Cantonese cuisine

Cantonese cuisine

Cantonese restaurant serving Cantonese cuisine|s=广东菜|t=廣東菜|p=Guǎngdōng cài|j=Gwong2 dong1 coi3
altname=Yue cuisine|c2=粵菜|p2=Yuè cài|j2=Jyut6 coi3|show

Cantonese ("Yue") cuisine comes from Guangdong Province in Southern China, or specifically from Guangzhou (Canton). Of all the regional varieties of Chinese cuisine, Cantonese is the best known outside China; most "Chinese restaurants" in Western countries serve authentic Cantonese cuisine and dishes based on it. Its prominence outside China is due to its palatability to Westerners and the great numbers of early emigrants from Guangdong. In China, too, it enjoys great prestige among the eight great traditions of Chinese cuisine, and Cantonese chefs are highly sought after throughout the country.


Cantonese cuisine draws upon a great diversity of ingredients, Guangzhou (Canton) being a great trading port since the days of the Thirteen Factories, bringing it many imported foods and ingredients. Besides pork, beef, and chicken, Cantonese cuisine incorporates almost all edible meats, including organ meats, chicken feet, duck and duck tongues, snakes, and snails. Many cooking methods are used, steaming, stir-frying, shallow frying, double boiling, braising, and deep-frying being the most common ones in Cantonese restaurants, due to their convenience and rapidity, and their ability to bring out the flavor of the freshest ingredients.

For many traditional Cantonese cooks, spices should be used in modest amounts to avoid overwhelming the flavors of the primary ingredients, and these primary ingredients in turn should be at the peak of their freshness and quality. Interestingly, there is no widespread use of fresh herbs in Cantonese cooking (and most other regional Chinese cuisines in fact), contrasting with the liberal usage seen in European cuisines and other Asian cuisines such as Thai or Vietnamese. Garlic chives and coriander leaves are notable exceptions, although the latter tends to be a mere garnish in most dishes.

Elements of cooking

Sauces and condiments

Classic Cantonese sauces are light and perhaps bland compared to the thicker, darker, and richer sauces of other Chinese cuisines. Spring onion, sugar, salt, soy sauce, rice wine, corn starch, vinegar, sesame oil, and other oils suffice to enhance flavor in most Cantonese cooking, though garlic is used heavily in some dishes, especially those in which internal organs, such as entrails, may emit unpleasant odors. Ginger, chili peppers, five-spice powder, powdered white pepper, star anise and a few other spices are used, but often sparingly.

:"Sauces and condiments include"::* Hoisin sauce (海鲜酱):* Oyster sauce (蠔油):* Plum sauce (苏梅酱):* Sweet and sour sauce (甜酸酱):* Black bean paste (蒜蓉豆豉酱):* Fermented bean paste (豆酱):* Shrimp paste (鹹蝦醬):* Red vinegar (浙醋):* Master stock (滷水):* Char siu sauce (叉燒醬):* Chu hau paste (柱侯醬)

Dried and preserved ingredients

Though Cantonese cooks pay much attention to the freshness of their cooking ingredients, Cantonese cooking also uses a long list of preserved food items. This may be an influence from Hakka cuisine, since the Hakkas was once a dominant group occupying Imperial Hong Kong and other southern territories.Barber, Nicola. [2004] (2004) Hong Kong. Gareth Stevens Publishing. ISBN 0836851986]

Some items gain very intense flavors during the drying/preservation/oxidation process. Some chefs combine both dried and fresh varieties of the same items in a dish to create a contrast in the taste and texture. Dried items are usually soaked in water to rehydrate before cooking. Not only do preserved foods have a longer shelf life, sometimes the dried foods are preferred over the fresh ones because of their uniquely intense flavor or texture. These ingredients are generally not served individually, and need to go with vegetables or other Cantonese dishes.

