Traditional recipes

What Is Cantonese Cooking?

What Is Cantonese Cooking?

A brief rundown on the basics of Cantonese cuisine

Clams in Black Bean Sauce

As more and more ethnic restaurants across the nation are starting to focus on regional cooking, it's only natural to wonder how one might begin to replicate these trends at home. One popular cuisine that has been in the spotlight in terms of taking a regional approach is Chinese cuisine.

Here, we sit down with Farina Wong Kingsley, author of several cookbooks including Asian, Food Made Fast, and Essentials of Asian Cooking, as well as the recently released cooking app, Farina's Asian Pantry, to walk us through the basics of one of the most readily found styles of Chinese cooking, Cantonese. Kingsley currently lives in Singapore with her family, has trained at the Hong Kong Kowloon Restaurant School, and grew up learning the nuances of Cantonese cuisine at her grandmother's side.

The Daily Meal: What flavor profiles characterize most of Cantonese cooking?

Farina Kingsley: Cantonese food is known for subtlety of seasoning and focusing on the flavors of the ingredients themselves.

TDM: What are the common ingredients used in Cantonese cooking?

FK: Ginger, green onions, and garlic are the main aromatics used in Cantonese food. Light and dark soy sauce and sesame would be considered key condiments used in seasoning.

TDM: How is Cantonese cooking different from the cooking in other regions of China?

FK: Cantonese cooking relies upon the preparation of the freshest ingredients. The techniques mostly used in Cantonese cooking are stir-frying and steaming, quick methods of cooking that help retain the flavor of food. There is minimal use of chiles and dried spices.

TDM: What are some traditional and/or iconic Cantonese dishes?

FK: Some traditional and iconic Cantonese dishes are steamed fish with ginger and soy; oyster sauce beef and broccoli; chow mein; salt and pepper prawns and stir-fried clams with black bean sauce.

Click here to see the Clams in Black Bean Sauce Recipe

Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.


10 Traditional Cantonese Dishes You Need To Try

Hailing from the Guangdong province, Cantonese cuisine (廣東菜), is now popular throughout all of China. Though dim sum is synonymous with Cantonese food, there’s a whole range of other dishes to try too. Here’s our pick of the top 10 traditional Cantonese dishes you need to try on your trip to China.


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How to make Cantonese chow mein


Therefore, the noodles in Cantonese chow mein can be served either somewhat soft or very crispy. They can be either long and round, or thin and flat. It can be prepared with few vegetables or many. Carrots, celery, cabbage, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and bean sprouts are often used. The types of meat, if any, can also change. Many recipes use chicken, but some also include pork. Egg or beef may also be added. Tofu may be used instead. Cantonese chow mein usually includes a type of seafood as well, such as shrimp or scallops. Some make it dry while others use sauce. Even the sauce can vary in thickness and variety.

Below you will a find a very tasty Cantonese chow mein recipe that is made with vegetables, chicken, and shrimp – and it doesn’t take long to make! This recipe takes advantage of one of the more appealing aspects of chow mein – the mixing of textures. The noodles are finished in the wok, but not for very long. The combination of the noodles and the crunchier vegetables mixed with the softness of the chicken and shrimp highlight the many different textures. The sauce brings it all together and makes the ingredients more flavorful while providing an appetizing aroma.


Let us know if you make this chicken dish in the comments below.

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Contents

Guangzhou (Canton) City, the provincial capital of Guangdong and the centre of Cantonese culture, has long been a trading hub and many imported foods and ingredients are used in Cantonese cuisine. Besides pork, beef and chicken, Cantonese cuisine incorporates almost all edible meats, including offal, chicken feet, duck's tongue, frog legs, snakes and snails. [ citation needed ] However, lamb and goat are less commonly used than in the cuisines of northern or western China. Many cooking methods are used, with steaming and stir frying being the most favoured due to their convenience and rapidity. Other techniques include shallow frying, double steaming, braising and deep frying.

Comparing to other Chinese regional cuisine, the flavours of most traditional Cantonese dish should be well balanced and not greasy. Apart from that, spices should be used in modest amounts to avoid overwhelming the flavours of the primary ingredients, and these ingredients in turn should be at the peak of their freshness and quality. [3] There is no widespread use of fresh herbs in Cantonese cooking, in contrast with their liberal use in other cuisines such as Sichuanese, Vietnamese, Lao, Thai and European. Garlic chives and coriander leaves are notable exceptions, although the former are often used as a vegetable and the latter are usually used as mere garnish in most dishes.

