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Learning Chinese: Eating at a Restaurant

written by: Sonal Panse • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/5/2012

You can turn the experience of eating out at a Chinese restaurant into a language learning one. Here are some Chinese language phrases to use on the occasion. This article includes a list of Chinese vocabulary and phrases that can be downloaded for reference.

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    Eating at a Restaurant in China

    If you need an excuse to be out eating Zhōngguó cài (Chinese food), here's a good one. Do it for the sake of learning the Chinese language. Visit a Zhōngguó cānguǎn (Chinese restaurant) and try ordering the food in Chinese. It will help if you read up on the wide, varied Chinese cuisine beforehand. Or, go with a Chinese speaking friend who can help you choose what to eat.

    Many Chinese restaurants may have menus in English or picture menus that make it easier to identify the food available. You might try Sìchuān cài (Sichuan food), Guǎngōng cài (Guangdong food), Yuècài (Cantonese food), or any other regional cuisines.

    In "Hot Pot" Chinese restaurants, you are provided a hot pot of water or soup stock, and you then order the vegetables or meats to go in it. In "Dim Sum" restaurants, you can order food from a menu, or you can choose what you want from food displayed on a food cart or food counter.

    Chinese food, for the main part, is stir-fried, fried, dry-fried, boiled, and steamed. Chinese people eat a lot of different kinds of meat and pure vegetarianism, although it exists, is comparatively less widespread than in other countries like the United States.

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    Chinese Food and Restaurant Phrases

    • Hello - Nĭ hăo
    • I want to reserve a table for four - Wǒ yào yùdìng wèizi, sì gè rén de
    • Please sit over here - Qǐng zhèbiān zuò
    • Please show me the menu - Qǐnɡ nǐ ɡěi wǒ kàn kàn cài dān
    • What would you like to order? - Nǐ xu yào diǎn xie shén me?
    • What do you want to eat?- Nín yào chī shén me?
    • What is good to eat? - Yǒu shén me hǎo chī de?
    • What is that? - Na shì shén me?
    • I do not eat meat - Wǒ bù chī ròu
    • I want to eat meat - Wǒ yào chī ròu
    • I do not eat seafood - Wǒ bù chī hai xian
    • I cannot eat fish - Wǒ bù néng chī yú
    • I don't eat chicken - Wǒ bù chī jī ròu
    • I don't eat egg - Wǒ bù chī dàn
    • I'm a vegetarian - Wŏ shì sù shí
    • I eat vegetables - Wŏ chī sù
    • What vegetable dishes do you have? - Yŏu shén me sù cài
    • Do you have ...? - Nǐ yǒu mé yǒu ...?
    • Do you have other dishes? - Hái yǒu bié de ma?
    • Do you want something else? - Hái shén me ma?
    • I can't use chopsticks - Wǒ bù huì yòng kuài zǐ
    • What soup do you want? - Yào shén me tāng?
    • I want to eat ... - Wǒ yào chī ...
    • I would like to have ... - Wǒ xiǎng yào ...
    • What would you like to drink? - Nǐ yào he diǎn shén me
    • Please wait a moment - Qǐng děng yīxià
    • I will have this - Wǒ yào zhègè
    • That was delicious - Nà gè zhēn hǎo chī
    • How much? - Qù dūoshăo qián?
    • Can I have the bill? - Qǐng gěi wǒ zhàngdān?
    • Thank you, the food was delicious - Xièxie, fàncài hǎochī!
    • Goodbye - Zài jiàn
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    List of Foods

    • Apple - Píng guŏ
    • Beef - Niú ròu
    • Bread - Miàn bāo
    • Cheese - Năi lào
    • Chicken - Jī ròu
    • Coffee - Kāfēi
    • Dumplings - Jiǎozi
    • Fried pancake - Jīan bīng
    • Fruit - Shuǐ gǒu
    • Hamburger - Hànbǎobāo
    • Hot and sour soup - Suān là tāng
    • Hot pot - Huo guo
    • Ice cream - Bing qi lin
    • Meat - Ròu
    • Milk - Niú năi
    • Mushroom - Mógu
    • Mutton - Yáng ròu
    • Noodles - Miàntiáo
    • Nuts - Guǒrén
    • Orange juice - Chéngzhī
    • Pizza - Bǐsàbǐng
    • Pork - Zhū ròu
    • Rice - Mǐfàn
    • Tofu - Dòufǔ
    • White rice porridge - Da mǐ zhou
    • Yogurt - Suā năi

    You can download a list of the Chinese vocabulary in this article at Learning Chinese - Chinese Vocabulary and Phrases - Eating at a Restaurant.