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Cantonese cuisine
HK food Kennedy Town New Chinese Rest BBQ Mix.jpg
Siu mei platter, including BBQ pork (bottom), roasted goose (top), smoked ham hock (left), soy sauce chicken (right), and jellyfish (center)
Traditional Chinese 廣東菜
Simplified Chinese 广东菜
Cantonese Jyutping Gwong2 dung1 coi3
Yuet cuisine
Traditional Chinese 粵菜
Simplified Chinese 粤菜

Cantonese ( Yuet ) cuisine comes from Canton in southern China.[1] Of all the regional varieties of Chinese cuisine, Cantonese is renowned both inside and outside China.[1] Its prominence outside China is due to 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.



Chinese cuisine
HistoryHistorical books
Regional cuisines
Eight Great Traditions[citation needed]

Anhui - Cantonese - Fujian - Hunan
Jiangsu - Shandong - Szechuan - Zhejiang

Four Great Traditions[citation needed]

Shandong - Sichuan - Cantonese - Huaiyang

Beijing and the vicinity


People's Republic of China

Chaozhou – Guangxi – HubeiJiangxi
Hainan – Hakka - Shanxi - Hong Kong
Huaiyang - Northeastern - Guizhou - Shaanxi
Shanghai - Macanese - Henan - Yunnan
Tibetan (Xizang)* - Xinjiang (Uyghurs)*

Republic of China


Overseas cuisine

Australia – BurmaCanadaCaribbean
Philippines – Germany – India
Indonesia (Nusantara) – JapanKorea
MalaysiaPeranakan - PerúSingapore – Thailand
Vietnam – United States

Religious cuisines

Buddhist - Islamic

Ingredients and types of food

Main dishes – Desserts – Bread
Drinks – Noodles – Condiments

Preparation and cooking

Stir fryingDouble steamingRed cooking

Cantonese cuisine draws upon a great diversity of ingredients as Canton has been a 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 tongue, snakes, and snails. However, lamb and goat is rarely eaten, unlike in cuisines of Northern or Western China. Many cooking methods are used, steaming and stir-frying being the most favoured due to their convenience and rapidity, and their ability to bring out the flavor of the freshest ingredients. Other techniques include shallow frying, double boiling, braising, and deep frying.

For many traditional Cantonese cooks, the flavors of a finished dish should be well-balanced, and never greasy. Also, 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 mere garnish in most dishes.


Sauces and condiments

Blanched kai-lan (芥蘭) with oyster sauce

In Cantonese cuisine

suffice to enhance flavor, 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
English Chinese
Hoisin sauce 海鮮醬
Oyster sauce 蠔油
Plum sauce 蘇梅醬
Sweet and sour sauce 甜酸醬
Black bean paste 蒜蓉豆豉醬
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 primary cooking ingredients, Cantonese cuisine also uses a long list of preserved food items to add a depth of flavour to a dish. This may be an influence from Hakka cuisine, since the Hakkas was once a dominant group occupying Imperial Hong Kong and other southern territories.[2]

Some items gain very intense flavors during the drying/preservation/oxidation process and some foods are preserved to increase its shelf life. Some chefs combine both dried and fresh varieties of the same items in a dish. Dried items are usually soaked in water to rehydrate before cooking. These ingredients are generally not served individually, and need to go with vegetables or other Cantonese dishes.

Dried and preserved ingredients
English Hanzi Pinyin Description
Dried scallops 乾瑤柱
Fermented tofu 腐乳 fu yu
Fermented black beans 豆豉
Chinese sausage 臘腸
salt fish 鹹魚 haam yu
Preserve-salted duck 臘鴨 laap ngaap
Preserve-salted pork 臘肉 laap yuk
Salted duck egg 鹹蛋
Century egg 皮蛋
Dried cabbage 菜乾 choi gon
Suan cai 鹹酸菜 haam suen choi
Dried small shrimp 蝦米
Tofu skin 腐皮
Dried shrimp 蝦乾 ha gon usually deveined, shelled, and sliced in half
Pickled Chinese cabbage 梅菜 mui choi
Pickled diced daikon 菜脯 choi po
Cantonese stir-fried vegetables. Often, vegetables are simply stir-fried plain or with minced garlic.