Sauces and condiments Edit

In Cantonese cuisine, a number of ingredients such as sugar, salt, soy sauce, rice wine, cornstarch, vinegar, scallion and sesame oil, suffice to enhance flavour, although garlic is heavily used in some dishes, especially those in which internal organs, such as entrails, may emit unpleasant odours. Ginger, chili peppers, five-spice powder, powdered black pepper, star anise and a few other spices are also used, but often sparingly.

Char siu is often marinated with plum sauce and honey for sweet flavour

Oysters steamed in two ways: with ginger and garlic, and in black bean sauce.

Dried and preserved ingredients Edit

Although Cantonese cooks pay much attention to the freshness of their primary ingredients, Cantonese cuisine also uses a long list of preserved food items to add flavour to a dish. This may be influenced by Hakka cuisine, since the Hakkas were once a dominant group occupying imperial Hong Kong and other southern territories. [4]

Some items gain very intense flavours during the drying/preservation/oxidation process and some foods are preserved to increase their shelf life. Some chefs combine both dried and fresh varieties of the same items in a dish. Dried items are usually soaked in water to rehydrate before cooking. These ingredients are generally not served a la carte, but rather with vegetables or other Cantonese dishes.

Traditional dishes Edit

A number of dishes have been part of Cantonese cuisine since the earliest territorial establishments of Guangdong. While many of these are on the menus of typical Cantonese restaurants, some simpler ones are more commonly found in Cantonese homes. Home-made Cantonese dishes are usually served with plain white rice.

English Image Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Jyutping Pinyin
Cantonese style fried rice 廣式炒飯 广式炒饭 gwong2 sik1 cau2 faan6 Guǎng shì chǎofàn
Choy sum in oyster sauce 蠔油菜心 蚝油菜心 hou4 jau4 coi3 sam1 háoyóu càixīn
Congee with lean pork and century egg 皮蛋瘦肉粥 pei4 daan2 sau3 juk6 zuk1 pídàn shòuròuzhōu
Steamed egg 蒸水蛋 zing1 seoi2 daan2 zhēngshuǐdàn
Steamed frog legs on lotus leaf 荷葉蒸田雞 荷叶蒸田鸡 ho4 jip6 zing1 tin4 gai1 héyè zhēng tiánjī
Steamed ground pork with salted duck egg 鹹蛋蒸肉餅 咸蛋蒸肉饼 haam4 daan2 zing1 juk6 beng2 xiándàn zhēng ròubǐng
Steamed spare ribs with fermented black beans and chilli pepper 豉椒排骨 si6 ziu1 paai4 gwat1 chǐjiāo páigǔ
Stewed beef brisket 柱侯牛腩 cyu5 hau4 ngau4 naam5 zhùhóu niú nǎn
Stir-fried hairy gourd with dried shrimp and cellophane noodles 大姨媽嫁女 大姨妈嫁女 daai6 ji4 maa1 gaa3 neoi5 dàyímā jiànǚ
Stir-fried water spinach with shredded chilli and fermented tofu 椒絲腐乳通菜 椒丝腐乳通菜 ziu1 si1 fu6 jyu5 tung1 coi3 jiāosī fǔrǔ tōngcài
Sweet and sour pork 咕嚕肉 咕噜肉 gu1 lou1 juk6 gūlūròu

Deep fried dishes Edit

There are a small number of deep-fried dishes in Cantonese cuisine, which can often be found as street food. They have been extensively documented in colonial Hong Kong records of the 19th and 20th centuries. A few are synonymous with Cantonese breakfast and lunch, [5] even though these are also part of other cuisines.

English Image Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Jyutping Pinyin
Dace fish balls 鯪魚球 鲮鱼球 leng4 jyu4 kau4 língyúqiú
Chinese Donut 油炸鬼 jau4 zaa3 gwai2 yóuzháguǐ
Zaa Leung 炸兩 炸两 zaa3 loeng5 zháliǎng

Soups Edit

Old fire soup, or lou fo tong ( 老火汤 老火湯 lǎohuǒ tāng lou5 fo2 tong 'old fire-cooked soup'), is a clear broth prepared by simmering meat and other ingredients over a low heat for several hours. Chinese herbs are often used as ingredients. There are basically two ways to make old fire soup – put ingredients and water in the pot and heat it directly on fire, which is called bou tong ( 煲汤 煲湯 bāo tāng bou1 tong1 ) or put the ingredients in a small stew pot, and put it in a bigger pot filled with water, then heat the bigger pot on fire directly, which is called dun tong ( 燉汤 燉湯 dùn tāng dun6 tong1 ). The latter way can keep the most original taste of the soup.

