Survival Chinese - how to order food in China


Bring your appetite because when it comes to eating, China will never let you down.

Eating the authenic food is one of the most popular features to attract millions of travelers coming to China. However, if you cannot read Chinese, it might be a problem to find and order the food in China.

Chinese Restaurant Menu
This Survival Chinese on how to order food in China is battle tested, and provided to help any travelers in a easy and quick way.

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 will bring it over to you as soon as possible. After being greeted you could get asked one of the following questions…

English Pingyin Chinese
How many people are there? Qǐngwèn jǐ wèi? 请问几位?
Are you ready to order? Kěyǐ diǎn cài le ma? 可以点菜了吗?
Would you like to order some drinks to start with? Nín yào xiān hēdiǎnr shénme ma? 您要先喝点儿什么吗?
What would you like to order? Nín yào diǎn shénme? 您要点什么?
Would you like to order? Nín yào diǎncài ma? 您要点菜吗?
What would you like to eat? Nín xiǎng chīdiǎnr shénme? 您要吃点什么?

Don't know how to read Pingyin? Read more. . .

Sometimes you might get easily asked by:

English Pingyin Chinese
Yes please? Nín yào shénme? 您要什么?

By answering these questions, you could say one of these phrases:

English Pingyin Chinese
One moment, please.  Qǐng shāoděng yíxià. 请稍等一下.
There are ___ people (in our party). ___ wèi. ___ 位.
Yes, we'd like to order. Wǒmen yào diǎn cài. 我们要点菜.
I’d like to order something to drink to start with Wǒ yào xiān diǎndiǎnr hēde. 我要先点点儿喝的.
Not yet, please give us a few more minutes. Hái méi. Zài děng yīxià. 还没. 再等一下

If you are not sure what you want to eat, below are some phrases to help you get suggestions from the waiter.

English Pingyin Chinese
What can you recommend? Nǐ yǒu shénme kěyǐ xiàng wǒ tuījiàn? 你有什么可以向我推荐?
What is the daily special? Nǐmen yǒu shénme tèsècài? 你们有什么特色菜?

Some restaurants may offer you the menu with both pictures and English translations, although some translations are not correct.

For small restaurants, they may not have English menus. It’s OK to look at what other people are eating and indicate to the wait staff what you want by pointing.

To order the dishes you'd like easily say:

English Pingyin Chinese
I’ll have… Wǒ yào… 我要…
I would like… Wò xiǎngyào… 我想要... 

When the waiter serves your dishes, below are some phrases you are likely to say:

English Pingyin Chinese
That is for me. Shì wǒde. 是我的.
This is not what I ordered. Zhè búshì wǒ diǎn de. 这不是我点的.
Please bring us some more... . Qǐng zài gěi wǒmen ... . 请再给我... .

Once you finish your meal, you ask for the bill...

English Pingyin Chinese
The bill, please.  Jiézhàng 结账
How much is it? Duōshǎo qián? 多少钱?.
Can I pay by credit card? Wǒ kěyǐ yòng xìnyòngkǎ ma? 我可以用信用卡吗?
The bill is not right. Zhàngdān bùduì. 帐单不对。

People don’t expect you to tip in Chinese restaurants. Unless you are very happy with the food and service and are kind of in a hurry and can’t be bothered to wait for small change, you can say the following sentence and leave the change a tip.

English Pingyin Chinese
Tip. xiǎofèi. 小费.
Don’t need to give me the change. It is a tip. Bié zhǎole, suàn xiǎfèi ba 别找了, 算小费吧.

Other 2 tips when eating in China:

  1. Ask your guide for some suggestions on picking the restaurants.
  2. Eating solo in China can be a lonely experience, since Chinese food is meant to be shared by groups of people.

    Inviting your guides and drivers to have dinner with you is a good idea to help you find the real valuable restaurants and more engaged with the locals.

Eating in China can be an overwhelming experience, especially with the variety of great foods to try. So do not miss it!

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