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.

English Hanzi Pinyin
Chinese steamed eggs 蒸水蛋
Congee with lean pork and century egg 皮蛋瘦肉粥
Cantonese fried rice 炒飯
Sweet and sour pork 咕噜肉
Stewed beef brisket 柱侯牛腩
Steamed spare ribs with fermented black beans and chili pepper 豉椒排骨 pai gwhut
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 with salted duck egg 鹹蛋蒸肉餅
Blanched vegetables with oyster sauce 油菜
Stir-fried hairy gourd with dried shrimp and cellophane noodles 大姨妈嫁女
Stir-fried water convolvulus with shredded chili and fermented tofu 椒絲腐乳通菜

Deep fried dishes

Zhaliang, a common Cantonese breakfast

There are a small selection of deep fried dishes in Cantonese cuisine, and can often be found as street food. They have been extensively documented throughout Colonial Hong Kong records in the 19th to 20th century. A few are synonymously associated with Cantonese breakfast and lunch.[3] Though these are also expected to be part of other cuisines.

English Chinese
Cha Leung 炸兩
Yau Tiu 油條
Dace fish balls 鯪魚球
Deep-fried marinated pigeon 燒乳鴿
Winter melon soup

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 under low heat for several hours. Chinese herbs or medicine are often used as ingredients. Slow-cooked soup is a regular dish in Cantonese families as most believe in its ability to heal and strengthens one's health.

Due to long preparation hours of slow cooked soup, soup chain stores or delivery outlets became popular in Cantonese dominated cities like Hong Kong.

English Chinese Status
Snow fungus soup 銀耳湯
Spare rib soup with watercress and apricot kernels 南北杏西洋菜豬骨湯
Cantonese seafood soup 海皇羹 not formally considered "slow cooked"
Winter melon soup 冬瓜湯
Seafood tanks


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 in Cantonese culinary arts, it is best cooked by steaming. For instance, in some recipes, only a small amount of soy sauce, ginger, and spring onion is added to steamed fish. Apparently, 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.

English Chinese
Steamed fish 蒸魚
Steamed scallops with ginger and garlic 蒜茸蒸扇貝
White boiled shrimp 白灼蝦
Lobster with ginger and scallions 薑蔥龍蝦
Pissing shrimp 拉尿蝦

Noodle dishes

Noodles are either in soup broth or fried. Some noodle dishes are Cantonized. These are available as home-cooked meals, on dim sum side menus, or as street food at dai pai dong, where it can be served with a variety of accompaniments such as fish balls, beef balls, or fish slices.

Noodle dishes
English Chinese Description
Wonton noodle 雲吞麵
Beef chow fun 乾炒牛河
Chow mein 炒麵 a generic term for various stir fried noodle dishes
Jook-sing noodles 竹昇麵 bamboo log pressed noodles
Lo mein 撈麵
Noodle soup with beef brisket 牛腩麵
Rice noodle roll 豬腸粉
Rice noodles 河粉
Silver needle noodles 銀針粉
Yi mein 伊麵

Hong Kong-style chow mein is made from pan-fried thin crispy noodles

Siu 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.

Siu mei
English Chinese Pinyin
Char siu 叉燒
Roasted duck 燒鴨 siu ngap
Roasted goose 燒鵝 siu ngo
Roasted pig 燒肉
Street lou mei

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.

English Chinese
Beef entrails 牛雜
Beef stew 牛腩
Chicken scraps 鸡巴
Duck gizzard 鴨腎
Pig tongue 豬脷
Siu laap store front

Siu 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:

English Chinese Pinyin
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.

English Chinese
White rice with Chinese sausage and char siu 臘腸叉燒飯
White rice with goose entrails and roasted goose 燒鵝鵝腸飯
Siu mei platter 燒味拼盤
Siu lap platter 燒臘拼盤
Little pan rice

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. 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.

English Chinese
Layered egg and beef over rice 窩蛋牛肉飯
Layered steak over rice 肉餅煲仔飯
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
Fried tofu with shrimp

Banquet/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.