Soup chain stores or delivery outlets in cities with significant Cantonese populations, such as Hong Kong, serve this dish due to the long preparation time required of slow-simmered soup.

English Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Jyutping Pinyin
Cantonese seafood soup 海皇羹 hoi2 wong4 gang1 hǎihuáng gēng
Night-blooming cereus soup 霸王花煲湯 霸王花煲汤 baa3 wong4 faa1 bou1 tong1 bàwánghuā bāotāng
Snow fungus soup 銀耳湯 银耳汤 ngan4 ji5 tong1 yín'ěr tāng
Spare ribs soup with watercress and apricot kernels 南北杏西洋菜豬骨湯 南北杏西洋菜猪骨汤 naam4 bak1 hang6 sai1 joeng4 coi3 zyu1 gwat1 tong1 nánběixìng xīyángcài zhūgǔ tāng
Winter melon soup 冬瓜湯 冬瓜汤 dung1 gwaa1 tong1 dōngguā tāng

Seafood Edit

Due to Guangdong's location along the South China Sea coast, fresh seafood is prominent in Cantonese cuisine, and many Cantonese restaurants keep aquariums or seafood tanks on the premises. In Cantonese cuisine, as in cuisines from other parts of Asia, if seafood has a repugnant odour, strong spices and marinating juices are added the freshest seafood is odourless and, in Cantonese culinary arts, 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. In Cantonese cuisine, the light seasoning is used only to bring out the natural sweetness of the seafood. As a rule of thumb, the spiciness of a dish is usually inversely proportionate to the freshness of the ingredients.

Typical ingredients for Cantonese style hotpot are razor shell ( 蟶子 ), crab ( 蟹 ), prawn ( 蝦 ), chicken sausage ( 雞肉腸仔 ) and dace fishball ( 魚旦 )

Noodle dishes Edit

Noodles are served either in soup broth or fried. These are available as home-cooked meals, on dim sum side menus, or as street food at dai pai dongs, where they can be served with a variety of toppings such as fish balls, beef balls, or fish slices.

English Image Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Jyutping Pinyin Notes
Beef brisket noodles 牛腩麵 牛腩面 ngau4 laam5 min6 niú nǎn miàn May be served dry or in soup.
Beef chow fun 乾炒牛河 干炒牛河 gon1 caau2 ngau4 ho2 gān chǎo niú hé
Chow mein 炒麵 炒面 caau2 min6 chǎo miàn A generic term for various stir-fried noodle dishes. Hong Kong-style chow mein is made from pan-fried thin crispy noodles.
Jook-sing noodles 竹昇麵 竹升面 zuk1 sing1 min6 zhúshēngmiàn Bamboo log pressed noodles.
Lo mein 撈麵 捞面 lou1 min6 lāo miàn
Rice noodle roll 腸粉 肠粉 coeng2 fan2 chángfěn Also known as chee cheong fun.
Rice noodles 河粉 ho4 fun2 héfěn Also known as hor-fun.
Silver needle noodles 銀針粉 银针粉 ngan4 zam1 fun2 yín zhēn fěn Also known as rat noodles ( 老鼠粉 lǎoshǔ fěn lou5 syu2 fan2 ).
Yi mein 伊麵 伊面 ji1 min6 yī miàn Also known as e-fu noodles.
Wonton noodles 雲吞麵 云吞面 wan4 tan1 min6 yúntūn miàn Sometimes spelled as wanton noodles.

Siu mei Edit

Siu mei ( 烧味 燒味 shāo wèi siu1 mei6 ) is essentially the Chinese rotisserie style of cooking. Unlike most other Cantonese dishes, siu mei solely consists of meat, with no vegetables.

