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Cantonese Cuisine and Recipes

Information about Cantonese Cooking plus lots of Cantonese Recipes


Cooking by Country - November 2005

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Go to:-  Cantonese Featured Ingredient   |   Canton Speciality Dish   |  Cooking by Country Main Page


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Cantonese Cuisine is by far most famous of the Chinese regional cuisines in the West. It hails from the Guangdong Province sometimes referred to as "Canton Province”, which is situated in the South of China. The capital city, Guangzhou is also known as Canton City.


It is also the most diverse of Chinese cuisines due to several factors including its temperate/tropical climate and abundant rainfall which enables tropical fruit, rice and a wide array of vegetables to be easily grown plus its proximity to the sea plus a coastline of 3368km enables an abundance of fresh fish and seafood to be readily available through the province.


Although Guangdong’s terrain is quite mountainous it does have a fertile delta, many rivers and lakes and some forest areas.


Ancient times and Influences on Cantonese Cooking

Although Guangdong was only made its own province in 226AD, archaeological evidence shows that farming and keeping livestock was being practised in some parts of the area at least 5,000 years ago. Certainly by the 1st Century AD, the breeding of cattle and other livestock, the use of iron tools, the development of paddy fields and the growing of a wide variety of crops on hillsides was widely practised. Irrigation systems had been set up by means of digging ditches and building troughs which drew water from springs. Hunting and foraging, in particular for medicinal herbs and fungi,  was also done on a regular basis.

Its city of Guangzhou was China’s earliest international trading port main and by the 16th century, Guangdong Province had extensive trade links with the rest of the world in particular the Europeans. This also explains the prominence of Cantonese cuisine outside of China, as Guangdong was also the major port of exit for labourers.

In past times poor or failed harvests in the region led to the old Cantonese saying: "Any animal, whose back faces sky, can be eaten”. In order to survive, people had to resort to eating some very strange things such as wood ears and lily buds. Even today, Cantonese cuisine includes almost all edible food in addition to the usual items such as pork, beef and chicken. These include snakes, snails, insects and worms.

A further major influence on Cantonese cooking was the overthrow of Ming Dynasty in 1644. Many of the Imperial chefs fled to the Canton region, bringing with them their talents and variations on the culinary habits already established in that province.


Current Day Cantonese Cuisine

The temperate climate in the Guangdong region has encouraged the use of light and simple seasonings in Cantonese cooking, unlike the hot spicier flavourings in Hunan or Szechuan dishes. Ginger, soy sauce, spring onion, shrimp paste and rice wine are frequently used as are other pre-pared sauces such as Hoisin, Black Bean and Oyster sauce. Ground Five-spice is also used, but very sparingly.

Stir-frying is a popular cooking method which was brought about because of the lack of cooking fuel from thousands of years of settlements so although some dishes require a lot of preparation by way of chopping, they often only a few minutes cooking time. Steaming is also a widely used method of cooking in this cuisine as is roasting, in particular pork or duck.

Slow cooked soup is a speciality, not to be found in many of China’s other regional cuisines, with the soup usually being a clear broth prepared by simmering meat and other ingredients for several hours. Quite often the bulky ingredients are discarded in favour of the well flavoured broth. Traditional Cantonese families will eat his type of soup once a week and partake of Dim Sum  at weekends. You can read all about Dim Sum in the Speciality Dish section.

Fish, shellfish, beef, chicken and pork are staples along with the ubiquitous boiled white rice which is served at most meals and as with the rest of China, meals generally consist of 2 or 3 main dishes for example, meat, seafood and vegetable dish plus rice which are all served at the same time and eaten with chopsticks. Desserts don’t feature prominently.

As mentioned above, Cantonese cuisine is very popular in the west and indeed, most Chinese restaurants or take-aways feature many Cantonese dishes. Believe it or not, Sweet and Sour Pork is actually an authentic Cantonese dish.


Cantonese Recipes - Click here for lots of Cantonese Recipes


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