- Date Posted: 2011-06-03 14:54
Cantonese Cuisine, also named Yue Cuisine or Guangdong cuisine, is one of the main cuisine styles in China. It comes from Guangdong Province in southern China. Of all the regional varieties of Chinese cuisine, Cantonese is one of the most well-known. This particular type of Chinese food has been popularized by Chinese restaurants around the world 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.
In ancient times the Baiyue people lived in Guangdong area, but many immigrants from the hinterland moved in during the Qin and Han Dynasties. During this period, the Cantonese cuisine appeared compounding the food culture of local people and the immigrants. The dietetic culture of Guangdong has retained many eating habits and customs of the ancient people, such as eating snakes (Cooked snake is considered a delicacy in Guangdong). In short, to the people of Guangdong, everything that walks, crawls, flies, or swims is edible. Many of these strange foods no longer appeal to today's refined tastes, and some have been eliminated out of respect for the eating habits of people in other areas, but some strange foods still remain. A humorous saying goes like this, "Cantonese will eat anything that flies except airplanes, anything that moves on the ground except trains, and anything that moves in the water except boats." This statement is far from the truth, but Cantonese food is surely one of the most diverse and richest cuisines in China. It usually has fowl and other meats that produce its unique dishes.
As the climate of Guangdong is hot, Cantonese food does not use much spice, bringing out the natural flavor of the vegetables and meats. The dishes are fresh, crisp, tender, and lightly seasoned. Sauces are a crucial seasoning in Cantonese Cuisine. Classic Cantonese sauces are light and mellow. The most widely used sauces in Cantonese Cuisine include: Spring onion, sugar, salt, soy sauce, rice wine, cornstarch, vinegar, scallion oil, and sesame oil 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.
As Western culture has been introduced, Cantonese Cuisine has absorbed the cooking skills of the West as well as that of other Chinese regions, to develop its own unique methods. The basic cooking techniques include roasting, stir-frying, sauteing, deep-frying, braising, stewing and steaming. Steaming and stir-frying are most commonly used to preserve the ingredients' natural flavors. The most characteristic cooking methods of Cantonese Cuisine are cooking in salt, cooking in wine, baking in a pan, and soft ¨C frying.
Cantonese cuisine is divided into three branches:
Guangzhou, the place of origin of Guangdong Cuisine, offers more than 2,000 kinds of dishes, which represent all strong points of various cuisine styles in China. Prepared with high-quality materials, and varied ingredients, Guangzhou Cuisine is composed of light, delicious, refreshing and nutritious dishes with sour, sweet, bitter, spicy, salty and delicious tastes. Many dishes are good to the people's health.
Chaozhou food is similar to Fujian cuisine because Chaozhou neighbors Fujian Province. It stresses seafood and many dishes are served in soup. Its flavors are thick, delicious, and sweet. Cooks like to use fish sauce, hot sauce and red vinegar.
Dongjiang Dishes, which are popular in Heyuan region, are known as Hakka Cuisine. Fat, salty and well done, many dishes of Hakka Cuisine can help nourish yin, qi and the kidney, reduce heat, clear the lung, brighten the eyes, and improve the skin. Famous dishes include Dongjiang Salted Chicken, Dongjiang Bean Curd with Filling, Salty and Fragrant Chicken, Crystal Duck, Mandarin Fish in Soup, Steamed Chicken, Beef Set Meal, Delicacies from Xingang Lake, in addition to local refreshments, such as Bawanghua Rice Noodles, and Niujin Cake.
A number of dishes have been part of Cantonese cuisine 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 in Chinese homes due to their simplicity. Home-made Cantonese dishes are usually served with plain white rice. Famous dishes: Fried Bean Curd and Fresh Shrimps, Baiyun Pig's Trotters, Roast Piglet with Crisp Skin, Dongjiang Salted Chicken, Refreshing Beef Balls, Taiye Chicken, Fried Jelly Fish, etc.
Another notable Cantonese speciality is slow-cooked soup (literally meaning old fire-cooked soup). The soup is usually a clear broth prepared by simmering meat and other ingredients over a 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 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.
In addition, Guangdong is also well known for its dim sum, snack-like delicacies of savory and sweet buns, steamed meat with vegetable and pastries. Dim sum is usually served for breakfast and lunch.
Anyway, Cantonese Cuisine has formed its own characteristics - using a wide variety of ingredients, offering food of all tastes, shapes and colors, good at changing, and serving light food in summer and autumn, and strong and mellow food in winter and spring. Cantonese Cuisine features sour, bitter, spicy and delicious tastes with a clear and fragrant smell. Guangdong snacks are peculiar about ingredients, some sweet and some salty, enjoying the reputation of "100 kinds of snacks having 100 tastes and 100 shapes." There is an old saying: "Guangdong serves best food in the country." Now we can say: "Guangdong offers delicacies from all over the world."