Oriental Etiquette – Here’s to eating right, the delicious way!
Before we understand the dining etiquette of the Orient, we must dive into the culture of the land.
The culture of a region is a summation of human intellectual achievement in that place and also the amalgamation of ideas, customs, and social behaviour of its people or society. The Orient, is a celebration of customs and ideas that echo in every nook and corner you find yourself. And that is best expressed through the food culture, stirred with delicious history and slow cooked to perfection over long periods of time. And as a result, to best enjoy the flavours of the Orient, one must keep in mind the nuances of dining etiquette specific to every region. Join us as we start on this gastronomic journey!
Welcome to Vietnam – And Vietnam’s Dining Etiquette
If you are planning on spending any time in Vietnam it is probably a good idea to brush up on your table manners. It is unlikely that local people will expect you to be familiar with every custom, but knowing the local etiquette can be an easy way to impress any friends you meet on your trip.
When not using your chopsticks, lay them across your rice bowl instead of sticking them into your food. Buddhism heavily influences Vietnamese culture and chopsticks standing up in rice look similar to incense burned in Buddhist ceremonies, which is best avoided at the dinner table.
Although it’s considered rude to hold your rice bowl to your mouth in most countries of the East, Vietnam advocates the practice. It’s advisable to use both hands to pass the dish, sample every dish on the table, take your time to appreciate your food, and not eat from the serving bowl. Expect arrival and departure of guests along with lively discussions, during meals. It is considered disrespectful to the host to leave your meal unfinished, or if the staff brings the bill to the table and usually the host personally walks up to the front and asks for the same.
If you’re crazy about K-food, you need to know this!
One of the most interesting things of Korean food culture is that if you never want to have to pour your own drink, South Korea is the place for you! Dining etiquette in South Korea mandates that your neighbor fill your glass, and you fill your neighbor’s cup. This means, you have to be on constant alert for when your neighbor’s glass needs to be refilled. If you want more to drink, you can subtly indicate your need for more beverage by pouring more into your neighbor’s glass even if it’s more than half full. If you must, it’s permissible in Korea, to bend over to eat your rice. However, it’s never acceptable to lift your rice bowl to your lips to consume its contents.
Before taking your first bite, it’s important to express that you will eat well with the words Jalmeokgesseumnida, which in English would translate to ‘I will eat well’. This is a kind compliment to the chef, and it’s always nice to show gratitude! You might also want to thank your hosts after the meal with the word Masegaemugusuyo. Literally translated, this means ‘I ate well’. Sprinkle these phrases into your Korean dining experience and impress your host.
It’s always good manners to say yes, please, to Chinese!
Dining etiquette in China is built on strong traditions and table manners are more ritualized in the Eastern world due its belief in authenticity! Dress well and always arrive on time, to make your host feel that the dining experience is important and meaningful to you. Introduce yourself to the most respected person at the table, which is evident by the seating arrangement. The guest of honour usually sits first, facing east or away from the door, and is the first one to eat, while the order is taken care of by the host, who looks for the best variety on the menu.
It is imperative to rinse your cup, bowls, saucer, chopsticks and soup spoon with hot tea and drain it into the larger waste dish placed at the centre. Toasting to health, wealth and prosperity is integral to Chinese dinners, and the national drink, bajiju, is usually used for the same. The first toast is made in order of prominence and it’s polite to stop eating and stand if a toast is being made by, or to you. It is not, although, considered rude to slurp or belch while eating your food, and taken as a sign of enjoying your meal. Do not stir food with your chopsticks, or leave food unfinished, if you want to make a few good friends at a Chinese dining event.
A trip to Japan’s food trails is a taste of culture!
Japanese restaurants usually have low tables and cushions on tatami floor instead of Western-style chairs and tables. Shoes and slippers have to be removed before stepping on tatami. Wet towels (oshibori) are provided to clean your hands before eating and it is common to start the meal with the phrase itadakimasu (‘I gratefully receive’). If a dish is better eaten right away but others at the table have not been served yet, the phrases osaki ni dōzo (‘please go ahead’) or osaki ni itadakimasu (‘allow me to start before you’) can be useful.
When eating from small bowls, it is advised to pick up the bowl with your hand and lead it close to your mouth when eating from it; however, larger types of dishes should generally not be picked up. One should keep in mind that soy sauce should not be directly poured over rice and is used as a dipping sauce, while wasabi is usually already added in the sushi and should be added sparingly so as to not offend the chef. Do not start drinking until everybody at the table has a drink and the glasses are raised for a drinking salute, where kampai is most commonly used.
After finishing your meal, return all your dishes to how they were at the start of the meal. This includes replacing the lids on dishes and putting your chopsticks back on the chopstick rest or in its paper holder. Conclude the meal with the phrase gochisōsama deshita (‘thank you for the feast’) which includes gratitude not only towards the chef but also the ingredients consumed.
So now that you’re all set to eat with the connoisseurs of Oriental cuisine, how about you join us for a fine dining experience at the one-stop-shop for all things deliciously Orient, The Wall! We’re eagerly waiting to host you!