What is traditional Cantonese food?

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Popular Cantonese-Style Recipes to Try Tonight

What Is Cantonese-Style Food? Find Out With These Dishes

Cantonese cuisine (廣東菜) is one of the most popular regional cuisines in Chinese cooking. When westerners think of Chinese language or food, it is Cantonese language and cuisine that most often come to mind. That’s because prior to the immigration reform of 1965, the vast majority of Chinese immigrants to the US came from the Pear River Delta, especially the Guangdong province, where a version of Cantonese is spoken. As these immigrants opened restaurants over the years they influenced American food.

What is Cantonese-style? Well, if you enjoy dim sum, you’re already familiar with one kind of Cantonese food. The most popular cooking methods used in Cantonese cuisine are steaming, stir-frying and roasting. Staple dishes also include various kinds of roast duck, chicken, pork belly and char siu pork, sweet and sour dishes, and many more. Try some of these options below to add Cantonese flavors to your own cooking repertoire.

1. Wor-tip (Pan-Fried Dumplings)

Often filled with pork, cabbage, shittake mushrooms, and garlic chives, wor-tip or pan-fried dumplings taste great as an appetizer, part of a dim sum spread, or on their own. Despite their name, they actually undergo a two-step cooking process: Fry them in hot oil on one side and then steam them in the same wok. That gives them their signature crunchy and tender texture.

2. Cantonese Roast Duck

With its signature shiny, reddish-brown crispy skin, Cantonese roast duck looks similar to the Peking duck you may have seen hanging in Asian restaurant windows. But unlike the Peking preparation, Cantonese roast duck often appears at the table whole, stuffed with aromatics, and marinaded for a succulent flavor. It does take about a day for the skin to dry before roasting, so plan accordingly.

3. Ginger-Soy Steamed Fish

Both a popular Cantonese cooking technique and a healthy way to prepare seafood, steaming fish results in a tender, moist fish. This simple steaming technique works with whole fish as well as fillets, and you can use a deep, shallow pan if you don’t have a wok on hand.

4. Salt and Pepper Shrimp

With a beautiful bright orange color and spicy flavor, salt and pepper shrimp make a fabulous appetizer or dim sum addition. Even though the dish has Cantonese origins, it sometimes uses tongue-tingling Szechuan salt and pepper mix. Feel free to swap in the blend if you prefer a different kind of heat.

5. Char Siu (Chinese Barbecue Sauce)

Sweet, savory, and smoky with just a bit of spice, char siu traditionally appears on strips of roast pork for a dish of the same name. It doesn’t contain any tomato like many American barbecue sauces, instead using hoisin, soy sauce, and Chinese five spice powder for its signature flavor.

6. Sweet and Sour Pork with Pineapple

The addition of pineapple to sweet and sour pork gives the Cantonese and American Chinese food staple a fruity sweetness that adds balance to the succulent sauce. Swap in chicken, tofu, or other proteins for the pork if you prefer and serve it with a side of white rice.

7. Creamed Corn Soup

Traditionally, Cantonese creamed corn soup uses a classic technique called velveting to keep the meat tender. The protein gets coated in egg whites and some type of starch before frying, much like the dredging American chefs use when frying chicken. But in this recipe, cornstarch and egg whites act as a thickening agent, for a creamy (and faster) preparation.

8. Zhaijiangmian (Chinese Noodle Dish)

Hong Kong-style Zhaijiangmian has a slightly sweeter soy-based sauce than versions you might find in Korea or Beijing. It also features the traditional julienned vegetables, minced pork, tofu, and edamame for pop. It makes a great lunch or healthy supper.

9. Lobster Cantonese with Savory Sauce

If you’ve never tried lobster any other way but steamed or in a New England-style roll, give lobster Cantonese a go. A savory soy, ginger, and garlic-based sauce, plus ground pork and aromatics, adds a generous dose of flavor to the elegant crustacean.

10. Beef and Peppers in Black Bean Sauce

A staple in Cantonese home cooking, beef and peppers in black bean sauce uses ingredients like garlic, ginger, and onions to give it a mouthwathering flavor and aroma. Stir frying goes quickly, so prep all of your ingredients before you start.

11. Wor Tip (Cantonese Potstickers)

Make crispy, fried-then-steamed Cantonese potstickers in less time by using thawed prepared dumpling dough. You can find it in most Asian grocery stores and national grocery chains, or order it online. Filled with a tasty pork and bok choy blend, they make a great appetizer or dim sum addition.

