Cantonese Food and Cuisine

  • 01 of 08

    Cantonese food guide

    ••• Pick your filling, pick your noodles and pick your sauce. Tasty? Maybe. Chinese or Cantonese food? No.

    Cantonese cuisine originates from the southern Guangdong region of China, the home of the Cantonese people. The Cantonese stronghold is Hong Kong, and many of the best chefs and restaurants can be found in the city. Unfortunately, while Hong Kongers are passionate about their cuisine, the restaurants (most of them takeaways) that they have set up around the world have rarely proved to be a good advert for the food. From Tribeca to Tamworth, Montreal to Motherwell, you rarely have to travel far to find a Cantonese restaurant – usually a take away and usually a bad one. Thankfully, the menu and food at a Cantonese take away in Topeka bears little resemblance to that served up in Hong Kong. 

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  • 02 of 08

    What is Cantonese Cuisine

    ••• Proving Cantonese food doesn't need to come in a cardboard box, Cuisine Cuisine in Hong Kong serves superb, modern interpretations of Cantonese cuisine. Copyright Cuisine cuisine

    Forget General Tso’s chicken or sweet and sour pork with floating pineapple chunks, in Hong Kong you’ll find Cantonese restaurants that have been showered with Michelin stars and chefs with a hatful of accolades. Just like American food, a cuisine broad enough to support diners, steakhouses and pizza places, the selection of menus and restaurants in Hong Kong includes seafood restaurants, Dim Sum houses and caricatures for BBQ meats. What you won’t find is the soupy gravy sauces that seem to be slopped over any rice and meat combo at takeaways; Hong Kong food is in fact surprisingly subtle with a reliance on fresh ingredients and light seasoning and flavoring.

    Of course you don’t have to come to Hong Kong to enjoy real Cantonese cooking. There are full service Cantonese restaurants all over North America, Europe and Australia, often hidden away in Chinatowns and primarily catering to the Cantonese immigrant population and their desire for authentic dishes and flavors. The best indicator...MORE of a good restaurant is a Chinese clientele or Chinese community notices on the walls or windows. In the pages that follow we look at some of the best food and dishes in Cantonese cuisine, just click on the numbers below.

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  • 03 of 08

    Dim Sum

    ••• Dim Sum Steamed Buns. Getty Images

    Wildly popular in Hong Kong and quickly gaining a world wide fan base, Dim Sum is as much a social experience as a meal. Literally meaning to touch heart, Dim Sum is about groups of friends dining together and sharing lots of bite sized dishes. You’ll usually sit around a revolving table and order a selection of dishes by picking them from a small cart or ticking what you want on a small card. All dishes are then shared. Typical Dim Sum dishes are spring rolls, shrimp dumplings and BBQ pork pastry although the selection is usually extensive.

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  • 04 of 08

    BBQ - Siu Mei

    ••• Hong Kong BBQ. Flickr; Nate Robert

    Forget chicken pink in the middle or steaks that have been flame grilled jet black, Siu Mei is the way BBQ should be done. Hong Kong’s Siu Mei restaurants specialize in slow cooked BBQ meat glazed in honey and five spices and other succulent rubs. You’ll find pork, beef, duck and goose on the menu, although the signature dish of slices of deeply flavorful BBQ pork and rice is probably the best. Not complex, not expensive, but very, very tasty.

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  • 05 of 08

    Street Food

    ••• Selection of street food liu mei in Hong Kong.

    Try not to mix this up with Siu Mei; Liu Mei is roasted, steamed and BBQed entrails and organs as well as some of the more unusual seafood items. These are mostly found from street sellers clumped around night markets or major shopping areas such as Causeway Bay and Mongkok and sold to go on skewers or plastic trays. Proving the Chinese saying that the Cantonese will eat anything, you’ll find pigs ears, shredded jellyfish and fried pig’s intestines.

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  • 06 of 08

    Seafood dishes

    ••• A Selection of Fresh Seafood. Martyna Szmytkowska

    Considering Hong Kong’s 200 plus islands and position perched on the South China Sea, it’s little surprise that seafood is one of the most popular ingredients in Cantonese cuisine. Most of the best seafood restaurants are to be found out on the Outlying Islands or in smaller fishing villages; a reflection of the importance placed upon freshness. In most places the fish or crustacean will be kept alive in oxygenated tanks until you pick which victim is headed to the pot. The selection of fish and shellfish is wide and includes favorites such as razor clams in black bean sauce, typhoon shelter fired crab and steamed grouper.

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  • 07 of 08

    Feast Cuisine

    ••• A bowl of Shark Fin Soup. Flickr

    Not one for those who slide their pickles out of their burgers or scrape the anchovies off their pizza, the menu at a Hong Kong feast can test even the most adventurous palate. Large scale feasts are still important in Hong Kong as a way of showboating your wealth and feasts are often held at weddings, graduations and when signing contracts or starting a business project together – this is where foreigners usually find they are thrown in at the deep end. As the person throwing the meal wants to prove their status and position, they will order the most expensive item they can afford to be prepared – it is always exotic and – quite bluntly – usually disgusting. The standard dish is shark fin soup, but you may also be offered abalone or bird’s nest soup.

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  • 08 of 08

    Dessert Houses

    ••• Sago Pudding. Flickr; Sharon Schneider

    Usually little more than a hole in the wall with a handful of seats, Hong Kong dessert houses nevertheless enjoy much popularity. Given the climate most of the year, the majority of dishes are light and cold and include red bean soup, mango pudding and sago pudding (a sort of Tapioca).