Ordering in a Chinese restaurant

If you’re traveling in a Chinese-speaking country you’ll definitely be eating out and ordering in a Chinese restaurant. In this free lesson the Rocket Chinese team will teach you the basics you need to know so you can enjoy the delicious Chinese cuisine – just listen to the audio and practice saying these Mandarin Chinese words and phrases aloud. When you’re ready, why not try them out on the staff at a local Chinese restaurant?
 
Feel like another beer? Need some extra rice? Want to pay separately? No problem! After this lesson you’ll be ordering from the menu in Chinese like a pro, and impressing everyone at the table with your Chinese language skills. Is your mouth watering? Let’s get started!

Ordering in a Chinese restaurant

Food at a Chinese restaurant

When you go to a restaurant in China, in most cases you can choose the table by yourself. You will only be seated by the waiter or waitress if it is a really fancy restaurant, or it is very busy in the restaurant at that moment and there appear to be no seats available. In some restaurants the menu will be on the table already otherwise the waiter or waitress will bring it over to you as soon as possible.  After being greeted you could get asked one of the following questions…

您要先喝点儿什么吗?

Nín yào xiān hēdiǎnr shénme ma?

Would you like to order some drinks to start with?

您已经选好了吗?

Nín yǐjīng xuǎnhǎole ma?

Have you chosen already?

您要点什么?

Nín yào diǎn shénme?

What would you like to order?

您要开胃菜吗?

Nín yào kāiwèicài ma?

Would you like an appetizer?

您要点菜吗?

Nín yào diǎncài ma?

Would you like to order?

您想吃点儿什么?

Nín xiǎng chīdiǎnr shénme?

What would you like to eat?

Sometimes all you might get asked is…

您要什么?

Nín yào shénme?

What do you want?

You could answer by saying one of these phrases…

请稍等一下。

Qǐng shāoděng yíxià。

One moment, please.

我要先点点儿喝的。

Wǒ yào xiān diǎndiǎnr hēde。

I’d like to order something to drink to start with.

我还不知道。

Wǒ hái bùzhīdào。

I don’t know yet.

Not sure what you fancy eating? Just ask the waiter what he recommends…

你有什么可以向我推荐?

Nǐ yǒu shénme kěyǐ xiàng wǒ tuījiàn?

What can you recommend?

你们有什么特色菜?

Nǐmen yǒu shénme tèsècài?

What are some specialty dishes?

Chinese food

Here are the names of some dishes and drinks that you might find on the menu…

矿泉水

kuàngquánshuǐ

Mineral water

果汁

guǒzhī

Juice

啤酒

píjiǔ

Beer

红葡萄酒

hóngpútáojiǔ

Red wine

白葡萄酒

báipútáojiǔ

White wine

香槟

xiāngbīn

Champagne

开胃菜

kāiwèicài

Appetizer

主菜

zhǔcài

Main

甜点

tiándiǎn

Dessert

小菜

xiǎocài

Cold dish/side dish (Literal: small dish)

tāng

Soup

沙拉

shālā

Salad

jiàng

Sauce

蔬菜

shūcài

Vegetables

土豆

tǔdòu

Potatoes

米饭

mǐfàn

Rice

ròu

Meat

面条

miàntiáo

Noodles

猪肉

zhūròu

Pork

鸡肉

jīròu

Chicken

牛肉

niúròu

Beef

To order the dish you would like simply say…

我要…

Wǒ yào…

I’ll have…

我想要…

Wò xiǎngyào…

I would like…

Once you finished your meal you ask for the bill…

结账。

Jiézhàng。

The bill, please.

我买单。

Wǒ mǎidān。

I would like to pay, please.

Chinese cooking ingredients

In China the waiter or waitress will bring the bill to your table. Traditionally, Chinese people don’t split the bill. Instead, it is very common in Chinese culture that either the oldest or most respected person will pay for everyone at the table, or that everybody in the group will try to pay for the whole lot, depending on the occasion. It is interesting to see a "fight" (or at least heated exchange) take place at each table towards the end of a meal, because every person is trying to pay for the entire party. Of course if someone “wins” and successfully pays for the whole group this time, it will be someone else’s turn the next time.

Nowadays, this is less common within the younger generation. And WeChat even has a "split the bills" feature with its built-in apps. So it is still important to know how to say the following words, especially if you are dining out with foreign friends who might not share this tradition.

一起付。

Yīqǐ fù。

Pay together.

分开付。

Fēnkāi fù。

Pay separately.

People don’t expect you to tip in Chinese restaurants. Unless you are really happy with the food and extra service, or you in a hurry and can’t be bothered for the change. In that case, the following sentence will get you covered.

小费

xiǎofèi

tip

别找了,算小费吧。

Bié zhǎole, suàn xiǎfèi ba。

You can keep the change as tips. (Literal: Don't give back the change, consider it as tips.)

Here are a few recommended Chinese lessons to try next!

Xià cì jiàn! (下次见!)

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Lin Ping
Rocket Chinese


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