How We Consume Our Food Is Just As Important As The Food Itself | Pan-Asian Palace | Halifax, Nova Scotia

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gBeing together for meals has always been a special part of the life of most Asian cultures. It is a time when we can come together, forget all our worries and share one of the greatest joys in life. Just as important as the food itself is how we consume our food. It can help create an experience that makes eating more enjoyable, and even be a glimpse into the history of our culture.

Switching between different ways depending on what food you eat and who you eat with shows great respect and I would really like more people to do that. The way white people eat is not the norm and not everyone should be required to follow Western rules, especially when we eat our own food!

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I remember being a teenager with my non-Asian friends and having the most anxiety with using a fork and knife at the table. Even to this day I get a little nervous when I go out to eat and have to remember which fork to use (why are there so many fucking utensils ????). My family has always used chopsticks, even for eating salads. It’s not like we don’t have forks and knives at home, it’s just that we find chopsticks so much more useful and versatile. And what’s even more useful are your hands.

Asian cuisine has been so bastardized by Western culture and it’s time to take that back. No more phorritos, no more ramen burgers. Eat our food as it was designed. You will have a much better experience and will cringe less.

Korean tabletop barbecue has exploded over the past two years. I’m super glad that more and more people are starting to try it. This style of eating has been at the center of some of my fondest memories. There is absolutely no better way to say “I love you” than to grill pieces of pork belly, or vegetables, for others.

As I was the youngest in my family, it was my responsibility to grill for everyone. It sounds like a lot, but this duty has come with its benefits. The ancients would wrap meat, rice, and samjjang (a type of sauce) in crunchy lettuce and feed me while I worked. It’s embarrassing to have a wrap that’s too big for your mouth, but it’s in the name of fun and good times.

If you drink, Korean table barbecue is one of the best gateways to some Korean drinking games. Look for them and try a few, they are really great. The rules for drinking are stricter when you are with the elderly, but when you are with your friends you can relax a bit more, even if the youngest still has to use the shots. The youngest in the group should pour with two hands, one on the bottle and the other hand just lightly touching your wrist or elbow. It’s the same when someone serves you a drink.

You should never pay for yourself, youngest or not. This keeps the whole table engaged in the meal and shows the people you are with that you care about them.

There are so many more food labels around sharing a Korean meal, like:
• Always keep your bowl of rice on the table, do not lift your bowl
• Don’t stab food with chopsticks or dig into banchan (side dishes) to find that perfect piece. If the person you’re eating with really likes you, if they see that perfect bite, they’ll give it to you.
• Do not put your chopsticks directly in your bowl of rice
• Before eating, say “I am going to eat well” (chal moe-gae sum nida) and after you have finished eating, say “I have eaten well” (chal moe-go sum nida)
• Keep the beat with everyone! Don’t swallow your food

It might be a lot to remember while you’re hungry, but all of those things are there to show respect to the people you eat with and the food you eat. So the next time you eat food from another culture, why not read up on that culture’s etiquette?



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