Since coming to the United States from China this past August, there have been many things from home I've found myself missing. The thing I miss most, though, is the Chinese culture of always sharing dishes in restaurants.

When I eat dinner with my American friends here at school, I've noticed that it's customary to always order separate dishes. I still remember the first time I went to Corner 17, a Chinese restaurant on the Delmar Loop in St. Louis, with nine of my friends. The ten of us ordered ten separate dishes, and while the food was delicious, I couldn't help but wonder why this separatist trend exists in American dining culture--other than for the sense of individualism Americans value so strongly.

Even so, beyond a fun, communal experience, there are several other reasons to share dishes the next time you find yourself at a Chinese restaurant with friends or family members. 

1. Diversity

Grayce Nieberle

Usually, Chinese dishes in the U.S. are either solely meat or vegetables. When you order one dish for yourself, you're limiting the variety of food you can experience in one meal. When you, instead, share a bunch of dishes among friends, you can try a much wider variety of food and get a fuller sense of what the restaurant truly has to offer.

2. Nutrition

meat, sauce, vegetable, pork
Grayce Nieberle

Sharing dishes will not only satisfy your appetite, but will also help fulfill the full scope of nutritional needs required for your daily activities. An example is a plate of General Tso’s Chicken: although the meat is usually served with a little bit of cauliflower, the lack of veggies in the dish keeps it from being a balanced meal. Sharing, on the other hand, provides you with the option to get your veggies from another dish or a side.

3. Low waste, low cost

Grayce Nieberle

Beyond the health benefits, there are also economic reasons to start sharing dishes. When you choose to share, it's likely you will end up ordering fewer dishes, and in turn spending less money and generating fewer leftovers. Plus, we all know those Chinese food leftovers usually get lost in the back of the fridge anyway.

4. Bonding

beer, tea
Grayce Nieberle

The final and most important reason to start sharing dishes is that it's simply a great way to connect with the other people at your table. Collaborating over what you order, passing the plates around the table and talking about the different dishes you like or dislike are intimate, fun ways to bond with friends and family members. 

But for me, sharing food is also important for yet another reason: It represents my culture and the traditions that my family and I cherish. I'm not saying that you should share dishes every time you eat out (sometimes it's hard to reconcile different food tastes!), but give it a try the next time you find yourself at a Chinese restaurant with a group of friends. I'm sure it will change your experience for the better.