12. Moo Goo Gai Pan (Fresh Mushrooms with Sliced Chicken)

While whole button mushrooms usually form the base of moo goo gai pan, a traditional chicken and mushroom Cantonese main, other varieties can work too. You may also use bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, broccoli, and other vegetables to add color and texture variation.

13. Cantonese Steamed Chicken

For a relatively quick and easy dinner, try Cantonese steamed chicken. This recipe uses Chinese mushrooms, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and a little sugar for an earthy and savory sauce the whole family will enjoy.

14. Beef and Potato Stir Fry

Crispy potatoes, tender flank steak, and a simple umami-rich sauce makes this traditional Cantonese stir fry a must-try. You can use zucchini in place of potatoes but know that the vegetable has more water so you may need to adjust your cooking time accordingly.

15. Cantonese Beef Curry

Curry powders come in various heat levels, and you can adjust the spiciness in this delicious Cantonese beef curry by choosing one that’s more mild or carries a sharper kick. Indian madras curry works in this dish.

16. Beef and Peppers in Black Bean Sauce

A savory black bean sauce coats steak and bell peppers for a Cantonese stir fry that tastes great over noodles or white rice. The beef does need to marinade for at least 30 minutes before cooking, so give yourself plenty of time.

17. Beef Chow Fun

Simplify your Cantonese cooking with this pared-down version of beef chow fun. Hor fun noodles give the dish its signature texture; the wide, chewy rice noodles soak up all that soy, cooking wine, and sugar sauce. We like baby corn, but just about any veggies you have on hand will work.

18. Cantonese Spring Rolls

Filled with shredded pork, shrimp, black mushrooms, and garlic chives, these fried spring rolls will satisfy your takeout hankering. We’ve also included instructions for a simple, savory sauce for dipping.

19. Char Siu (Barbecued Pork)

So named for the barbecue sauce of the same name, char siu or Cantonese barbecued pork can be used in stir fries, as a starter, with noodles, or even a stuffing for buns. You can use pork shoulder in this recipe or pork belly for a fattier, juicier version.

20. Steamed Spareribs in Black Bean Sauce

For a traditional dim sum dish, coat steamed spareribs in a sauce made from fermented black beans, tangerine peel, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. You can also enjoy them as a main paired with noodles, rice, or your favorite starch.

21. Shrimp with Lobster Sauce

The name of this Cantonese dish is a bit of a misnomer—it actually doesn’t include any lobster at all! The name “shrimp with lobster sauce” comes from the fact that the sauce uses fermented black beans, which are also used in Cantonese lobster dishes. This version calls for prepared lobster sauce for an easier preparation.

22. Rice rolls

Rice rolls (肠粉), also known as rice noodle rolls, or steamed rice rolls, are a widely popular and traditional dish served in the Guangdong province. Due to the shape of the food, which resembles a pig’s intestines, the rice roll’s name is frequently translated to “intestine noodle.” Although the direct translation of the name can be misleading, the rice noodle rolls are traditionally stuffed with seafood, meat, and/or vegetables. After the filled noodles are steamed, they are commonly topped and served with soy sauce. This food, like many other Cantonese foods, is considered to be part of the dim sum family and are certainly worth a try.

23. Steamed pork buns

Otherwise known as BBQ pork buns, Cantonese steamed pork buns (叉烧包) are popular throughout China as a whole. This dish serves as both a traditional food, as well as a comfort food to many, and is a must-try when ordering dim sum. The dish’s name perfectly describes itself; steamed pork buns are a hearty dish consisting of shredded pork and BBQ seasoning, all wrapped in a doughy steamed bun. Steamed pork buns are not limited to being eaten during just lunch or dinner, but are commonly consumed for breakfast as well.

24. Chicken giblets

For the more adventurous foodie, chicken giblets, or scraps (鸡杂) are a Cantonese dish worth trying. The ‘scraps’ that make up the dish often include a chicken’s gizzard, heart, liver, or other internal organs. These scraps are traditionally served either with a noodle dish, such as Lo Mein or are seasoned and served with rice.

25. Turnip cakes

Turnip cakes (萝卜糕) are also called radish cakes, and are a traditional dim sum dish, with a very simple recipe. The cakes are most commonly made from just a few ingredients, but vary from place to place; it is not uncommon to see turnip cakes with minced meat or seafood as an ingredient as well. Turnip cakes are typically fried but are at times steamed. They taste best when doused in soy sauce, or when served with hoisin sauce and chili flakes.

