From mouth-watering Sichuan to seafood-heavy Shandong, China’s many regional cuisines have captured hearts and palates across the globe—the most popular of which is undoubtedly Cantonese. Fresh yet flavourful, Cantonese is China’s most accessible cuisine, tracing its origins back to the city of Guangzhou, formerly Canton. Join us on a culinary exploration of Cantonese cooking from its birth to the best places to eat it today.
What is Cantonese cooking?
“If it has four legs and its back faces the sky, you can eat it, as long as it’s not a table. If it can fly, you can eat it, as long as it’s not an aeroplane.” Cantonese Proverb
Underpinned by subtle, uncomplicated flavours, Cantonese cooking is balanced and light on oil. Unlike chili-laden Sichuanese, spices and herbs are used sparingly to enhance the meat or vegetable it’s accompanying. Mild aromatics like ginger, oyster and spring onion mingle with tenderly cooked meats and gently fried vegetables. Dim sum also hails from Canton—little bite-size dumplings that are lovingly steamed or fried.
Cantonese cuisine’s Guangzhou origins
A vast port city, Guangzhou has long been the gateway to China. At the end of the 19th century, New World ingredients and influences flowed in via the Pearl River. Combined with a mild, subtropical climate, a large network of farmland and an abundance of fish, it helped to create a perfect culinary storm.
The flow wasn’t all one way, however. In the early 20th century, Guangzhou port was where immigrants departed from, taking with them their Cantonese recipes and knowledge to the UK, USA and beyond. This is why Cantonese cooking remains the most globally loved Chinese cuisine.
Which are the best Cantonese dishes to try?
When visiting Jumeirah Living Guangzhou, get an authentic taste of the region by seeking out these tasty Cantonese dishes.
White Cut Chicken – Refreshingly simple, the chicken is carefully boiled before peanut oil, ginger and spring onions are added to enhance its flavour.
Eight Treasure Chinese Winter Melon Soup – If you’re visiting Guangzhou in the summer, this is the perfect cooler. Containing turkey, crab, oyster prawns, goji berries and lotus seeds, the soup is super-healthy as well.
Dim sum – Steamed beef buns, crispy turnip cakes, tender prawn dumplings—there’s no end to the delicious variations of dim sum to try in Guangzhou.
Egg custard tarts – Originally from Portugal, egg custard tarts popped up in Canton in the 1920s, and have been a signature dish of the city ever since.
Where to eat Cantonese food in Guangzhou?
China’s top foodie city, you’re spoilt for restaurant choice in Guangzhou. Here are our top recommendations for an authentic Cantonese experience.
Guangzhou Restaurant, Tianhe District – Its rather straightforward name belies the quality of the Cantonese cooking on offer here. One of Guangzhou’s oldest restaurants, its endless dim sum varieties and wendang chicken is the stuff of legends.
Bingsheng Pinwei, Tianhe District – Traditional in every sense of the word, Bingsheng Pinwei is a local favourite. Come for the char siu BBQ meats and silky tofu, rather than the no-frills service.
Panxi, Liwan Lake – For classic, banquet-style dining next to the scenic Liwan Lake, Panxi offers a quintessential Cantonese experience. Order a selection of their cheung fun pancakes and har gau prawn dumplings.
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