"The Chinese are very lucky people because wherever they go, they can always find hometown food"
As a Chinese saying goes, "When going to an eating house, go to one that is filled with customers." A good rules of thumb for choosing the right Chinese restaurants to dine is if the restaurant isn't packed with customers during dinner time, chances are it's not worth a try.
Ideally, eating Chinese food is a communal affair involving two or more people, principally because the greater the number of diners, the greater the numbers of dishes ordered. Generally speaking, two diners order three dishes in addition to their own individual bowl of steamed rice, three diners 4 dishes and so on. Diners choose whatever they require from shared dishes and generally add it to their own rice.
When you enter a proper Chinese restaurant you'll be quickly escorted to a table. More often than not, tea, nuts and pickles will be served immediately, to take away your hunger pangs whilst you browse the menu. Tea is served in glasses or in small porcelain cups. Whenever you're filling your cup, it is good table manners to check out and top others' cups first even if they're still half full. When someone's cup becomes empty, it is polite for the person nearest to the tea pot to top it up for him or her. Tap lightly by your cup when someone does this to you as a gesture of saying thank you. Take the lid of the pot off or flip it over if you want the pot refilled by the waiter.
Unlike Western cuisine where food is served in courses, Chinese food is served simultaneously, with the exception of during Chinese banquets. When ordering, unless eating a one-dish meal like a hotpot, try to select items with a range of tastes and textures, for example, sweet and sour pork, spicy kung pao chicken and steamed fish. Order a soup too. In Chinese cuisine, soup is consumed concurrently with the rest of the food. Many Chinese restaurants in the West practise two-menu system - a Chinese menu and an adapted Western menu. From experience, if you do not want your meal to be a disappointment, ask for a Chinese menu.
Shortly after placing your order, the selected dishes will make their appearance display. When all the food arrive, it's impolite to start lifting the chopsticks or eating utensils before the host does. And as a gracious host, he or she can get things going by picking the best piece of food ie. part of a drumstick and offer it to one of the guests (ladies first) and utter "sik, sik" (Cantonese) or "chi, chi" (Chinese) meaning "let's eat!".
If the table settings include public serving spoons or chopsticks, use them instead of your own set to get yourself food. If public serving spoon or chopsticks are not provided, you may ask for them to be brought to the table.
Reaching across to the opposite side of the plate or "rummaging" the dish with your chopsticks or spoon to get that lean piece of meat is considered selfish and bad manners. Always pick up the piece of food near to you.
In some dishes, chicken and pork are usually cut clear through the bones. You should be careful of the sharp shards of bones in it which can be removed with your chopsticks or spat onto your plate.
The Chinese like picking their teeth at the end of a meal. It is polite to cover the mouth with one hand while the other does the digging.
The presence of multiple Chinese dishes allows a myriad of tastes and textures, mild or overpowering, to assault your senses all at the same time. Happy dining!