One tradition that I really like here is the group order. From ancient times up to today, Chinese people in restaurants and in their own houses haven’t been served individual dishes, except individual bowls of rice. Usually, a number of dishes are prepared or ordered and everyone usually just takes what they want from whichever plate they want. In most restaurants, there is a lazy susan in the middle of the table onto which the dishes are placed, and diners then slowly revolve the dishes, taking a little of each and bringing back the ones they want more of.
What is most enjoyable about this system is that everyone gets to try everything. There’s no asking if you can try a bit of someone’s chicken or another person’s beef – you just spin the table and take a bit. Of course, popular dishes go fast, but the good thing is that quite often, dishes are not terribly expensive, so another dish of the kung pao chicken or sweet and sour fish can be ordered.
People are usually good about things that have a limited number and/or are expensive, like prawns or lobster tails or something like that. There tend to be more dishes than people anyway – Christine and I went to a restaurant with a group when we were at Sun Moon Lake and were served eleven courses for nine people, and, more recently, a student’s family, who own a seafood restaurant, recently treated us to fourteen dishes for nine adults and three kids. As you can see, there’s always enough food to go around, and everyone leaves sated and happy.