How to Order Food In Chinese

Do you find it difficult to order food in China? Have you ever had to eat very spicy food just because you didn’t know how to express the level of spice you wanted? Let’s learn how to order food in Chinese. 

In this lesson, we learn how to call for the waiter, specify the level of spice you want, and what to say when the food is taking too long. You’re going to have a much better experience eating out in China when you know how to order food in Chinese. If you can really nail down these phrases you might even get better service. 

First, let’s see how you can call for the waiter and tell him that you want to order.

“服务员/服務員” means waiter, and can be used for both men and women. It is also very common to address strangers as “美女 [měi nǚ]” (beautiful girl) and “帅哥 [shuài gē]” (handsome guy).

Try repeating the phrase a few times and next time you’re eating out you’ll sound like a pro. Practice along with the native reader and try to match both the sounds and tones. By learning these phrases you’ll be able to start eating at more local restaurants that don’t cater as much to foreigners. 

Ordering Food

Ok, now that you have a menu, you can start ordering food. We can use “我要 [wǒ yào] + name of the food” or “给我来个 [gěi wǒ lái ge] + name of the food” to order. If you don’t know exactly how to say what it is you want, you can always fall back on 这个 [zhè ge]. Pointing is generally a good idea even if you do know the name of the item just to make sure that they get your order right. 

“辣子鸡” is a very spicy dish. If you don’t like your food that spicy, you can tell the waiter the level of spiciness you would like. China is such a large country that they types of food can vary greatly by region. You may have heard that Sichuan is the best for spicy food. Check out our lesson on spicy foods in China. In general Chinese tend to handle spicy food quite well. In China, spiciness can roughly be divided into 5 levels, as follows.

Be careful because the rating system might not line up exactly with your expectations. Using this new knowledge, we can place an order like this:

By the way, just like “hot” in English, “辣” can also mean “sexy”. So you can use it like this:

Ok, let’s return to ordering food. Now you have lots of food, but how can we not have beer? Let’s see how we can order it.

Ordering Beer

In China, beer is either served cold or in room temperature. If you don’t specify which one you want, chances are you will get a room-temperature one. So if you like your beer cold, it is best to say so when you order.

Food? Done! Beer? Done! Now we just have to wait for the food to arrive.
But what is taking so long? We want food! If your food isn’t coming, you can tell the waiter in the following way:

Well done! Now you can enjoy your food and beer! 

This is the accompanying blog post for our elementary lesson “Ordering Food“.

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