Chef Adi’s Official Guide to Chinese Buffets

Adi Sircar
5 min readAug 22, 2021


A part of my spirit died when the country shut down the day before my birthday. The Chinese Buffet is the most fundamental component of my personality. Unfortunately, “China”, quickly became a bad word, and with the widespread distrust of anything Chinese, I had to strike my birthday plans. I felt melancholy after reading that the pandemic would eradicate buffets across the world.

Like a blind man without a stick, I was completely lost.

Nine months after the apparent death of Chinese Buffets, I ate at a place called Sakura 9 (fine, it was Japanese, but sushi actually originates in China so I’m counting it). It wasn’t a traditional buffet, with rows of delightful dishes to indulge in. Instead, I was handed a paper menu and I checked off what I wanted. Regardless, I was euphoric. I felt completely reinvigorated — the buffet baptized me. In honor of the eternal existence of Chinese Buffets, here is my guide to conquering the greatest gift of life.

Lesson 1: Before the Buffet

Believe it or not, you need to prepare your body before you visit a Chinese Buffet.

Don’t: have an empty stomach

Do: eat a light, simple, healthy snack and hydrate (a banana, yogurt, and water).

I know what you’re gonna say: “But Chef Adi, shouldn’t I keep my stomach empty so I can eat more at the restaurant?”



Your stomach is a muscle, the buffet is a gym, and you’re getting ready for an intense workout. Just as you need to stretch and warm up your biceps before curling 80s for the ladies, you must stretch and warm up your stomach to store all the savory, fragrant, dream-inducing buffet items. I chose a banana but you could choose anything unprocessed and nutritious. Yogurt, or rather the bacteria in yogurt (lactobacillus), helps with digestion. Water is what keeps you alive; being hydrated before your stomach workout is critical to your survival.

Lesson 2: Stomach Real Estate

Now that your stomach is warmed up, let’s learn how to allocate resources. Stomach real estate is scarce — we have unlimited wants but limited resources. We need to optimize our stomach real estate and fill it with the right foods. Picture this: you open the big heavy doors to your local Chinese Buffet; your eyes dart between a Koi fish pond, a lucky cat that’s waving at you, and a young Chinese girl doing homework. You’re seated by friendly staff, and you’re asked what you’d like to drink. What should you do?

Don’t: ask for anything cold or fizzy.

Do: ask for water with no ice (alternatively, you could also ask for hot tea, but do you really want to spend $1+ on a drink that costs less than 5 cents to make?)

Here’s the rule for water: you’re not allowed to drink it. It’s just decoration. Save it for an emergency. You’re already hydrated from your warmup. Instead, you’re going to pick a delightful soup to drink throughout your workout. It’s good for digestion because it’s hot and it’s good for the soul because it’s delicious. I recommend the wonton or egg drop soup. Note: Do NOT treat the soup as an appetizer. The soup is taking the place of your drink, and is to be sipped on throughout each course.

You finally have your drink that is not cold, not fizzy, and not overpriced. Take a leisurely stroll down the buffet aisles and make a mental note of anything that interests you. Don’t put anything on the plate until you look at every single item. Once you’ve scoped out the buffet, start filling up your plate. Have an open mind, be adventurous, and be smart with your selections. The most expensive items at the buffet are the meats (no, chicken nuggets don’t count), seafoods, and anything made-to-order. I tend to go for the steaks, ribs, fried chicken, sashimi, shrimp, fried fish, cephalopods (squid, octopus, cuttlefish, and friends), and crab (imitation crab actually tastes better than real crab — feel free to leave an angry comment if you find that outrageous). I encourage you to visit the hibachi and hand the chefs a plate of ingredients. They will make it fresh for you! You can also pick what sauces you like. I keep it simple with soy sauce and hot sesame oil but feel free to be creative. I encourage you to try as many different items as possible and explore the buffet metropolis.

A stern warning — just like any big, bustling, beautiful city, there are some parts you need to avoid:

Don’t: touch the pizza or chicken nuggets (they are reserved for uncultured children), and don’t touch the spring/egg rolls either (studies show that only 1.3% of a spring/egg roll contains meat — the rest is garbage (sorry I misspelled cabbage)).

Don’t: even look at the salads (there’s a time and a place for salad and that time is never) and stay 6 feet away from the bread (you might as well just pay the bill and leave now).

And Please, for the Love of Xi Jinping, Don’t: put rice on your plate (looking at you Jack Shebat)

Please don’t put rice on your plate: it’s a capital crime, and you will end up like Winnie the Pooh in China — banished from existence.

Lesson 3: Etiquette & Rounds

Great work! You just brought your first plate to the table and it’s a work of art. Dig in and enjoy. Make sure you end up with a clean plate. It’s alright if you didn’t quite enjoy something; don’t force it down your throat. Just try your best to avoid wasting food. The abstraction of the Chinese Buffet is gluttony, a capital sin, so to pacify the Lord (or President Xi), don’t let food end up in the garbage bin.

Now that you’ve finished your first plate, it’s time for round two. The round two plate should look completely different from the round one plate. In fact, the plate in each round (I typically last 8–10 rounds) should be unique. Feel welcome to keep something you really enjoy on your plate for multiple rounds, but always seek to create and innovate with your plates. If you feel full, take a break, take a walk, take a dump, and then keep going.

Lesson 4: Aftercare

Five rounds later: you feel vanquished, but you actually beat the buffet. You’re a winner. Now you need to heal your wounds, rest, and recover. Thank your stomach for a job well done. At this point, the MSG’s hallucinogenic effects should be kicking in. Sweet dreams.

Well done on completing this buffet bootcamp! I penned this guide because I wanted to share my wisdom with the world. I am extremely passionate about the Chinese Buffet — it may very well be my favorite thing about life. It makes me feel safe, understood, and infectiously happy. What do you think about my guide? Do you have a buffet strategy? What do you fill your plate with? Let me know!