have seen it be true time after time in both directions.

                                                                                                                          2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                                                            <To a degree, one who does not share food might well not share other stuff>

                                                                                                                            That is extrapolate too much. Chinese and Italians tend share foods. It does not mean Chinese and Italians on average are emotionally more available.

                                                                                                                            That being said, I knew you were exaggerating. :)

                                                                                                                            <And you might wonder why l am divorced. However, both my wives were sharers of the highest degree.>

                                                                                                                            I assuming I read it correctly. I am sorry to hear that.

                                                                                                                        2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                                                          Gee. if everyone felt the same way you do, someone short on cash could simply go to a restaurant, order a side salad with a fork, then get up and go around to every table and sample the restaurants entire menu! For the price of a side salad!

                                                                                                                          In the real world, I suspect the cheap diner would come away with a LOT of fork wounds on his hand. '-)

                                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                            Doesn't scare me, would love the company.

                                                                                                                          2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                                                            I agree with you. All my close friends share dishes when we go out together, so if she doesn't like to share then she is not gonna get along with me.

                                                                                                                          3. I am admittedly an awful food sharer. We always ordered our own food and would share occasionally but if your fork creeped too much, glares were thrown. Then again, I'm an only child so and we all seemed to have different tastes so it worked out well. Neapolitan ice cream was great in our house - me = vanilla, mom = strawberry, dad = chocolate. Now, when I order Chinese with SO we do share but we order more than the usual for 2 people to ensue that we both get our fill of our favorites and that leftovers are appropriately sized for whatever we both like.

                                                                                                                            Even to this day I will avoid eating out adventures with others if I hear discussion of "we'll order xyz" or "let's just order x number of dishes and share." Nope, I have to guarantee I'll get the amount that I want of what I want. I swear, it sounds awful when I write it but I don't think I seem that selfish.

                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                              i see your point of view...it seems you are ok with sharing but you want to make certain you get what you want...that is fully different then not sharing at all.

                                                                                                                              i am a sharer but see others point of view especially if it is someone picky or with dietary needs (vegetarian, etc).

                                                                                                                              1. re: pie22

                                                                                                                                Yea, I don't mind sharing as long as I'm satisfied. I am often the one with dietary needs, not very particular, but I don't eat or really like many carbs so if it's a restaurant with shared heavily carb dishes I just make sure to order enough meat separately to satisfy. It does then annoy me if others who had no interest in said dish, start picking at it since I ordered it strategically

                                                                                                                            2. My husband refuses to share. It's very annoying. His argument is that he doesn't want to be forced to share his superior choice with someone who has made a mediocre selection. We make fun of him.

                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                                Your husband makes an excellent point.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                  I don't know... it sounds a little juvenile to me.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: The Professor

                                                                                                                                    Yes, if the juvenile in question happens to be a superior logician.

                                                                                                                                2. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                                  Ha ha ha. He is funny. Despite that Delucacheesemonger and I just debated about sharing, I personally like to share. The reason is that I like to show off my superior choice :P

                                                                                                                                  How else will they know I am better at selecting my food unless they tried mine. :)

                                                                                                                                  Then, I will let them go back and see their inferior foods, and make them suffer. :P

                                                                                                                                3. As a kid, my family got Chinese take out almost once a week. We put all the containers on the table, stuck a spoon in each one and passed it all around. I can't imagine doing it any other way.

                                                                                                                                  1. Well considering we are a family of two, every meal in theory is communal. I order what I want, BF orders what I suggest, and he shares.

                                                                                                                                    Growing up we each (4 of us) ordered a dish and it was expected that we would share. Though the orderer got the majority of the dish, and could limit how much could be shared. It seems weird to me to watch people eating out of the cartons on tv.

                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                    1. re: viperlush

                                                                                                                                      "I order what I want, BF orders what I suggest, and he shares."

                                                                                                                                      LOL! Democracy in action! '-)

                                                                                                                                    2. For us Chinese food = sharing. We love eating with a group at Chinatown restaurants with the big Lazy Susan on the table.
                                                                                                                                      The whole point seems to be able to try so many different flavors.
                                                                                                                                      Recently we went out with the neighbors to a local place. There were four of us and I ordered four main dishes figuring we would all share (is there any other way?). They each ordered just one main dish and hogged it all. Totally weird! Lots of leftovers for me!!

