Originally published March 29, 1984
When the Kitchen Mouse is invited by a Chinese friend to his home for a meal, he can tell which kind of Chinese meal will be served by looking at the table. If the dishes to be served are all on the table, it is a family meal. The family meal will consist of at least the four basic dishes: one meat, one fish, one vegetable and one soup. You will sit down to a table setting of a bowl of rice, a pair of chopsticks, a soup bowl with a china spoon, and a plate to place your food on. You can help yourself to the central dishes. At the end of the meal, hot tea will be served. Fruit or dessert may be served, but don’t count on it.
If you are invited to a banquet, you should also notice the table: a banquet table must be round and is always set for 10 to 12. If more people are invited, more tables will be set. The seat farthest inside the dining room facing the entrance is for the guest of honor. The seats opposite the guest of honor are for the host and hostess. At a banquet, the different dishes are served one at a time. Appetizers are first, followed by sautéed or fried dishes, then the main course (about four to six dishes) is served. Soup or a sweet may be served between the other dishes as well as the last dish. Of course, each time the soup or sweet are served, they are of different kinds.
To begin the banquet, the host drinks a toast to the guest of honor, and then the guest of honor expresses his thanks in a toast. The host then helps the guest of honor to the food. Only when the guest of honor starts to eat can the others start. So whether you are partaking of a family meal in the home of a Chinese friend or attending a banquet Chinese-style, you will always feel at home.
On today’s Kitchen Mouse Chinese Menu:
Ssu Chi Ton Niu Ju - Cantonese Beef with Green Bean
Tung-Sun Ch’ao Jo - Cantonese Pork with Bamboo Shoots
Hsieh Fu Yung - Vegetable and Crabmeat Egg Fu Yung
Basic Fu Yung Sauce Recipe
Hsing Jen Ping - Almond Cookies