26. Sweet and sour spare ribs

A twist on the well-known sweet and sour chicken, sweet and sour spare ribs (生炒排骨) is a popular Cantonese dish served alongside a bowl of rice. The sweet and sour flavor of the dish derives from the vinegar, preserved plums, and hawthorn candy that the pork is stir-fried in. This dish is a crowd-pleaser and is suitable for the less adventurous foodie.

27. Choy sum in oyster sauce

Unlike the other Cantonese dishes mentioned thus far, choy sum served in oyster sauce (蚝油菜心) is a vegetable dish. ‘Choy sum’ is the name of the leafy-green Chinese vegetable that serves as the base of this dish; the choy sum is typically dressed in a mouth-watering oyster sauce, and served as a side.

28. Wonton noodles

A traditional Cantonese soup, wonton noodles (云吞面) are a delicious cuisine staple. A steamy hot broth soup consisting of Chinese kale, egg noodles, and wontons containing seafood, meat or vegetables, make this dish satisfying and more than perfect for a cold day. Although there are many variations of wonton noodles, the most common variation is the type served in the Guangdong province; the wontons in this soup are predominantly shrimp but are often mixed with minced pork.

29. Char siu

Char siu (叉烧) translates to “fork roast” and explains the cooking method behind this dish. Boneless pork is first skewered on metal forks and then roasted above a fire. It is seasoned with traditional Cantonese seasoning, giving it a sweet taste, and consumed with rice to make a meal. Although it is a simple dish, char siu is an excellent dish to try to get an authentic taste of the Guangdong province.

30. White boiled shrimp

White boiled shrimp (白灼虾) is another simple Cantonese dish that is essential to try. The shrimp is boiled in a pot of water and served uncleaned, with its shell on and limbs still intact. Although this method of preparation may sound odd, it is absolutely delicious and is even better when dipped in soy sauce. Eat the shrimp with a bowl of rice to make it a relatively healthy and hearty meal!

31. Roast goose

Roast goose is a type of siu mei, or Cantonese-style barbecued meat dish. An ideal piece of roast goose has a crispy outer skin and succulent, moist flesh, marinated in a sauce containing soy sauce, garlic, scallions, and honey.

32. Roasted pork buns (char siu bao)

Char siu bao consists of a fluffy, white bread bun stuffed with pieces of syrupy, slow-roasted barbecued pork (char siu). The buns are traditionally steamed, but baked char siu bao is also popular. You can find char siu bao on dim sum menus as well as from streetside snack vendors.

33. Roast suckling pig

Considered a delicacy, roast suckling pig commands high prices at Cantonese restaurants. A suckling pig is an unweaned piglet, typically between two and six weeks old. Roasting the piglet yields a deliciously thin, crackling skin that seems to melt away from the flesh as soon as you bite into it.

34. Hainan chicken rice

Named after the balmy tropical island of Hainan, this deceptively simple dish can be found on both Chinese and Southeast Asian menus. Garlic-flavored rice is paired with pieces of cold, juicy chicken, accompanied by soy sauce and freshly minced ginger with scallions.

35. Congee with lean pork and century egg

A bowl of warm rice porridge with slivers of lean pork and pieces of century egg (an extremely rich, flavorful type of preserved egg) is a staple dish in Hong Kong. The rich egg flavors contrast superbly against the simple, warming flavors of white rice and pork.

36. Stir-fried beef with flat rice noodles

This classic dish consists of beef stir-fried with wide, flat noodles (ho fun), which are known for their wonderfully chewy texture. Soy sauce, onions and bean sprouts are also essential components of this dish.

37. Steamed chicken feet

Westerners who are weirded out by the idea of eating chicken feet avoid this dish, which is a pity, because they’re incredibly delicious and succulent when braised in black bean sauce. Just be sure to spit out the bones as you eat.

38. Egg tarts

This delicious pastry combines a thick, flaky crust with a mildly sweet egg filling, and is best served piping hot. You can find egg tarts in many local bakeries.

39. Steamed sticky rice

This dumpling-like dish comes wrapped in a lotus leaf. When you peel away the wrapping, you’ll find an aromatic mound of steamed glutinous rice, with a filling that consists of of chicken, mushrooms, and sausage soaked in a golden brown sauce. Some variants also call for salted egg and dried shrimp.

40. Claypot rice

This dish is traditionally slow-cooked over a charcoal stove, giving the dish a distinctively smoky flavor and aroma. However, most modern chefs use stoves to “sear” the bottom of the pot, achieving the crunchy golden base that clay pot rice is known for.

