7 Ways that American diets are massively different from Chinese diets
Americans may be surprised to learn they don't know the Chinese diet nearly as well as they think they do. American Chinese food is notoriously inauthentic, and the culture is one that Americans aren't as always well-versed in.
From the food they eat to the way it's prepared to the way it's consumed - the Chinese diet and eating customs are very different from those of America. While different groups may enjoy foods in different ways, these are generalizations based on more widespread traditions.
1. In China, nearly all meals are shared
As much as Americans love eating meals with friends and family, it's not that unusual to be on your own for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. In fact, a 2006 survey notes that 60 percent of Americans regularly eat alone.
In China, however, eating alone is such a cultural taboo that it drove one Chinese Millennial to create a series of videos and book on Eating Alone. Yanni Cai's work is not only helping people in China learn to eat and cook for themselves, but it's also breaking the tradition of all meals needing to have "three main dishes plus a soup."
2. Using chopsticks requires food to be in bite-size portions
The use of chopsticks in China rather than a knife and fork in America requires dishes to be prepared in more bite-size portions. Chopsticks are ingrained in the culture of China, in part due to the influence of Confucius. Practically, cooking food in smaller bites required cooks to use less cooking fuel, which was a plus.
Additionally, Confucius was a vegetarian who associated knives and forks with the violence of slaughterhouses and thought removing them from meals would encourage a more positive experience.
3. We season our food differently
America truly is a melting pot, and so are our pantries. Some of the most common spices used in America are vanilla, pepper, sesame seed, cinnamon, mustard, oregano, with cumin, paprika, and turmeric also gaining in popularity, according to NPR.
Chinese cooking utilizes more traditional and regional spices. Some are fairly common in America like salt, vinegar, soy sauce, and cinnamon, but they also use a number of spices not seen in American grocery stores. Prickly ash seeds, cardamom, lesser galangal, star anise, and kaempferia galanga are all popular spices in Chinese dishes.
4. China uses ingredients not readily found in Western cooking
There are many ingredients used in Chinese cooking that we don't often see in America, or at least not as often. Things like ginger, soy sauce, mushrooms of all varieties, and chili paste are familiar to Americans, but likely aren't a staple of their diets. Then there are ingredients Americans use rarely, it at all like lotus pods, fermented beans, star anise, rice noodles, and plum sauce.
5. Raw vegetables aren't as big of a thing in China
Although Americans can't get enough of salads it seems, serving vegetables raw is not nearly as common in China where most vegetables are cooked in water, roasted, or pan-fried. Of course, this isn't a hard rule and you will occasionally find salads made with raw vegetables in China.
6. Desserts in China aren't as sweet
Like many other countries, dessert in China isn't as sweet or indulgent as it often is in America. Typically, it will be an egg tart, red bean pastry, or simply some fruit and tea.
7. Hot tea is enjoyed more often in China
Americans are drinking more tea than ever, but their consumption doesn't hold a candle to that of China's. Legend has it that drinking tea began in China 5,000 years ago, and from then on, a long-held tradition of the tea ceremony started. Using tenants of Taoism, the tea ceremony is meant to enjoy and appreciate the tea, while also strengthening relationships and learning etiquette.
Assuming you know about other cultures is never a good idea and people can get particularly pissy about food so be careful. One thing we can all agree on is: Chinese food, no matter if you're in Beijing or Boston, is pretty sweet (and sour - is that assuming? I'm sorry).