Cantonese or Yue cuisine originates from Guangdong Province (SE China around Hong Kong), and it is the most widely served style of Chinese cuisine
in the world. This is because most of the Chinese who immigrated and set up restaurants overseas were from Guangdong. Though what's served abroad now has departed from authentic Yue cuisine.
What distinguishes Cantonese food is lightly cooked fresh vegetables and meat, and sweet sauces.
- Names: Cantonese food, Guangdong cuisine, Yue cuisine (粤菜Yuècài /ywair-tseye/)
- Location: Southeast China — Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Macau...
- Distinctives: sweeter, favoring braising and stewing, adding various sauces
Cantonese Cuisine Flavors — Mild, Fresh, Natural, and Slightly Sweet
Cantonese style porridge
A wide variety of foodstuffs
are used to make Cantonese dishes. Therefore, it surprises
foreigners sometimes. The saying "They eat everything with four legs except tables and everything that flies except airplanes" is an exaggeration. But dishes might contain snakes, cats, dogs and sea life not familiar to most foreigners. Keep that in mind when you are ordering something off the menu with strange Cantonese names.
An authentic Cantonese chef's goal is to preserve the food's original flavor.
Unlike other Chinese styles of cooking such as Sichuan style
where the cook buries the food in a lot of spices and oil, a Cantonese chef aims to bring out or highlight the original flavor of the vegetable, meat, or fruit. So little spice or sugar is used generally.
The result of this cooking technique is to produce food that might seem bland or insipid
to foreigners who are used to the overseas style of Chinese food where a lot more sugar and spice is used. It takes some time to appreciate the mild and distinct flavors of the meat, vegetables and fruit.
Steamed oysters with ginger garlic
Unlike overseas Chinese food and some regional styles, a lot of oil or grease isn't used either. Neither are dairy products. So unlike creamy cheese wontons or a sweet and sour pork on rice meal deal at a Chinese fast food restaurant overseas, there are not a lot of calories
in the dishes. This combined with the white rice or rice noodles that is the staple and the dim sum made with little or no sugar may leave a foreigner feeling hungry.
On the other hand, it makes for fine well balanced meals for dieters. If you are not dieting and still hungry, the solution is simply to eat more or order ice cream for desert if it is available.
Seasonings Used in Cantonese Cuisine
Spices used: Chives, coriander leaves, anise, touches of black pepper, and slivers of ginger provide a mild tanginess that accentuates the flavor of the food. But unless the food in itself smells or tastes bad alone, just a little of these spices are used.
Condiments and Other Seasonings
Chives, coriander leaves, anise, touches of black pepper, and slivers of ginger provide a mild tanginess that accentuates the flavor of the food. But unless the food in itself smells or tastes bad alone, just a little of these spices are used.
Steamed fish with slivers of ginger
Rice vinegar accentuates the flavor of vegetables, and a little salt does also. A pinch of sugar gives food a mildly sweet taste that is characteristic of many Cantonese dishes and snacks. A little sesame oil adds a mild tanginess too.
But if the food is delicious as it is, almost no seasoning is added. An example is fresh sea fish. It isn't served raw like Japanese sashimi, but to preserve and accentuate the delicious flavor, the Cantonese steam it and add just a little soy sauce, ginger or perhaps bits of chives. Like the Japanese, Cantonese delight in the natural flavors of fresh sea fish.
Several sauces are important condiments
in Guangdong cuisine. The most widely used sauces include hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, plum sauce, sweet and sour sauce, and soy sauce.
Stir frying and steaming
are the two most common cooking methods. But stir fried dishes are not as common as in Sichuan. Cantonese like to boil soups, braise or roast meats, and sauté food too. These cooking methods are aimed to preserve the flavor of the dishes. There are also popular deep fried foods that are often eaten as snacks, deserts, or breakfast foods. See below for examples.