                                                                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                        Your experience reminded me of 3 English women who sat at a table next to mine at Wong Kei Restaurant in London Chinatown back in 1994, each of them enjoying a dish on their own: one was picking at a bowl of stir-fried beef with vegetables, another had a large platter of lobster with black bean sauce, whilst the third one was enjoying a large plate of "chow mein" noodles which she paired with a bowl of steamed white rice. I remembered thinking then - why didn't they pool those dishes together and share? But, as my SO told me, they looked like regulars at the restaurant and knew specifically what they wanted.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                          Was waiting for mention of a lazy Susan :)

                                                                                                                                          Chinese food to me - lazy Susan, a plate and bowl for each person, plates of sides, carbs and mains with serving utensils, hot sauce

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                            Not just flavors, but ingredients, textures, heat levels, mouthfeels, sweetness, saltiness, cunchiness, oiliness, dryness vs liquid, the whole panoply of differing characteristics of food preparations. The essence of Chinese dining is balance, i.e. to have in a given meal a balance of all the elements that go into any dish or group of dishes. Such a balance cannot practically be achieved in a single dish; it takes a variety to do that. That's why Westerners who misunderstand this point and cling to their own particular dish lose so much of what a Chinese meal is all about.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: johnb

                                                                                                                                              Balance and harmony through contrast is a primary objective of most cuisines when prepared at the refined levels.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                And in Chinese dining, at all levels, the way balance is achieved is through the service and consumption of many dishes, thus requiring sharing.

                                                                                                                                                I would say the balance aspect is far more important in Chinese cuisine than most others. A typical Western meal, of any cuisine, involves only a few dishes and only one of those the "main" -- the coordination among those might typically be an acid salad to balance the oil, and a sweet at the end. Multi-course, multi-dish balanced meals are the vast exception in Western dining, seen mostly at the refined level of high end restaurants (Italy may be an exception), but are a common everyday family style of eating among Chinese people. That's why without sharing, as the Chinese do routinely, one generally doesn't experience Chinese cuisine as it actually exists.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: johnb

                                                                                                                                                Excellent point and not something I'd thought of. If you're not having more than one dish at a meal, you're missing an important element. So sharing is truly important.

                                                                                                                                            2. Have been eating at Chinese restaurants since I was 2 and that was decades ago. ALWAYS family style. ALWAYS. Cannot imagine eating just one dish. Unless it's a single serving soup. That's meant to be eaten by the person who orders it.

                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                              1. re: PAO

                                                                                                                                                l will eat Chinese with you any time you wish.

                                                                                                                                              2. Always share. Even when some of our dining partners are totally unadventuresome eaters. We suffer in silence :)

                                                                                                                                                1. This thread reminds me of an experience many years ago dining in one of my favorite Chinese restaurants that had one of my very favorite beef dishes. It was many years ago and my then boyfriend and his roommate went to dinner. I ordered my own dish, ultra hot beef and shredded carrots. The guys ordered their own dishes--a shrimp dish and a pork dish. The roommate who was very friendly but not too smart, helped himself to a third of mine, rather than just a forkful, and said he didn't like it.

                                                                                                                                                  I ordinarily don't mind sharing but none of my friends or family like their Chinese as hot as I do. They are always welcome to a taste of anything I order.

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Kate is always hungry

                                                                                                                                                    Actually the roommate sounds like he was smarter than you gave him credit for. :o]

                                                                                                                                                  2. Sharing, always.

                                                                                                                                                    Anyway, that's why they invented chopsticks and Lazy Susans. Someone looks like they are taking too much of the pork belly, you quickly rotate the Lazy Susan away from them - or you can bypass them completely. Suddenly reversing the direction works well too.

                                                                                                                                                    Then if someone already has too much, you employ your chopsticks, Voila, they have one less dumpling on their plate. (Better to distract them first, like while the culprit is pouring really hot tea.)

                                                                                                                                                    1. I vary here. When I'm with actual family or very close friends, I like the sharing route, because we can be more casual and efficient about it. Like I can just grab a bite right off my son's plate, and he, likewise mine.

                                                                                                                                                      But when I'm out in a more professional or even semi-formal context--like a mixed group where people know each other to varying degrees, if at all--I think it's just kind of distracting and not worth it to make "sharing all around" the rule, unless, say, you're at a large round table with a lazy susan in the middle, a rarity.