English Image Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Jyutping Pinyin
Char siu 叉燒 叉烧 caa1 siu1 chāshāo
Roast duck 燒鴨 烧鸭 siu1 aap3 shāoyā
Roast goose 燒鵝 烧鹅 siu1 ngo4 shāo'é
Roast pig 燒肉 烧肉 siu1 yuk1 shāoròu
Roast pigeon 燒乳鴿 烧乳鸽 siu1 jyu5 gap3 shāorǔgē

Lou mei Edit

Lou mei ( 卤味 滷味 lǔ wèi lou5 mei6 ) is the name given to dishes made from internal organs, entrails and other left-over parts of animals. It is widely available in southern Chinese regions.

Image English Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Jyutping Pinyin
Beef entrails 牛雜 牛杂 ngau4 zaap6 niú zá
Beef brisket 牛腩 ngau4 laam5 niú nǎn
Chicken scraps 雞雜 鸡杂 gai1 zaap6 jī zá
Duck gizzard 鴨腎 鸭肾 aap3 san6 yā shèn
Pig's tongue 豬脷 猪脷 zyu1 lei6 zhū lì

Siu laap Edit

All Cantonese-style cooked meats, including siu mei, lou mei and preserved meat can be classified as siu laap ( 烧腊 燒臘 shāo là siu1 laap6 ). Siu laap also includes dishes such as:

English Image Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Jyutping Pinyin Notes
Chicken in soy sauce 豉油雞 豉油鸡 si6 jau4 gai1 chǐ yóu jī
Orange cuttlefish 鹵水墨魚 卤水墨鱼 lou5 seoi2 mak6 jyu4 lǔshuǐ mòyú
Poached duck in master stock 滷水鴨 卤水鸭 lou5 seoi2 aap3 lǔ shuǐ yā
White cut chicken 白切雞 白切鸡 baak6 cit3 gai1 bái qiè jī Also known as white chopped chicken ( 白斩鸡 白斬雞 báizhǎnjī baak6 zaam2 gai1 ) in some places.

A typical dish may consist of offal and half an order of multiple varieties of roasted meat. The majority of siu laap is white meat.

English Image Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Jyutping Pinyin
Rice with Chinese sausage and char siu 臘腸叉燒飯 腊肠叉烧饭 laap6 ceung4 caa1 siu1 faan6 làcháng chāshāo fàn
Rice with roast goose and goose intestines 燒鵝鵝腸飯 烧鹅鹅肠饭 siu1 ngo4 ngo4 coeng4 faan6 shāo é é cháng fàn
Siu mei platter 燒味拼盤 烧味拼盘 siu1 mei6 ping6 poon4 shāowèi pīnpán
Siu lap platter 燒臘拼盤 烧腊拼盘 siu1 laap6 ping6 pun4 shāolà pīnpán

Little pot rice Edit

Little pot rice ( 煲仔饭 煲仔飯 bāozǎifàn bou1 zai2 faan6 ) are dishes cooked and served in a flat-bottomed pot (as opposed to a round-bottomed wok). Usually this is a saucepan or braising pan (see clay pot cooking). Such dishes are cooked by covering and steaming, making the rice and ingredients very hot and soft. Usually the ingredients are layered on top of the rice with little or no mixing in between. Many standard combinations exist.

English Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Jyutping Pinyin
Rice with Chinese sausage and preserved meat 臘味煲仔飯 腊味煲仔饭 laap6 coeng2 bou1 zai2 faan6 làwèi bāozǎifàn
Rice with layered egg and beef 窩蛋牛肉飯 窝蛋牛肉饭 wo1 daan2 ngaw4 juk6 faan6 wōdàn niúròu fàn
Rice with minced beef patty 肉餅煲仔飯 肉饼煲仔饭 juk6 beng2 bou1 zai2 faan6 ròubǐng bāozǎifàn
Rice with spare ribs 排骨煲仔飯 排骨煲仔饭 paai4 gwat1 bou1 zai2 faan6 páigǔ bāozǎifàn
Rice with steamed chicken 蒸雞肉煲仔飯 蒸鸡肉煲仔饭 zing1 gai1 juk6 bou1 zai2 faan6 zhēng jīròu bāozǎifàn

Banquet/dinner dishes Edit

A number of dishes are traditionally served in Cantonese restaurants only at dinner time. Dim sum restaurants stop serving bamboo-basket dishes after the yum cha period (equivalent to afternoon tea) and begin offering an entirely different menu in the evening. Some dishes are standard while others are regional. Some are customised for special purposes such as Chinese marriages or banquets. Salt and pepper dishes are one of the few spicy dishes.

