A Beginner's Guide to the Chinese Lauriat
The lauriat is synonymous with special occasions for the Chinese—and we mean that literally: The word comes from lao diat, which translates to "special occasion" from the original Fookien. And while we all love a good Chowking lauriat once in a while, their little bento-style boxes are a far cry from the lavish two- to three-hour feast that is a genuine lauriat.
For the uninitiated, it can be a shock to the senses, not to mention to your stomach. With a little mental prep and some pacing, however, you can survive and make the most of the New Year feast. Here's what you should know before committing to that gastronomical frenzy.
1. A lauriat consists of 8 to 10 dishes, varying in meats, textures, and flavors (usually about one dish per person).
2. See that wet washcloth? It's there to wipe your hands on before and during the meal, not to refresh your pores.
3. The seat of honor must be in center; if the table is round, the seat faces East or the entrance door.
4. Peanuts are consumed while ordering or waiting for food to arrive. Don’t keep asking for more if food is out!
5. A bowl is usually used for soup or rice.
6. Wines and alcohol are for toasting, not for pairing.
7. Let the highest-ranking person on the table lift their chopsticks first before you do.
8. Chopsticks should always be of same length and ends should be even.
Do not leave them sticking upright. Do not use to point or spear into food. Keep them on chopstick rests when not in use, or on the side of your plate or bowl—never on top of your plate, which is a sign that you are done eating.
9. Spitting small pits or bones out of your mouth to a bowl is acceptable more than removing it with chopsticks or your hands.
10. Keep both hands visible above the table. Use other hand to hold down bowl or to lift it up to your mouth.
11. There is sometimes a communal set of chopsticks used for serving. They are longer and more ornate than regular chopsticks. If there are none, use the opposite end of your own chopsticks to get food from the serving plates.
12. Do not handle food with your hands.
13. Do not dig through food with your chopsticks. Also never pass food using your chopsticks.
14. That cold cuts platter—it's really meant to be cold (including the asado!).
15. Be prepared to eat new food items including abalone, sea mantis, frog, pigeon, duck, goose, etc.
16. Keep on drinking tea to help you with digestion. Hold down the lid when pouring. Open tea pot to signal you’re out of tea.
17. Mind your spinning—always check if others are getting food before you spin the lazy Susan. Always offer first to the guest of honor, then turn clockwise. Host is last. Also, avoid removing platters from the Lazy Susan.
18. Do not flip fish when you’re done with one side. Carefully pull up and remove the bones.
19. Dimsum is only for morning or for lunch.
20. Keep everything balanced: including cooking methods.
21. Rice is served last, and don’t complain about it.
This is because you’re given the chance to savor the other special dishes first. If you’re still hungry at the end, then you can fill up with some fried rice. If you want rice with your proteins, politely ask for a cup from your server.
22. Expect the lauriat to last from 2 to 3 hours
23. Bad manners reflect on your parents.