:"Includes:":* Dried scallops (乾瑤柱):* Fermented tofu (腐乳, fu yue):* Fermented black beans (豆豉):* Chinese sausage (臘腸) :* Preserve-salted fish (鹹魚, haam yu):* Preserve-salted duck (臘鴨, laap ap):* Preserve-salted pork (臘肉, laap yuk):* Salted duck egg (鹹蛋) :* Century egg (皮蛋) :* Dried cabbage (菜乾, choi gon):* Chinese sauerkraut (鹹酸菜, haam suen choi) :* Dried small shrimp (蝦米) :* Tofu skin (腐皮):* Dried shrimp/ha gon (usually deveined, shelled, and sliced in half) (蝦乾):* Pickled Chinese cabbage (梅菜, mui choi):* Pickled diced daikon (菜脯, choi po)

Cantonese dishes

Traditional dishes

A number of dishes have been a part of the Cantonese cuisine collection since the earliest territorial establishments of Guangdong province. While many of these are on the menus of typical Cantonese restaurants, some are more commonly found among Chinese homes due to their simplicity. Home-made Cantonese dishes are usually served with plain white rice.

:"Includes:" :* Chinese steamed eggs (蒸水蛋):* Congee with century egg (皮蛋粥):* Cantonese fried rice (炒饭):* Sweet and sour pork (咕噜肉):* Steamed spare ribs ("paigu") with fermented black beans and chili pepper (豉椒排骨):* Stir-fried vegetables with meat (e.g. chicken, duck, pork, beef, or intestines) (青菜炒肉片):* Steamed frog legs on lotus leaf (荷葉蒸田雞):* Steamed ground pork and salted duck egg meatballs (咸蛋蒸肉饼):* Blanched vegetables with oyster sauce (油菜):* Stir fried water convolvulus with shredded chili and fermented tofu (椒丝腐乳通菜)

Deep fried dishes

There are a small selection of deep fried dishes in Cantonese cuisine, and can often be found as street food. As they have been extensively documented throughout Colonial Hong Kong records in the 19th to 20th century, most are considered essential part of the Cantonese diet, as a few are synonymously associated with Cantonese breakfast and lunch..Wordie, Jason. [2002] (2002) Streets: Exploring Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 962-2095631] Though these are also expected to be part of other cuisines.

:"Includes:":* Zhaliang (炸兩):* Youtiao (油條):* Dace fish balls (鯪魚球):* Prawn crackers (蝦饼):* Deep-fried marinated pigeon (燒乳鴿)

Slow cooked soup

Another notable Cantonese speciality is slow-cooked soup, or lo foh tong (老火湯) in the Cantonese dialect (literally meaning "old fire-cooked soup"). The soup is usually a clear broth prepared by simmering meat and other ingredients for several hours. Sometimes, Chinese herbal medicines are added to the pot. Ingredients vary greater depending on the type of soup. The main attraction is the liquid in the pot, although the solids are eaten too. A whole chicken may simmer in a broth for six hours or longer. Traditional Cantonese families have this type of soup at least once a week. In this day and age many families with both parents working cannot afford this tradition due to the long preparation time required. However, wealthy families with servants and a cook still enjoy the luxury every day. Because of the long preparation time, most restaurants do not serve home made soup or opt for a soup du jour.

:"Includes:":*Cantonese seafood soup (海皇羹):*Winter melon soup (冬瓜湯):*Snow fungus soup (银耳湯):*Spare rib soup with watercress and apricot kernels (南北杏西洋菜豬骨湯)


Due to Guangdong's location on the southern coast of China, fresh live seafood is a specialty in Cantonese cuisine. Many authentic restaurants maintain live seafood tanks. From the Cantonese perspective, strong spices are added only to stale seafood to cover the rotting odor. The freshest seafood is odorless, and is best cooked by steaming. For instance, only a small amount of soy sauce, ginger, and spring onion is added to steamed fish. The light seasoning is used only to bring out the natural sweetness of the seafood. However, most restaurants would gladly get rid of their stale seafood inventory by offering dishes loaded with garlic and spices. As a rule of thumb in Cantonese dining, the spiciness of a dish is usually inversely proportional to the freshness of the ingredients.