41. White Cut Chicken/Baak6 Cit3 Gai1  (白切雞)

This dish came from the Hainan province. This boiled, white-cut chicken is served with a smile and a ginger-scallion dipping sauce. Its flavorful taste makes it really popular in the Cantonese region.

42. Clay Pot Rice/Bāo Zaǐ Fàn (煲仔饭)

Just like its name, it is cooked over a charcoal stove in a clay pot. It is a white rice dish in a clay pot flavored with Chinese mushroom, salted egg, and sausage served with dark soya sauce. What makes it look more delicious is the vegetable toppings. It will take 20-30 minutes, however, it is surely worth the wait.

43. Dim Sum/Steamed Spare Ribs In Black Bean Sauce/Chǐ Zhī Zhēng Pái Gǔ (豉汁蒸排骨)

People really love dim sum. This dish has juicy pork ribs and a flavorful black bean sauce that’s perfect with rice.

44. Soup Dumplings/Seoi2 Gaau2 (水饺)

When we talk about steamed food, it is impossible not to mention the soup dumplings. It is a small, flavorful and delicious pork dumpling. It is surely popular all over the world and can be easily found in any Chinese restaurant.

45. Chinese Pork Barbeque/Char Siu (叉燒)

It is a type of Cantonese-roasted meat. The marinated pork is traditionally skewered with long forks and roasted in an oven or over an open fire. Char Siu is definitely one of the must-try dishes when you go to different Chinese or Cantonese restaurants.

46. Poached Lobster In Soup/Shàng Tāng Jú Long Xiā (上汤焗龙虾)

The white and tender lobster with a delicious taste is served with soup stock. This should absolutely be on your list when you want high protein and low-fat Cantonese food.

Cantonese food is certainly one of the most popular cuisines not just because it came from China but also because of its natural tasting flavors. If this is your first time eating at a Cantonese restaurant, they will offer you a variety of dishes from pork recipes, beef, fish, and other seafood. The taste and flavors of Cantonese cuisine are a reflection of their culture.

47. Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hailing from the Hainan province in Southern China, this boiled, white-cut chicken dish is packed with flavor. From upscale restaurants to the night markets, you can find this insanely popular dish throughout the Cantonese region. With the chicken’s skin glistening, sitting next to a steaming pile of rice and a small dish of ginger-scallion dipping sauce, what’s not to love?

48. Cha Siu Bao (Barbecue Pork Bun)

Cha siu bao, or barbecue buns, are steamed, sweet buns stuffed with a Chinese rendition of barbecued pork. These are usually found on dim sum (the Canton Chinese equivalent of brunch) menus across China or are sold by street vendors to locals for some hearty, on-the-go breakfast.

49. Dan Tat (Egg Tart)

These delicate egg tart pastries prove that custard is so severely underrated and underused in Western style desserts (wake up, America). A flaky, buttery crust gently envelopes sweet, glistening egg custard to create a bite-sized piece of perfection.

50. Red Bean Soup

A hugely popular and versatile dish throughout China, this can be served cold or hot depending on the climate. This tong sui (sweet soup) made from red azuki beans is generally served after dinner as a palette cleanser and dessert. Depending on the region, different dessert toppings such as sago, ice cream, tapioca, glutinous rice balls, and many more can be added to create a light, sweet treat.

51. Lanzhou Lamian (Lanzhou Hand-pulled Noodles)

Lamian is a type of Cantonese style noodle that is made by twisting and stretching the dough, using the weight to create perfect, delicate noodles. The process is actually really cool to watch and can be seen from many clear storefronts. The result? Perfectly smooth and slurp-worthy noodles bathed in broth and topped with anything from ground beef to freshly chopped parsley.

52. Cheung Fan – Steamed Rice Noodles Rolls

The Cheung Fan is 10 times more delicious when doused in a sweet soy sauce

Cheung Fan will be my first option when it comes to a full-filling and delicious breakfast. Plus, if you have a chance to visit Malaysia, you can easily find this food on Malaysian streets. FYI, the term “Cheung Fan” means “pig intestine noodle roll”. However, there isn’t any offal in the dish.

Despite the various sub-versions with similar cooking methods in Guangdong province, the flour mixtures and sauces are pretty different. Sweet soy sauce and sesame sauce are the two primary choices to make the dish become a real killer.

It’s not hard to make this Cantonese breakfast recipe at home, but recreating the thickness and flavor of store-bought Cheung Fan might be a challenge. However, if you have enough equipment and skills, the homemade version is definitely a win.