                                                                                                                                                      Same applies for Indian restaurants that aren't buffets.

                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                                                                                        I'd like to perhaps make a distinction. It sounds like you're talking about each person ordering a dish rather than the whole table ordering a number of dishes. I say that because you mention taking a bit off your son's plate. To me, "family style" means no one has their own dish.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                          I just didn't want to go on long so I wasn't clear. Our norm is for all the food to be in the middle, family style, but it's also typical for each person to have the item that they were most responsible for ordering, and each person tends to go there first. The degree to which, and the way in which, we share really depends on spatial considerations. If it's easy to share freely, we embrace it. If it's a bit more troublesome for lack of table space, we pick off each others plates to see whether we more of that other thing, and how much more. Basically, it's all flexible.

                                                                                                                                                      2. Ordering your own dish, in a smaller group, really does limit the number of dishes the others can enjoy. It's fine if everyone knows that's how it will be up front, but that isn't always the case. That's why I try to avoid Chinese meals with people who are 'limited eaters' in general. Our circle of friends doesn't have too many in it who enjoy the range of dishes we do. Unless it's just for the company, I'd rather save my dining out money for an experience I'll really enjoy.

                                                                                                                                                        1. I used to be a sharer, without reserve.

                                                                                                                                                          I am no longer. Celiac disease has changed that, and I am still trying to figure out the etiquette in the grand scheme of things.

                                                                                                                                                          I still haven't found a Chinese restaurant that I feel comfortable with as far as gluten-free goes, but we did find a Thai restaurant that would accommodate. After a dinner where my gluten-free prawn dish was hoovered up by all other diners, I decided (pouting, honestly, getting only one prawn..and dealing with the inadvertent glutening that results from different spoons dipping into the sauce...that was a wake-up call!) that I would be proactive about my dish being the only one I can reasonably eat. I am not ungenerous; I simply want to eat food that I have ordered and generally had to go to some lengths to make sure I can eat.

                                                                                                                                                          Mostly, it doesn't irritate me too much. I can deal with the fact that my eating has to be different from others' eating. I do however, get irritated with the sharing in non-Chinese places, where I have paid, say, a three dollar premium for gluten free on a sandwich, and my tablemates feel too free with the sharing. Um, if I can't share yours, why should you feel so free with mine?

                                                                                                                                                          Oof, I sound like a bitch. I hate that. Let's just say this: my non-sharing has nothing to do with a lack of generosity or lack of conviviality. Merely self-preservation of gut. Most of my friends now "get that," but it still makes me feel a bit of the pariah at the communal table.

                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                                                                                            Knowing your situation I'd never take anything of yours. Not unless I order something that you can eat too

                                                                                                                                                            I eat seafood but no land animals and my friends and family are happy to order things that I can eat as well. And There is still enough beef, chicken and pork for them.

                                                                                                                                                          2. We only had one Chinese place in town and ordering takeout was never something we even considered, as it was a special occasion for us all to go out since we were very poor. We each ordered our own dishes and never shared except maybe one bite to someone else for them to try it, mostly because 2 of the 4 of us were very, very picky. And yes, I was one of them.

                                                                                                                                                            Now that I'm an adult and have a broader palate, I enjoy the sharing aspect a lot. If I am with someone who doesn't want to share, that's ok with me, but I like the sharing aspect a lot, whether at the restaurant or at home passing around containers. I like to be able to try a number of things.

                                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                                                              Share or don't share, doesn't bother me. But I would at least like to know which we are doing before ordering. Don't want surprises and want to be able to order accordingly.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: viperlush

                                                                                                                                                                Very true, the surprise share is not a good one.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: viperlush

                                                                                                                                                                  I'm comfortable saying "Are we all sharing?" And maybe followup with "We like it pretty spicy."

                                                                                                                                                              2. It depends on who I am with at the time.

                                                                                                                                                                I have a group of foodie friends and when we go out for Chinese food we always share. The ordering is done communal style with one of two people doing the bulk of the ordering for the group and anyone else adding a dish or a suggestion.

                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Disneyfreak

                                                                                                                                                                  As a side bar, are these portions more than an individual would normally eat? As you can see from above, it appears that in certain parts of the US anyway, an 'order' is enough for one person where in other parts of the country and the world and 'order' is for more than one person (of average appetite).