:"Includes:":* Steamed fish (蒸魚):* Steamed scallops with ginger and garlic (蒜茸蒸扇贝):* White boiled shrimp (白灼蝦):* Lobster with ginger and scallions (薑蔥龍蝦):* "Urinating shrimp" (a type of slipper lobster) (拉尿蝦)

Noodle dishes

A number of noodle dishes are part of the Cantonese cuisine. These are commonly available at dai pai dong or dim sum side menus.

:"Includes:":*Wonton noodle (雲吞麵):*Chinese noodles with fish balls, beef balls, or fish slices:*Beef chow fun (乾炒牛河):*Shahe fen (沙河粉):*Lo mein (撈麵):*Hong Kong pan-fried noodles (海鮮炒麵):*Pan-fried crispy noodles (炒麵)

iu mei

Siu mei is essentially the Chinese rotisserie style of cooking. Unlike most other Cantonese dishes, Siu mei consists only of meat, with no vegetables. It creates a unique, deep barbecue flavor that is usually enhanced by a flavorful sauce, a different sauce is used for each meat.

:"Includes:":*Char siu (叉烧):*Roasted goose (燒鵝, siu ngo):*Roasted pig (燒肉)

Lou mei

Lou mei is the name given to dishes made out of internal organs, entrails and left-over parts of animals. It is grouped under Siu laap (燒臘) as part of Cantonese cuisine. It is widely available in Southern Chinese regions. It should be noted that many people who consume Cantonese dishes regularly are not interested in eating "lou mei" dishes due to personal preference.

:"Includes:":*Beef entrails (牛雜):*Beef stew (牛腩):*Duck gizzard (鴨腎):*Pig tongue (豬脷)

iu laap

Just about all the Cantonese-style cooked meat including siu mei, lou mei and preserved meat can be mixed together under the generic name (燒臘, Siu laap). "Siu laap" also includes foods such as::*White cut chicken (白切雞):*Orange cuttlefish (鹵水墨魚):*Poached duck in master stock (滷水鴨):*Soy sauce chicken (豉油雞, si yau gai)

A typical dish may consist of some organs and half an order of multiple varieties of roasted meat. A large majority of siu laap consists strictly of white and red meat.

:"Includes:":*White rice with Chinese sausage and cha siu(叉烧饭):*White rice with goose entrails and roasted goose (烧鹅鹅肠饭):*White rice with white cut chicken, duck gizzards, and beef stew (白切鸡鸭肾焖牛肉饭):*Siu mei platter (燒味拼盤):*Siu lap platter (燒臘拼盤)

Little pan rice

Little pan rice (, bou1 zai2 faan6) are dishes that are cooked and served in a flat-bottomed pan (as opposed to a round-bottomed wok). Usually it is a saucepan or braising pan (see Clay pot cooking). Such dishes are cooked by covering and steaming, making the rice and ingredients very hot and soft. Usually the ingredients are layered on top of the rice with little to no mixing in between. Quite a number of ingredients are used with many standard combinations.

:"Includes:":*Layered egg and beef over rice (窩蛋牛肉飯):*Layered steak over rice (肉餅煲仔飯):*Tofu pot over rice:*Pork spare ribs over rice (排骨煲仔飯):*Steamed chicken over rice (蒸雞肉煲仔飯):*Preserved chinese sausage over rice (蠟味煲仔飯):*Pork "pastry" over rice

Night dishes

There are a number of dishes that are often served in Cantonese restaurants exclusively during dinner. Traditionally dim sum restaurants stop serving bamboo basket-dishes after yum cha hour and begin offering an entirely different menu in the evening. Some dishes are more standard while others are quite regional. Some are customized for special purposes like Chinese marriages or banquets. Salt and pepper dishes are one of the few spicy dishes.