English Image Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Jyutping Pinyin
Crispy fried chicken 炸子雞 炸子鸡 zaa3 zi2 gai1 zhá zǐ jī
Duck with taro 陳皮芋頭鴨 陈皮芋头鸭 can4 pei4 wu6 tau4 aap3 chén pí yùtóu yā
Fried tofu with shrimp 蝦仁炒豆腐 虾仁炒豆腐 haa1 joeng4 caau2 dau4 fu6 xiārén chǎo dòufǔ
Roast pigeon 乳鴿 乳鸽 jyu5 gap3 rǔ gē
Roast suckling pig 燒乳豬 烧乳豬 siu1 jyu5 zyu1 shāo rǔ zhū
Seafood with bird's nest 海鮮雀巢 海鮮雀巢 hoi2 sin1 zoek3 caau4 hǎixiān quècháo
Shrimp with salt and pepper 椒鹽蝦 椒盐虾 ziu1 jim4 haa1 jiāo yán xiā
Sour spare ribs 生炒排骨 生炒排骨 saang1 cau2 paai4 gwat1 shēng chǎo páigǔ
Spare ribs with salt and pepper 椒鹽骨 椒盐骨 ziu1 jim4 paai4 gwat1 jiāo yán gǔ
Squid with salt and pepper 椒鹽魷魚 椒盐鱿鱼 ziu1 jim4 jau4 jyu2 jiāo yán yóuyú
Yangzhou fried rice 揚州炒飯 扬州炒饭 Joeng4 zau1 cau2 faan6 Yángzhōu chǎofàn

Dessert Edit

After the evening meal, most Cantonese restaurants offer tong sui ( 糖水 táng shuǐ tong4 seoi2 'sugar water'), a sweet soup. Many varieties of tong sui are also found in other Chinese cuisines. Some desserts are traditional, while others are recent innovations. The more expensive restaurants usually offer their specialty desserts. Sugar water is the general name of dessert in Guangdong province. It is cooked by adding water and sugar to some other cooking ingredients. It is said that Huazhou sugar water is the famous and popular one in Guangdong. There is a saying that Chinese sugar water is in Guangdong, and Cantonese sugar water in Huazhou. And the booming of Huazhou sugar water stores prove it. [ citation needed ]

English Image Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Jyutping Pinyin
Black sesame soup 芝麻糊 zi1 maa4 wu2 zhīmahú
Coconut pudding 椰汁糕 je4 zap1 gou1 yēzhīgāo
Double skin milk 雙皮奶 双皮奶 soeng1 pei4 naai5 shuāngpínǎi
Mung bean soup 綠豆沙 绿豆沙 luk6 dau6 saa1 lǜdòushā
Red bean soup 紅豆沙 红豆沙 hong4 dau6 saa1 hóngdòushā
Sago soup 西米露 sai1 mei5 lou6 xīmǐlù
Shaved ice 刨冰 paau4 bing1 bǎobīng
Steamed egg custard 燉蛋 炖蛋 dan6 daan2 dùndàn
Steamed milk custard 燉奶 炖奶 dan6 naai5 dùnnǎi
Sweet Chinese pastry 糕點 糕点 gou1 dim2 gāodiǎn
Sweet potato soup 番薯糖水 faan1 syu4 tong4 seoi2 fānshǔ tángshuǐ
Tofu flower pudding 豆腐花 dau6 fu6 faa1 dòufǔhuā
Turtle shell with smilax pudding 龜苓膏 龟苓膏 gwai1 ling4 gou1 guīlínggāo

Delicacies Edit

Certain Cantonese delicacies consist of parts taken from rare or endangered animals, which raises controversy over animal rights and environmental issues. This is often [ according to whom? ] due to alleged health benefits of certain animal products. For example, the continued spreading of the idea that shark cartilage can cure cancer has led to decreased shark populations even though scientific research has found no evidence to support the credibility of shark cartilage as a cancer cure. [6]


Har Lok (Cantonese Style Stir-Fried Prawns in Sauce)

This is a delectable, saucy, savoury prawn dish that will have you licking all the sauces off your fingers, and off the plate if you could throw aside, just for a moment, all table manners and decorum! Yes, it is really that good, and what’s even better, very quick and easy to put together!

