(Warning: Rant coming up)
There's this certain thing that I often see white Australians do, that bugs the sh*t out of me. I'm not sure why it bugs me so, because its totally none of my business, but every time I see it I get agitated and want to slap someone.
Ok, when you go to an Asian restaurant with a group, there is a certain way to eat. Basically, you order rice and a number of dishes to be shared amongst the group. All the food goes in the middle of the table and people help themselves to what is on offer. This is the "proper" way - I say this because Chinese people in a Chinese restaurant, or Indians in an Indian restaurant and so on, will eat this way without even have to discuss it - its just assumed.
HOWEVER, I frequently notice white folks in Asian restaurants (particularly Indian restaurants) doing this nonsensical thing where they order a dish each, then only eat that dish, while taking the rice and spooning it into their bowl or plate of curry or stir-fry.
WHAT IS UP WITH THAT? I don't wish to tar all white folks with this accusation, because most Aussies seem to be getting hip to the multicultural experience and know how to eat an Asian meal properly. But those of you who insist on eating in that very individual manner described above, I'm sorry but I just don't get you.
There are a number of reasons why this is bad and stupid:
1. NUTRITION: In most modern Western-style restaurants and cafes, most dishes are complete meals; for example, on your plate you might get steak with some salad, chips or whatever. Each dish in an Asian restaurant however, normally highlights only 1 or 2 ingredients. Examples might be a chicken curry, a plate of stir-fried chinese greens, or whatever. To eat only one of these dishes does not give you your full complement of proteins, vitamins and other nutrients. They are designed to be eaten alongside a number of other dishes.
2. VARIETY: Why the hell would you want to go to a restaurant and eat only one dish, when you could sample a number of different dishes? "No, I don't want to try your dal, or your malai kofta, or your lamb curry. I'm only going to eat my butter chicken and that's it."
What a boring, one-dimensional and sh*tty way to eat. Shame on you.
3. ECONOMY: If you order a plate of curry and accompany it with rice, chances are you aren't going to finish it - most Asian main dishes are a bit larger than one normal person can eat. However, if you have 4 diners, 3 main dishes is frequently enough, particularly when factoring in accompaniments and starters. The value for money is therefore much greater.
4. COMMUNAL SPIRIT: This is one of the most important reasons why eating Asian-style is a more rewarding experience. By sharing food, you are sharing the experience of eating. You can discuss the food that you have all had the opportunity to try, and become closer and more inclusive in doing so. Ethiopian cuisine takes this idea to its logical conclusion: everyone sits around a small table and eats off the same large plate, using their hands. It is more than just food - it is a wonderful communal bonding experience. To eat only your own dish transforms the dinner into a santitized, sterilized affair which places an artificial barrier between diners. So in conclusion - Don't make me come over there and tell you off! SHARE THE FOOD, DAMMIT!