:"Includes:":*Crispy fried chicken (炸子鸡) :*Seafood birdsnest (海鲜雀巢) :*Roasted suckling pig (燒乳猪) :*Taro duck (陳皮芋頭鴨):*Roast young pigeon/squabs (烤乳鴿):*Sour spare ribs (生炒排骨):*Salt and pepper rib (椒鹽骨):*Salt and pepper squid (椒鹽魷魚) :*Salt and pepper shrimp (椒鹽蝦):*Fried tofu with shrimp


After a night meal or dish, Cantonese restaurants usually offer tong sui, or sweet soups. Many of the varieties are shared between Cantonese and other Chinese cuisines. Some desserts are more traditional, while others are more recent with local chef creativity. Higher end restaurants usually offer their own blend and customization of desserts.

:"Includes:":* Red bean soup (紅豆沙):* Black sesame soup (芝麻糊):* Sai mai lo (西米露):* Sweet potato soup (番薯糖水):* Mung bean soup (綠豆沙):* Dau fu fa (豆腐花):* Guilinggao (龟苓膏):* Sweet Chinese pastry (糕點):* Coconut bar (椰汁糕):* Shaved Ice (刨冰):* Steamed egg custard (燉蛋):* Steamed milk custard (燉奶)


There are some dishes that are prized within the culture. These dishes range from being medium price to very expensive. Most of these have been around in the Far East for a long time, while some are just barely becoming available around the world. Many of these prized animals have serious animal rights controversial issues such as finning of Shark cartilages due to increasing price demands.

:"Includes:":*Braised abalone (燜鮑魚, bao yu):*Shark fin soup (魚翅羹, yu qi tong):*Sea cucumber (海參, hoi sam):*Swallow's nest soup (燕窩, yeen waw)


Sometimes in the US, the term "Hong Kong Style" is used to distinguish this style of cooking from the more Americanized version most Americans are familiar with. Note that actual Hong Kong cuisine has evolved somewhat from traditional Cantonese cuisine served in Guangzhou.


There is a level of complexity associated with the cooking style and ingredients that fascinate westerners as well as bring stereotypes and misunderstandings. An example is the western commentary by Prince Philip commenting on Chinese eating habits to the World Wildlife Fund conference in 1986. "If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it."Ward, Laura. [2003] (2003). Foolish Words: The Most Stupid Words Ever Spoken. Sterling Publishing Company. ISBN 1856486982] Despite having the quote presented to a notable organization, it has also appeared in books such as "The most stupid Words Ever Spoken" as it is deemed by some Westerners as a showcase of "lack of understanding" in foreign culinary traditions in the Western world. However, this is a modern Chinese saying used by the Northern Chinese with reference to southern Chinese cuisine, especially Cantonese.Olszewski, Wiesław. [2003] (2003). Chiny - zarys kultury. Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu. ISBN 83-232-1272-4. p.177 (in Polish) ]

One subject of controversy amongst some Westerners is the raising of dogs and cats as food in some places in mainland China centering in the Cantonse-speaking region. Eating dogs were common and fiercely defended by the nationalist-leaning Chinese people, even from non-Cantonese parts of the country, in the first half of the 20th century. However, as time goes it is becoming a custom going out of fashion. In Hong Kong and Taiwan as of early parts of the 21st century serving dogs as food is illegal and risks social ostracism especially from those under the age of 50 courtesy of the increasing awareness of animal-welfare issues, and even within mainland China an increasing number of young mainland Chinese have called for its abolition as well. [ 伴侣动物保护网络(CCAPN)-拒吃猫狗肉网络签名活动 ] ]

Some Westerners have defended the practice of Chinese serving dogs as food by putting forth claims of eating dogs as a survival tactic in times of famine [Bonner, Arthur. [1997] (1997). Alas! What Brought Thee Hither: The Chinese in New york, 1800-1950. Fairleigh Dickinson University press. ISBN 0838637043] . Chinese historical records show serving dog as food does have a history going as far back as the Shang dynasty as one of the nine varieties of animals that could be eaten. Dogs were raised as food as pigs and chickens were.


ee also

*Cuisine of Hong Kong
*Dim sum
*Chinese food therapy

External links

* [ Chinese recipes]

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