It is a classic Cantonese dish, which is no surprise, as the Cantonese are truly culinary masters at perfecting and excelling in the art of quick stir-fries and creators of fine sauces to accompany virtually any main ingredient – fish, pork, poultry, seafood, vegetables, tofu and even eggs.

The key to almost all good food, and particular to quick stir-fries, is to have the freshest of ingredients, premium or good quality constituent seasonings which go into the final sauce, advance preparation of cut or chopped ingredients and marinades, and last but not least of all, a very hot flame or fire to flash fry, and a pair of quick, deft hands.

HAR LOK (CANTONESE STYLE FRIED-PRAWNS IN SPECIAL SAUCE)

Recipe source: Singapore Heritage Food by author, Sylvia Tan

Ingredients:

500 gm fresh Large Prawns, shells kept on
1 tsp Salt
Vegetable Oil, for deep frying
4 Garlic cloves, chopped
1 thumb-length Ginger, chopped or grated
4 stalks Spring Onion, chopped

Sauce:
1 tsp Corn Flour
2 tbsp Light Soya Sauce
2 tsp Sugar
1 tbsp Rice Wine or Dry Sherry
1 tbsp Tomato Ketchup

Method:

1. Wash prawns well and snip off whiskers and legs with a food scissor. Pat prawns dry with paper towels. Place prawns into a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and mix well. Let stand for about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Fill a wok half full with oil. Heat up oil in wok until just smoking. The right temperature is important because the aim is to sear the prawns. Tip all the prawns (be careful not to tip in any residual liquid left in the bowl) into the oil. Gently move them around in the wok using a pair of long bamboo chopsticks or a slotted spoon. Fry for just a minute or so, as over-cooked prawns will turn tough and chewy.

Turn off the heat, and remove prawns immediately using the slotted spoon. Place into a basket lined with paper towels to drain.

4. Empty all but 2 to 3 tablespoons of the oil in the wok. Reheat oil until smoking hot. Saute chopped garlic and ginger until fragrant, then return the prawns to the wok. Pour the sauce over the prawns, and quickly toss until most of the sauce has been absorbed. Toss in the chopped spring onions, mix well, and scoop out onto a serving dish. Serve immediately when hot.



Chinese Food by Region

The three most common types of Chinese food found in the U.S.

Related To:

Chinese food, due to the sheer size of China and its population, has many regional varieties. The most commonly-found regional cuisines in the U.S. are Cantonese, Szechuan and Hunan.

Cantonese cuisine tends to be mild, with less of an emphasis on chiles and more on the natural flavors of fresh ingredients. Due to Canton's proximity to the water, fresh seafood also features prominently. Most Americanized Chinese food is based on classic Cantonese cooking, due both to the large influx of immigrants from the region as well as the overall mildness.

Classic Cantonese dishes include:

  • Dhar siu, also known as barbecued or red-cooked meat
  • Shark fin soup
  • Simple stir-fried vegetables

Szechuan food is spicier, using an array of chiles — most famously tongue-numbing Szechuan peppers and spicy chile bean paste. Because the region is warm and humid, there's an emphasis on preservation techniques like tea-smoking, salting, and pickling. And though pork and chicken are the most-commonly eaten meats in China, beef plays a greater role in Szechuan food due to the widespread presence of oxen for farming. As oxen meat can be tough, it's generally thin-sliced and stir-fried.

  • Dan dan noodles
  • Kung Pao chicken
  • Tea-smoked duck

Hunan cooking is similar to Szechuan, though generally even spicier, and with a taste for flavor combinations like sweet and sour or hot and sour. Drying, smoking, and pickling are popular, as are long-cooked, elaborate dishes. There's a much-greater variety of ingredients available due to the nature of Hunan's land versus Szechuan's, and Hunan cuisine doesn't use Szechuan peppercorns, preferring instead to get spice from various chiles.


Chinese Name: 八宝冬瓜盅 bā bǎo dōng guā zhōng
Flavor: fresh and moderately salty
Cooking Method: steam
This is a seasonal soup dish in summer. The main ingredients are winter melon, lean meat, chicken, ham, prawns, mushrooms, magnolia, scallops, and lotus seed. The winter melon works as a containers of the eight ingredients. After being steamed, the fresh flavor of winter melon penetrates into the ingredients and make the dish tasty and refreshing.

