Here’s Why It’s Taboo To Flip Over A Whole Fish When Eating At A Chinese Restaurant

Chinese takeouts are the ultimate thing for a quick night snack, but there's no better way to enjoy the richness of Chinese cuisine than at a traditional restaurant. But before doing so, you must know that there are certain things that you should never do at such a restaurant or while dining with natives. One of the most important is that you should never flip a whole fish over. Here's why.

By Cookist

Every culture has rules that must be observed during dining. While some of these are basic hygienic practices, some are linked to traditional beliefs and superstition.

A good instance is the Chinese rule that diners should never flip a whole fish over. If you have ever visited a Chinese restaurant then you must have observed that it is traditional to serve fishes whole, that is, with head, bone, tail and every other part intact.

But, you may have also noticed that natives never turn the fish over like people from other countries may do. That's because they believe that it brings bad luck!

The rule originated from coastal areas in China, where fishing is the major source for most families. According to tradition, flipping the fish over is similar to turning over a fishing boat, a tragic occurrence for one’s family.


It may be hard to believe, but natives still strictly abide by this rule, whether they are inside or outside China. And they expect you to do so too when eating at any Chinese table.

So, next time you're dining at a Chinese restaurant, instead of turning over the fish, start by eating the flesh from one side, then carefully remove the backbone and set it aside so you can get to the flesh underneath. Even better, you can completely extract the backbone of the fish in advance for easier consumption.

Although this rule is solely based on superstition, it is the practical thing to do because turning your fish over may cause an unsightly mess and make eating less enjoyable.

Every dish has a story
Find out more on Cookist social networks