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Sep 27, 2013 07:10 PM

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?


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  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.