Chinese Name: 蜜汁叉烧 mì zhī chā shāo
Flavor: slightly sweet
Cooking Method: braise and roast
It is a traditional dish in Guangdong, mainly made of lean pork, soy sauce, honey, sugar and peanut oil. The color is bright red and its nutritional value is high. In addition to eating directly, it can be eaten with rice or stuffed into steamed buns. The stuffing of the famous dim sum, Cha Siu Bao is made of it.


Healthy 30-Minute Cantonese Recipes to Try At Home For Beginners

I’m an amateur home chef who loves experimenting with new recipes, especially when it comes to recreating the Cantonese food that I grew up with. My family is from Guangdong, the province in Southern China where Cantonese food originates from. Cooking methods from this region typically involve steaming, roasting, or stir-frying, which result in meals that are lighter than those found in other regions of China.

Cantonese food also influenced American Chinese takeout, which most of us know and love. Popular dishes like sesame chicken and egg rolls wouldn’t exist without Cantonese cooking. But unlike American Chinese takeout and its reputation as a greasy, heavy meal that you shouldn’t indulge in too often, Cantonese home-cooking can be healthy and eaten every day, with recipes that are high in protein and low in fat.

If you’re worried that Cantonese food requires advanced cooking skills and deftness when juggling multiple ingredients, you’re absolutely right. Multi-page ingredient lists coupled with hours of cooking can be overwhelming. There are a bunch of complex dishes that my parents can cook with their eyes closed, but I’m still too intimidated to attempt. My cooking skills place me squarely as an intermediate beginner since I can reasonably manage only a maximum of about five ingredients.

In my search for healthy Cantonese recipes that make it easy for me to recreate the taste of home, I found exactly what I was looking for in the ones I’ve shared below. They take around 30 minutes from prep to table and require only a handful of ingredients. The process is way simpler than the wildly impressive finished product would let on. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Steamed fish with ginger and scallion

Cantonese steamed fish is silky, sweet, savory, and pairs perfectly with white or brown rice. Serve it with a side of green vegetables and you’ve got a complete dinner. The ginger and scallion give it its irresistible smell and flavor. The fish is so tender and flaky that I can easily scarf down several servings on my own. If you have an aversion to cilantro like many of my friends do, it’s fine to leave it out or substitute it with another herb like parsley.

Ingredients you’ll need

  • Tilapia, grey sole, flounder or fluke filet
  • Scallions
  • Ginger
  • Cilantro
  • Light soy sauce
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Oil

Poached chicken in ginger scallion soy sauce

Another healthy alternative to steaming is poaching. This low effort method helps protein retain its moisture and lowers the risk of it drying out. Similar to the steamed fish recipe above, this poached chicken is also dressed with a scallion ginger sauce. To bring out the flavors, let the chicken rest until it’s at room temperature before assembling and eating.

Ingredients you’ll need

  • Scallions
  • Light soy sauce
  • Ginger
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sugar
  • Water (the water you cooked the chicken in)

Beef Rice Bowl

This dish is like the Cantonese version of Italian bolognese sauce. Every bite feels like a warm hug. The recipe is a bit more involved and I’ll admit that there have been times when I omitted some ingredients, like the Shaoxing wine, dark soy sauce, and white pepper. It still came out delicious! I highly recommend following the recipe as it’s written though, if you’re able to. If your diet calls for less red meat, you can substitute the beef with ground turkey.

Ingredients you’ll need

  • Ground beef
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • Chicken stock (I’ve substituted with water)
  • Oyster sauce
  • Light soy sauce
  • Dark soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • White pepper
  • Peas
  • Cornstarch
  • Steamed rice
  • Oil

Yi Mein

Yi Mein, also known as Long Life Noodles, stand for a long life of good fortune and luck in Cantonese culture. They’re usually eaten during the Lunar New Year, weddings, or birthdays but I choose to eat them year round since they’re so good. The noodle texture is chewy and a little spongy, but in a satisfying way. It helps absorb the sauce and makes the dish incredibly flavorful for something that is deceivingly simple.

Ingredients you’ll need

  • Yi Mein noodles (found in your local Chinese market)
  • Regular soy sauce
  • Dark soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce (or vegetarian oyster sauce, which is made of mushrooms)
  • Sesame oil
  • White pepper
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Chinese chives (I’ve substituted with scallions)
  • Water
  • Sugar (I’ve substituted with honey)
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil

Looking for options that take even less time with fewer ingredients? I completely understand. Check out some of my favorite three-ingredient recipes here


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