English Chinese
Crispy fried chicken 炸子雞
Seafood birdsnest 海鲜雀巢
Roasted suckling pig 燒乳猪
Fried tofu with shrimp
Roast young pigeon 乳鴿
Roast squab
Salt and pepper rib 椒鹽骨
Salt and pepper squid 椒鹽魷魚
Salt and pepper shrimp 椒鹽蝦
Sour spare ribs 生炒排骨
Taro duck 陳皮芋頭鴨
Yeung Chow fried rice 揚州炒飯
Hybrid red bean soup with taro


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

English Chinese
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 龜苓膏
Sweet Chinese pastry 糕點
Coconut bar 椰汁糕
Shaved Ice 刨冰
Steamed egg custard 燉蛋
Steamed milk custard 燉奶
Double skin milk 雙皮奶
Cantonese bao yu


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

English Chinese Pinyin
Braised abalone 燜鮑魚 bao yu
Jellyfish 海蜇
Shark fin soup 魚翅湯 yu qi tong
Sea cucumber 海參 hoi sam
Swallow's nest soup 燕窩 yeen waw

Characterization from non-Cantonese people

In 1986, Prince Philip commented on Chinese eating habits to the World Wildlife Fund conference saying: "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."[4] 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[4]. Some sources point out that this is a modern Chinese saying used by the Northern Chinese with reference to southern Chinese cuisine, especially Cantonese.[5]


Posters informing about animal rights in HK

Dog and cat consumption

One subject of controversy is the raising of dogs and cats as food in some places in mainland China centering in the Cantonese-speaking regions. Eating dogs was common even from some 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, Philippines and Taiwan dog eating has been banned for a long time.[6] As of early parts of the 21st century serving dogs as food is illegal and risks ostracism especially from those under the age of 50. This is the result of increasing awareness of animal-welfare issues, and even within mainland China a growing number of young people have called for its abolition as well.[7] 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[8]. 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. One old-style dish found in mainland China that incorporates cat meat is the Dragon tiger phoenix.[9][10]

At the end of December 2008 a series of dogs and cats were being sold to meat markets in large numbers. In Beijing a protest was held to defend the cats. In South China, a rescue effort was carried out by the Animals Asia Foundation to rescue the dogs. About 149 dogs were saved in the operation.[11] Many of the dogs were deceptively sold to consumers as lamb meat, since lamb meat cost more than dog meat yielding higher profits.[12]


A 2009 trend in South China is the selling of pork illegally inflated with water during off hour operations using special techniques. The pork weight is then increased significantly and made to look much healthier than it really is. The meat is then transported in open air on the back of motorcycles and then sold to consumers the next morning.[13] The meat is dubbed by the mainland media as "bad intention pork meat" (黑心豬肉).[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b Hsiung, Deh-Ta. Simonds, Nina. Lowe, Jason. [2005] (2005). The food of China: a journey for food lovers. Bay Books. ISBN 978-0681025844. p17.
  2. ^ Barber, Nicola. [2004] (2004) Hong Kong. Gareth Stevens Publishing. ISBN 0836851986
  3. ^ Wordie, Jason. [2002] (2002) Streets: Exploring Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 962-2095631
  4. ^ a b Ward, Laura. [2003] (2003). Foolish Words: The Most Stupid Words Ever Spoken. Sterling Publishing Company. ISBN 1856486982
  5. ^ Olszewski, Wiesław. [2003] (2003). Chiny - zarys kultury. Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu. ISBN 83-232-1272-4. p.177 (in Polish)
  6. ^ "" Dog & Cat Eating in China. Retrieved on 2009-01-03.
  7. ^ 伴侣动物保护网络(CCAPN)-拒吃猫狗肉网络签名活动
  8. ^ Bonner, Arthur. [1997] (1997). Alas! What Brought Thee Hither: The Chinese in New york, 1800-1950. Fairleigh Dickinson University press. ISBN 0838637043
  9. ^ "" Cantonese cuisine. Retrieved on 2008-12-28.
  10. ^ "" Pet lovers protest cats on the menu in China. Retrieved on 2008-12-28.
  11. ^ "" New year brings hope for Chinese dogs. Retrieved on 2009-01-03.
  12. ^ PRC Guangdong TV (新闻在线) December 28, 2008.
  13. ^ a b PRC Guangdong TV (今日关注) January 2, 2009.

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