53. Lo Mai Gai – Sticky Rice In Lotus Leaf Wraps

Chinese cuisine is represented through the delicious Lo Mai Gai

Lo Mai Gai is a tasty Dim Sum in Southern China, which is usually served as a yummy Chinese starter. It used to come in a bowl, but lotus leaves have become a more convenient to-go option. The dish contained steamed glutinous rice and chicken wrapped in a dried lotus leaf.

In Chinese culture, the lotus is a symbol of purity. This comes from the saying “to grow out of the mud unsullied”, referring to the lotus still growing beautifully despite the dirty soil. Lo Mai Gai is a wonderful daily appetizer and a must-have food item for New Year’s Eve.

54. Shark Fin Soup

Elevate your meal with comforting shark fin soup

The origin of shark fin soup traced back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279), when it embodied the hospitality and prosperity of the imperial family. Since then, its popularity has increased and become one of the most sought-after dishes worldwide.

In Chinese culture, shark fins are believed to prevent heart disease, rejuvenate the skin, and nourish the body’s vitamins. However, nowadays, the cooks have to substitute real shark fins with artificial ones to avoid environmental damage.

This dish might sound unusual, but give it a try to complete your Cantonese cuisine journey. You won’t regret it!

55. Cantonese Steamed Fish

The Cantonese feast won’t be complete without fish

Since the climate of Guangdong can be blistering hot, steaming is the most common way to minimize some rich spices.

Also, the fish tanks in Chinese restaurants are not just for decoration! This Cantonese meal calls for fresh, high-quality, and alive fish since ignoring the freshness of the dish would be the highest culinary sin.

If you want to make this Cantonese dinner recipe at home, remember to use dried mandarin orange peels to purify the fishy aroma. This dish tastes best with a bowl of hot rice, similar to almost every Asian meal.

If you want to impress your guests with fresh Cantonese steamed fish, follow this easy recipe!

56. Doufu Hua – Tofu Pudding

A sip of Doufu Hua can heal you physically and mentally

Have you ever heard that tofu can grant immortality? Well, it doesn’t, unfortunately. However, that was the original purpose of tofu.

Most people believe that Han Dynasty Prince Lin (179–122 BC) was the one who created the first tofu. According to some versions of this story, the prince made the meal as an attempt to create an immortality elixir.

He utilized soybean and created a tasty snack called “tofu brains” during that time. Even though eternal life was solely a myth, tofu is highly beneficial to human health. It can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

In Cantonese cuisine, Doufu Hua is served with a gingery sauce or clear syrup to help people cool down in the sweltering heat. In the winter, people use hot sweet water and beans to turn it into a warm comforting treat. Doufu Hua is also eaten as part of yum cha.

57. Zi Ma Wu – Black Sesame Soup

This black sesame dessert is surprisingly delicious

Zi Ma Wu is one of the tastiest Cantonese desserts and Chinese sweet food in general that you can put on your bucket list. Made from black sesame seeds, water, white or glutinous rice, this deep charcoal dessert has an incredible aroma and a healthy function.

You can easily make it at home or buy it in several Chinese restaurants. The most convenient way to make black sesame soup at home is by purchasing soup powder in Asian markets. Just add hot water, stir, and this traditional dessert will appear before your very eyes.

58. Daan Tat – Cantonese Egg Tart

A burst of buttery happiness of Cantonese dessert – egg tart

Daan Tat is the perfect end to your meal that Hong Kong gives you. This Cantonese version was derived from Portugal when Macau was colonized. Due to the short transport period to Hong Kong, the locals had modified and served them along with other Cantonese Dim Sum.

In contrast to the original version, Cantonese tart crust is beautifully layered and super thin. The crumbly shell combined with the smooth, creamy filling will hit all the aspects of your senses. You can easily find these in Dim Sum restaurants or any Chinese bakery.

If you can’t tell which egg tart will fit your sweet craving, check this out for a better comparison.

59. Fan Su Geung Tong Sui – Sweet Potato Ginger Sweet Soup

Clear toxins from your body with this affordable Tong Sui

Cantonese chefs are fortunate to live in an area with abundant rainfall and a sub-tropical climate, so they have a rich range of fresh vegetables and fruits for making desserts. Sweet potato can be considered one of the most suitable crops in this kind of climate.

You don’t need fancy ingredients for this dessert; you just need a sweet potato, ginger, brown sugar, and water. Throw everything in boiling water, and it will be done after simmering for 15 minutes. Remember to adjust the amount of sugar to your taste.

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